INTERVIEW: Starlight Girls

 All Photos: Brandon Bakus

All Photos: Brandon Bakus

For more pics check out our Instagram

Gerard Marcus

When I'm preparing to interview a band, I usually spend a lot of time reading old interviews—no surprise there. This time was a little different though. With each Starlight Girls interview I read, I realized that I probably knew less and less about the people behind the music.  I learned a lot about the how, but not much about they why they do what they do. So when I was presented with the opportunity to grab drinks with the band after sitting in on one of their rehearsals, I took it as a chance to get to know a little more about the people who put on one of the best performances I've seen this year. Who are Starlight Girls?

ThrdCoast: I’ve always had a fascination with people's backgrounds—especially musicians—because I like to know what's influenced their artistic choices. What led to the creation of their distinct sound. That being said, I'd love to learn more about Christina. Where are you from?

Christina B: Well, I was born in Bermuda but I’m mostly from Northwest Ohio.

TC: How did you get started in music?

CB: When I was twelve I bugged my parents for piano lessons, and then my parents got involved in churches and stuff so I would play at churches. I started playing and singing at this mega church where my dad was the pastor.

TC: How was that?

CB: It was pretty weird I guess [laughs]. Eventually I moved to Chicago, and then New York. I was doing the solo thing for a while.

TC: What were some of your early musical influences? What where you listening to when you weren’t playing in a mega church?

CB: Mainly pop music like Whitney Houston, Paula Abdul, Maria Carey...

Shaw Walters: Nice!

CB: Yeah. Same stuff I listen to now, pretty much [laughs].

TC: When did you start writing your own music?

CB: I think like eighth grade, I started writing weird little dark songs. I had a couple of goth friends and we would write weird goth songs [laughs].

TC: Sounds awesome. Church by day, goth songs by night.

TC: What about about Shaw Walters, where are you from?

SW: I’m from California—all over California—and I’ve been in New York now for over six years.

TC: How long have you been playing music?

SW: Since I was fifteen, so a while now.

Josh Davis: He’s a pretty rad drummer too.

SW: Well...

JD: Your Facebook photo is you with the drums.

SW: Yeah I look really cool... in pictures.

JD: Would you want to be a bigger drummer than guitar player?

SW: Eh, you know. Whichever. [Laughs] Yeah, but I’ve been playing guitar since I was fifteen.

TC: How did Starlight Girls come to be?

CB: We haven’t really agreed on one yet.

SW: I guess we were the original members.

CB: Yeah, at first it was just Shaw and me.

TC: Did you guys go by Starlight Girls then as well?

CB: Yeah, we’ve been Starlight Girls pretty much from the beginning. I mean, at first we didn’t have a name, and then tried out some really dumb names like Metaligator. I think that was pretty much the only other one.

All: [Laugh]

TC: How did you and Shaw meet and end up making music together?

SW: Well, I was working at a label and Christina was making music that was pretty cool. A lot of the original Starlight Girls tracks were actually her solo music, but then we started playing together. We had a friend of ours who played bass named Mark Bergman who’s now in his own band called Deaf Girls.

CB: And our original drummer Karys Rhea has also formed her own band called PEP.

TC: Oh, really? PEP are awesome! So how long have you two been working together?

SW: Too long [laughs].

CB: Around four and a half years I think?

SW: Yeah...

CB: Doesn’t really seem that long.

TC: When did the current group start developing?

SW: Well, Tyson came on not too long after that on bass. Josh is newer to the group.

JD: Came on about a year and a half ago.

SW: Isabelle is the newest member.

CB: Yeah, she hasn’t even gone through initiation yet [laughs].

SW: So, you know, pretty typical band stuff.

TC: It was interesting sitting in on the rehearsal today. I know it wasn’t a normal rehearsal, missing members and whatnot, but it was still fascinating to see how much you guys jam out and riff off one another, and it has me wondering about the songwriting process you generally use as a group.

CB: This rehearsal was strange because we're all so exhausted. Usually I have more of a plan and a bunch of stuff ready. That didn’t happen today, it was more like a jam session.

SW: I would say that Christina writes most of the songs with actually pretty full arrangements, but we're starting to branch out more into a system where we’re like “Hey! Lets just jam this stuff out and figure it out.”

TC: A fun way to work.

SW: Yeah, like the one we were playing, the funky one, is Tyson's new jam.

CB: Yeah, I pretty much started just recording our jams sessions.

SW: That's becoming a new method we're using. We all play together, figure it out, Christina will record it and take it home to write some lyrics over it.

TC: Is that how a lot of your new record Fantasm was put together?

SW: No, not at all! That album was put together in a million different ways [laughs]. Some of the songs are Christina’s old stuff. There’s an old song I wrote. It draws from a wide range of stuff.

TC: You guys excited about the new record?

SW: Yeah! We’ve been working on it for a long time.

CB: As excited as we can be at this point. We’ve been working on it for two or three years.

SW: I’m excited about the next one.

CB: Yeah [laughs]. It feels like we started this one forever ago.

SW: We did pre-production on it a long time ago.

CB: I think we were in California?

SW: Yeah, and it was a completely different thing. Different songs, different arrangements, different band, different everything. And what it’s become... I think it’s a lot better. We got to take the songs and play them live in front of a bunch of people before we finally said, “Cool. This is it.”

TC: You guys did everything, right? Self recorded, self produced, the whole shebang?

SW: Yeah, we went into a studio for like two days to record drums. Otherwise it was all done in my apartment.

CB: And we had help mixing it from this guy named Jeff Harris.

TC: Are you guys already thinking about the next record?

SW: Yeah, I think we already have a bunch of material for the next record.

CB: We have a least an EP’s worth of stuff ready. As soon as we finish making a couple of awesome music videos I think we’re going to do that.

TC: You guys are self-releasing?

All: Yeah

SW: Doing it all ourselves.

CB: We don't even know what it’s like to not do it ourselves.

Tyson Arveson: We're also too picky to deal with a lot of input, so...

All: [Laugh]

TC: If someone came along who didn’t have too much input, would you think about releasing music with them?

SW: Yeah! Totally.

TA: Yeah, we just have too much input to give it away.

SW: We’ve talked to labels in the past. It just hasn’t worked out in a way that's, like...

CB: Mutually beneficial.

SW: Well, a small label is basically just a bank. They’re going to give you money to hire other people to do things. It’s not like when you get to the majors and you're getting major distribution channels and stuff like that. You can basically do it all yourself now.

TC: Must be a lot of work though, yeah?

SW: Yeah. Up until recently we did all our own everything. It was a mind-boggling amount of stuff.