Stars on “There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light”

Dec 13, 2017 Photography by Shervin Lainez Issue #62 - Julien Baker
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It all circles back to The Smiths.

Torquil Campbell, founder and co-vocalist for Stars, points to the band's common affection for and connection to Morrissey and company as the fuel for their purposeful pop approach. It's the reason Stars songs linger long after their three minutes are up; they're musically synthetic but lyrically authentic. The world is broken. It's also beautiful. And Campbell makes sure to acknowledge both sides of the coin.

"You can draw the DNA of that back to our mutual love of The Smiths," says Campbell. "I think the mutual feeling of what made The Smiths a special band brought Stars into a crystallized place right off the top. We were like, 'We want to be a band that has the same influence on people that The Smiths had on us.' That presents the world as a potentially sad place, but also that you are in a gang. Even if you are in a gang of one, you have that gang and you can survive together."

As a gang all their own, Stars has provided another generation with sad synth songs buoyed by notices of hope and reminders of love, a 17-year long musical mission that continues with There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light. Stars' ninth studio album is laced with sleek pop hooks and significant life lessons in equal measure.

"Pop music is a kind of dumb thing," says Campbell. "It's a simple thing yet it has a strange metastasizing quality. It can mean as little or as much as you want it to, depending on your willingness to convey meaning into itto endow it with meaning. Stars has always been obsessed and fascinated with the notion that something small and trivial like a song, a melody, a chorus can have a sort of seismic effect in your life, that it can capture a mundane moment or a profound moment and trap it in amber forever."

Campbell and co-vocalist Amy Millan trade turns encouraging the listener to live in the present, to ignore games of comparison, to believe in love despite its ability to shatter us all the same. All the while, Evan Cranley, Chris McCarron, Patty McGee, and Chris Seligman engage the senses with Stars' signature pulsing pop melodies tailor-made for the nocturnal among us.

"Very early on, I think we recognized that we had a talent for making songs like thatthat our talent lay not in making party bangers or songs that made you forget about how shitty life was," says Campbell. "Instead, we had a talent for writing songs that maybe told you how shitty life was and then also reminded you that it's better than the alternative.

"There's a weird dichotomy in weakness being a strength," he continues. "We're very engaged with that notion. It's taking your broken heart and making it into art, like Carrie Fisher said. I think that's at the core of what we've always done and always will be, because I think that's the function of pop music. That's what pop music does best. It's one of the functions. The other one is to make you feel hot in the club, but we leave that to other people."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Fall 2017 Issue (October/November 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

 

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