Stars – Tickets – Rams Head Live – Baltimore, MD – March 7th, 2013

Stars

Rams Head and I.M.P. present

Stars

Milo Greene

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

$20.00

Stars
Stars
Like their celestial namesake, Stars only come out at night. It’s been 14 years since the Montreal band debuted with an album of intimate synth-pop whispers titled Nightsongs, but really, any of the increasingly assertive and sonically elaborate records they’ve released since could be named that. Whether between the sheets or on the streets, the nighttime is when the most pivotal moments of your life play out: the drunken dusk-to-dawn hangs through which eternal friendships are forged; the knowing glance across the dancefloor that leads to exchanged phone numbers, that ominous 3 a.m. phone call from the hospital; the decision to turn a new leaf that can only come when you’ve spent five despairing hours staring at a ceiling fan. These are the worlds that Stars songs inhabit, to show us that, even in our most vulnerable and naked states, we are never truly alone.

Stars’ albums have always served as thermochromic barometers of their makers’ emotional well-being, be it the romantic upheaval of 2003’s Heart and 2004’s Set Yourself On Fire, the newsticker-triggered discontent of 2007’s In Our Bedroom After the War, the downcast elegies of 2010’s The Five Ghosts (a requiem for singer Torquil Campbell’s father, who passed away during the album’s creation), or the rejuvenation of 2012’s The North (recorded while inter-band couple Amy Millan and Evan Cranley were in the throes of new parenthood). However, as Millan admits, the band initially approached its new seventh album from a place of relative stability. “We’ve always had so many things defining every album, whether it was the band going through a difficult emotional turmoil, Torq’s father passing away, or us having children. And now it’s like: You know what? We’re pretty good. This is one of the best times of our lives.”

This time around, Stars decided to scratch the seven-album itch by shaping their own environment. After inheriting the Mile End rehearsal space vacated by the then-disbanding Handsome Furs, Stars refashioned the space—“basically a dirty apartment,” says Cranley—into a fully operational studio, where recording for No One Is Lost began last December with old friend Liam O’Neil (Metric, The Stills) behind the boards.

“It was initially quite painstaking,” says keyboardist Chris Seligman. “But we put love into our space and our space gave us love back.”

Campbell is also a parent, but his recording sojourns in Montreal allowed him to keep, shall we say, more traditional musician’s hours.

“I’m a nighttime guy, I don’t really like making records in the day,” says Campbell, who made the studio his home for the duration of his recording sessions. “I slept on the couch. I’ve never enjoyed making a record so much, because I always hated going home at the end of the day. This time, in Montreal, the studio was my home.”

Funnily enough, it was during one of Campbell’s studio sleepovers that the city itself became truly present: noise was bleeding in from the gay discotheque, The Royal Phoenix, located on the floor below them.

Says Campbell: “I went to sleep to the sound of Charli XCX every night—and I loved it.”

So rather than fight the funk, Stars rolled alongside, with the incessant 4/4 thump emanating from below serving as the metronomic template that would form the basis of No One Is Lost. You can hear that influence percolate in real time on the album’s monumental lead-off track “From the Night”—Stars’ most epic opening salvo since Set Yourself on Fire’s “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”—with a near-subliminal pulse vibrating the floorboards beneath your feet before exploding into a kaleidoscopic, French-touched house jam. And that crowd noise you hear at the beginning? That’s Millan and Seligman walking into The Royal Phoenix during a Friday-night rager, field-recording gear in hand.

“The sub-bass throb coming from the club below our studio was undeniably and unavoidably influential,” affirms drummer Pat McGee. “It motivated us to out-throb the throb.”

But the Royal Phoenix proved to be more than just a musical inspiration; the bar essentially served as Stars’ home away from home, with the band coming to know the servers on a first-name basis, and even getting cocktails christened in their honour. And through observing the bacchanalia playing out every weekend in their de facto rec room, the thematic framework for the album came into focus.

“I always find it so moving and beautiful to watch people have their nights out. “ Campbell explains. “There’s something so heartbreaking about it: People have jobs that they have to get up for, jobs they hate, and they live for the weekend; they live for these moments. And they put everything they have into it: They put all their money into it, they put their emotion into it, they sacrifice their health for it, just to make a connection out there, and go home with someone and not be alone.”

During the writing of the new album, Stars were hit with another cruelly sobering reminder of just how precious our days here on this planet really are: the band’s long-time manager, Eoin O Leary, was diagnosed with cancer.

Fortunately, No One Is Lost translates all that anxiety into pure ecstasy, from the laser-cut new-waved precision of Millan’s “This Is the Last Time” to the soaring, Mozzerific chorus of Campbell’s “Trap Door” to the dreamy duet “Look Away.” And the titanic title track-closer—the sound of a dancefloor being swallowed whole by an ocean of sweat and swapped spit—feels like the moment Stars’ entire 15-year journey has been leading up to, a euphoric house banger that distills all the hope, fear, joy, sadness, and sex in the band’s songbook into a pair of unshakeable mantras: “put your hands up because everybody dies / put your hands up if you know you’re going to lose.”

“The fact Eoin got cancer is definitely sewn into the fabric of the album, lyrically and sonically,” Millan reveals. “Because you had to believe he was going to be okay. [Spoiler alert: he’s currently recovering from treatment quite nicely.] I think that’s where the title No One Is Lost comes from: We were the army standing behind him.”

