Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Montreal band to bring pop magic to Riot Fest


The pop genius of Montreal quintet Stars shines through on the band's latest effort, "The North."

Stars will likely treat Riot Fest concert goers with a few songs from the new album when it performs Sept. 14 as part of the massive Riot Fest music event in Humboldt Park, Division Street and Sacramento Avenue, Chicago.

Stars, www.youarestars.com, will perform from 1:30 to 2 p.m. on the Rise Stage. Riot Fest, which will be held between Sept. 13-15, will feature a diverse lineup of artists, including Public Enemy, Violent Femmes, Blondie, Mission of Burma, Pixies, The Replacements, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Danzig.

Tickets are available by going to www.riotfest.org.

I had the chance to talk to Stars singer Amy Millan about the band's latest album.

Q - Great to talk to you. Of course, the band will be performing at Riot Fest on Sept. 14. I know you guys performed at Coachella earlier this year. What do you like about performing at festivals?

Seeing the other bands.  Having that kind of access to some of the best new and old bands. At Coachella I got to watch Nick Cave and then Promise Ring. Then I got to hang backstage with Lee Scratch Perry!!!

Q - I imagine that you will be playing a lot of songs from "The North," which was released last year. Some people have said that the album represents a return to form for the band. What goals did you have for the album and do you think you achieved them?

We love pop music. We just want to write the best pop song we can. 

Like any job, you are influenced by what is happening in your day to day life. "The Five Ghosts" is a beautiful but sad record as we were in mourning when the record was written. Time went by and we were quite cheerful when the songs for "The North" were written. 

Maybe that's what initially drew people to the album.

Q - As part of your fall tour, the band is releasing two songs that were outtakes from "The North." Did they just not fit on the album? Did you think now was the right time to get new music out to your fans?

The band loves those two songs.  It was a massive point of contention with some of us that they weren't on the album, but feelings were rest assured with the promise of a well timed release further into the tour cycle.

We wanted "The North" to be concise and to fit on two sides of vinyl, not the four sides you see so much these days. In this climate of Internet access, releasing singles is simpler and an exciting way to reengage the audience, especially for the fans who are always waiting in the wings to hear and support new music. 

These were never B sides just thrown away, they were strong songs that needed to wait to make their place in our catalogue.

Q - You co-produced the album yourselves and once again turned to Tony Hoffer to mix "The North." What do you think he brought to the table when he worked on "Set Yourself On Fire" and what did he bring to the table this time around?

Tony always brings a fresh interpretation to the music that we've had our heads stuck in for too long. He's the gleam machine. 

He has some kind of sparkle knob that makes all the subtleties and textures of the music come alive.

Q - It seems like most of the band members are also busy with other projects as well. Is it hard getting the band together to work on music and to tour?

We are all 100 percent dedicated to Stars. We're also all really close friends. 

It's in our down time we end up doing other projects, but it's really all about Stars for all of us.

Q - The music business has changed drastically since the band first started. The band released 2007's "In Our Bedroom After The War" on iTunes two months before its scheduled release date in order to prevent it from being leaked online. Has the digital age made it easier or harder to be a musician? 

Both I'd say. There is just complete over saturation on the one hand but on the other hand if you can penetrate, you can reach people all over the world with one click on your keyboard.

Q - It seems like bands in Canada are more willing to work with each other, more so than in the United States. How would you say the music scene in Canada is different from the American music scene?

I don't think that's true. Wilco, Beck, Flaming lips, Tortoise, Sea and Cake, Jay Z, Kanye, these are all great American artists who are constantly innovating and inviting collaboration. 

It's rare to meet assholes backstage. Generally people in bands want to have a laugh and a drink and maybe a toke. We all usually have that in common.