Stars: Future Fertile
“It’s like having lunch with friends,” says Stars bassist Evan Cranley as he escorts me through the doorway of his modern yet cozy one-hundred-year-old Montreal duplex. From the street, the duplex is unassuming, as are most modern residences in this part of the Plateau, deferring unwanted attention of prying criminal eyes.
Lunch with friends indeed, within a few minutes I’m seated at the massive kitchen island counter and outfitted with a freshly pressed latte and a slice of singer Amy Milan’s homemade chocolate banana bread. Another few minutes pass and we’re shooting the breeze at a quick, urban pace, like we’ve known each other for years.
Cranley and Milan have made their home their nest, the result of a labour of love. The couple gutted the duplex and renovated it from the ground up just a year ago. Today, their home serves as a perfect place to have a chat about The Five Ghosts, the Stars’ fifth and newest album, the reasons behind their new label and the future with their yet-to-be newest band member.
So what’s the big news?
Amy: We’re having a baby! A Pisces. Lots of our Pisces friends are lunatics.
Evan: Talented lunatics!
Are you saying if it’s a boy or a girl?
Amy: We don’t know and we’re not going to find out.
Evan: It’s one of the last surprises left: birth and death. You never know. Might as well keep that a surprise, everything else you can read about on the computer.
You have months of touring ahead of you. Are you going to take a break for baby?
Evan: It’s actually a perfect time for us. We’re going to tour hard until the end of the year and shut it down. She’ll be huge by that point. We will break but we’re going to continue to write and record.
Amy: As soon as we get home in January we’re going to go into studio to write and start recording because it’s easy to do that stuff when you’re large and there’s a baby. My friend Jenny Whiteley, I watched her make an album when her kid was 4 weeks old.
So you plan on making baby a part of your musical careers?
Amy: Has to be. Martha Wainwright is a huge inspiration. She had a baby last year and she has just come home from touring twenty-five countries. I told her that I’m going to rely on her for guidance.
Evan: Murray and Natalia from The Dears are an inspiration as well. I think it’s important to bring your kid into what you do. I don’t want to become another person just because I had a baby.
Amy: “See this blanket? This blanket is home. So wherever this blanket is, consider yourself home.” Imagine what it would be like to be born into Gogol Bordello, what would happen? I feel really lucky to have Patty [McGee], Chris [Seligman] and Torq [Campbell]. They’re just great people to be in a band with. I think it’s going to be a fun community for the kid because they’re really extraordinary people. Even after eleven years they’re still making me laugh every day, they still surprise me.
Stars started their own record label, Soft Revolution. What initiated the move over?
Amy: We were on Arts & Crafts for a long time, which is a great home with amazing people. They did a lot for us over the years and we love them but really the inspiration to have our own label was this idea that we’d have a home for all of our music once we’d get all the rights back. For instance, we received the rights for Heart (Stars’ second album, released in 2003) in Canada and now it’s going to be on our label. We’re going to reissue it on vinyl and so eventually we’ll retain the rights to all our music. There will be a place where we know we can house it and manufacture it and a place where fans will be able to find it.
It’s like your own collective.
Amy: Yeah, but it’s not a new thing. Music has changed and the industry has changed dramatically, it does so every day, every week. The necessity of a record label isn’t as prevalent as it used to be because of the Internet. You have this access, you have this tool to share your music with the entire planet. It’s very competitive and there’s a lot of thievery, which makes it difficult to continue to make albums the way people used to, like by paying studios for time. We’re trying to have as much control over our own lives as we can.
It’s smart. We’re in this transitional period where an artist can lose everything so fast.
Amy: There’s just so much you can lose when you’re starting out. When you’re really broke and somebody offers you ten thousand dollars, that’s a lot of money. When you realize that they’re making one hundred thousand dollars and you probably made only ten, then you start to reevaluate. We’re trying to be as patient and thorough and have as much longevity as we can.
Who are the five ghosts of The Five Ghosts?
Amy: I don’t know if it’s because at this point I’m pregnant or superstitious about talking about ghosts but now I want to say that they’re your five ghosts! We’ve always tried to make it about the listener and not about us. It’s always your story and not our story. It’s about your five ghosts.
Evan: We really wanted to push the synthesis with this record because the subject matter is quite intense, morose and talks a lot about death. I think the record is the most complete thing we’ve ever done because of the marriage of lyrical content with the musicians. The way the record sounds is as close as it’s ever been.
How did Stars work together on this album?
Evan: We did a lot of writing together in a room. It’s usually been Patty, Chris and myself locked in a room and then Amy comes in or vice versa with Torq. We spent two weeks in a room together in Vancouver writing as a five-piece and that was a breakthrough for us.
Amy: Yeah, I become really embarrassed about the whole thing. I’m usually super-private about the whole thing. They’ll give me music and I’ll put it in the computer, mumble away to myself upstairs in bed alone until I feel I have something presentable. But I’ve been in a band with these guys for ten years so I think I can trust them a little bit. Chris wanted me to just be ridiculous, he didn’t care. He wanted me in the room. I’m slightly embarrassed about being creative, but you have to open up.
Evan: It’s sweet though, it is.
December 4th | Metropolis
59, Ste. Catherine E.
with Young Galaxy