Campbell, for his part, offers a somewhat more urgent interpretation:

“This record’s called No One Is Lost because that is a fucking lie. We are all lost, we are all going to lose this game and, as you get older, you lose people more and more. Eoin’s been facing down the Grim Reaper, and that was bringing us the fuck down. But we decided to go for it anyway, and so did he, and it was enormous act of blind hope to even think he would make it this far. So I wanted to call this record No One Is Lost because I just wanted to close my eyes and jump and hope that was true. Life is loss, love is loss. And loving people is about accepting that you’re going to have to say goodbye to them. And that’s why it’s fucking brave. It’s easy to hate, because you never have to let go of anything. It takes guts to be gentle and kind. That’s Stars’ ethos: this life is very heartbreaking and sad… so let’s get completely fucking arseholed and listen to some Dionne Warwick.”

Alas, Stars will need to find a new place to get arseholed: The day that the mastering of No One Is Lost was completed last July, word got out that The Royal Phoenix was closing, despite its undiminished popularity among local revellers. But then, this sudden turn of events was an oddly appropriate denouement for an album that evolved according to its own curious logic. After all, No One Is Lost is a record that began with Stars building a studio hideaway that allowed them to function as a self-contained unit free of external pressures, yet wound up being greatly shaped by its surrounding environment. And it’s a record that, at its core, was intended as a celebration of life but became a rallying cry for an ailing friend and, now, a eulogy to a beloved bar. But that’s the equally wonderful and terrifying thing about living for the night: you never know what the next one’s going to bring you. Each sundown marks not the end of the day, but the beginning of a new adventure into the unknown—and No One Is Lost is the radiant flash of pink neon that lights the way. So, go dance.
Milo Greene
Milo Greene
Milo Greene is not real. However, the fictitious character that is Milo Greene is very much alive.

His makers perceive him as an intellectual entrepreneur. In his poised and dignified manner, he keeps things close to the vest and lets everyone know who's boss. He is exactly the type of man you would want to represent you in any business venture...and that is exactly why he was created.

In the DIY music world, having proper representation is key. Lacking an actual manager, college classmates Andrew Heringer, Robbie Arnett, and Marlana Sheetz concocted a virtual one – Milo Greene – to promote their individual musical efforts. It wasn't until 2009 that the three began creating music together. While house sitting in the isolated Northern California foothills, the trio wrote and recorded a handful of songs. Seeking a name for their new venture, they thought it only natural to pay tribute to the fake manager/booking agent that had represented them throughout their college years: Milo Greene.

Eventually Heringer and Sheetz moved to Southern California, where Arnett was living. There, they added Graham Fink (formerly of 'The Outline') and Curtis Morrero (formerly of Arnett's band 'Links'). The five-piece made a habit of escaping periodically to desolate West Coast locations to continue the story they had started.

"We had no TV, no Internet, we had a fire going, and we had to hush the dogs," Arnett says, acknowledging that the environment probably accounted for their music's pastoral feel, as well as its meticulous attention to detail. Sheetz concurs: "Every place we've made music has been isolated, and it has certainly helped us focus."

Milo Greene's formal recording sessions for their self-titled debut with co-producer Ryan Hadlock (Ra Ra Riot, Blonde Redhead, The Gossip, The Lumineers) followed suit; they took place at Bear Creek Studio, a converted circa-1900 barn in the country near Seattle.

"We set out to make the album a cohesive piece, something that takes you from Point A to Point B," Arnett says, "which is maybe not the brightest thing to do in a singles world, but …" Heringer finishes the thought: "Every song does stand on its own, so you never know what to expect sonically or emotionally."

Milo Greene is a collection of voices that live and breathe simultaneously with the breadth of an omniscient, collective consciousness. The melodies invoke long drives down the California coast and the feeling of leaving home. There is something meditative about it, as though it asks to be listened to alone and given one's full attention. Guitar lines swell and recede as ocean waves would. A slight dissonance can be sensed underneath a seemingly passive exterior; a tension can be found in passing tones that evoke jazz harmony and the sense of waiting for something really big to happen, a sense of growing inevitably older while grasping at the threads of youth.

The themes explored on Milo Greene's Chop Shop/Atlantic Records debut are timeless: a quest for permanence, a longing for virtue, a need for reciprocity in all that is good, like on the album's first single, the enchanting "1957." "When, when, when we're older / Can I still come over?" the band asks in "Silent Way," looking hopefully into the future. It's a future less daunting when faced with the strong bond imagined in the song "Don't You Give Up on Me," with its solemn vow "I'll go wherever you go."

Those songs, along with the embraceable "Autumn Tree" and "Cutty Love" embody the simple notion that, not unlike the way the quintet makes music, we are all in this together. "We all long to be comforted and secure," Arnett says. "If our music sounds nostalgic, it's for the times in our lives we felt that way. If we sound hopeful, it's because we want to feel that way again."

Says Fink: "We're all in our 20's, but we're all coming to this band after living out other musical dreams. We're still young enough to be wide-eyed, but experienced enough to know how special this group is."

Wielding four-part harmonies and indelible melodies over sprawling, percussive arrangements, there is no lead singer of Milo Greene. They work powerfully as a team, yet each member is unique and can stand on their own.

"Four of us were lead singers in our previous projects," Arnett says, "so we really have no focal point, no lead melody writer or lyricist. Everything is Milo."

Their fictitious character, Milo Greene, is British, they muse, and well versed in art and history, with eclectic tastes in music. The kind of guy who wears a three-piece suit even when it's hot, and has a record player in every room.

"I think he would be a big fan of our music …" Arnett says.

Fink interjects: "But only because he's very vain."

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