Last December Montreal indie rock outfit Stars treated the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection to a seasonal spectacular at World Café Live as part of their annual North American holiday shows. The 24-song set included covers of Christmas classics by the likes of The Pretenders and The Pogues, unreleased tracks, and favorites from their first eight studio albums. Tonight the band kicks off The Christmas Anyway Tour — this year’s edition of the holiday trek – in Waterloo, Ontario, which will have them at The Foundry at The Fillmore on Saturday, December 10th. The last time we saw Stars it had been four years since their last full-length (2017’s There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light), but this May they released their ninth studio album, From Capelton Hill, which had American Songwriter saying, “…the Montreal-based ensemble demonstrate an absolute affinity for fusing their exuberant delivery with effusive melodies which are not only radio-ready, but perfectly tailored for dance floor denizens as well.” And earlier this month the band released “Christmas Anyway,” a holiday single to accompany their current jaunt. Last week I got a chance to chat with Stars drummer Patty McGee (and the rest of the band, who chimed in on one particular question) about the band’s year, what can be expected of their upcoming show, and some of the exceptionally cool ways they’ve been connecting with music fans and giving back in general.
Izzy Cihak: You just released a holiday single, “Christmas Anyway.” How did that particular track come about?
Patty McGee: For a bunch of agnostic heathens, we sure do get excited for the holidays. We recognize that for some it can be a lovely time of year to be among family and friends, to revel and carouse. For others, it can be absolutely traumatic. Since we were going on tour this season, we decided to write a song to play for those on either end of the spectrum and everyone in between.
Izzy: You’re about to embark on your annual Christmas tour but, unlike last year, you actually just released an album, From Capelton Hill, this May. Have you had any favorite reactions to it, whether things fans told you, things that have been written about it, or just reactions from live audiences? I know you’ve done a lot of touring this year already.
Patty: My favorite reactions have been from a couple of close friends, who are usually indifferent at best about Stars, who genuinely professed about loving the record. They seemed as surprised about their feelings as I was! It was a long and difficult record to make. By the end, I no longer had any perspective of its merit, so it was nice to get some validation from a couple of jaded hipsters.
Izzy: How do you feel like the album compares to previous releases? I think this has been the longest gap between full-lengths for you.
Patty: Despite the long, lonely, often meandering and at times knobbly process of making From Capelton Hill, I think it turned out quite well in the end. Against all odds, it fell into place, and ultimately, I think it’s one of our finer outings. Pretty much how I feel about every record we’ve ever released, actually.
Izzy: Do you currently have a favorite album track, whether one you’re most proud of, or one that’s just especially fun to play live?
Patty: I really love “Snowy Owl.” I tend to gravitate towards the songs I had the least amount to do with.
Izzy: What can be expected of the Christmas show this year when you play The Foundry in Philadelphia? I was there at World Café Live last year, and had a blast. Should we expect to hear a good chunk of the new album, or is it going to be completely different from the shows you played earlier this year?
Patty: We’ve got a whole new show in the works. New lights, new set, new outfits… Some new songs, some old songs, some songs we’ve never played, and a bunch we can’t stop playing. I don’t think we’ll be bringing the 1970s lawn ornaments this year, but there will be some witty banter, some tears, some romance, good cheer, and genuine holiday spirit.
Izzy: Considering that you’re a band that’s been around for more than two decades now (with a plethora of material), how do you choose the older songs you’re going to incorporate into the setlist? Is it mostly based on what you all are currently liking most, or is it more about what you think your fans want to hear? Or, is it a combination of both?
Patty: There are certain staples that we will play 90 percent of the time, “hits” if you will, and we will always try to represent the record with a handful of new material. The rest is usually a crapshoot and a fight. Trying to navigate among six people as to who hates what old song can make things challenging. But it’s always fun to dig deep into the archives and come up with songs we’ve either never played or have not played in a long while. So many of our fans have seen us so many times, we do feel a responsibility to drop some surprises and pull from the depths to make each tour special. It also keeps us on our toes.
Izzy: You’ve done a ton of touring over the years. Have you developed any noteworthy touring rituals, whether certain kinds of places you always make a point to stop, or ways you like to kill time while you’re on the road?
Patty: I used to go record shopping in every town and city we’d play in. It was a nice way to discover communities and neighborhoods, meet the local music intelligentsia, support small businesses, and expand my collection of musical treasure with relatively affordable and always meaningful souvenirs. These days however, the price of records, both new and used, is insane, prohibitive even. So consequently, sadly, my zeal has been somewhat dashed. Now, I just hunt ice cream shops.
Izzy: For this tour you’re donating $1 from every ticket sale in Canada to Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and $1 from every ticket sale in the US to NOISE FOR NOW’s Reproductive Health Access Fund. How did you get involved with these charities, and would you care to enlighten our readers about them?
Stars: The band partnered with PLUS1 and they decided together about causes close to the band’s heart.
Izzy: On a related note, I know you’ve really loved working with Patreon in recent years, which you talked about the last time you were in town. How does that work, and what can fans expect to get from that experience?
Patty: Patreon is a really amazing platform for artists and fans to share an intimate space. To join our Patreon gang, it costs $5 a month and you get access to a myriad of silly and singular behind-the-scenes Stars shenanigans. We post works in progress, in studio videos, old live material, old demos, new demos, covers, cooking tips, DJ sets, music critiques, and solo work. You also get early access to new music and concert ticket sales, invites to meet and greets and after parties… It’s a lot for $5. To sign up for our Patreon, visit https://www.patreon.com/youarestars.
Izzy: Finally, since we are coming to the end of the year, I have to ask if you’ve had any favorite music of 2022? Have there been any albums to drop or live performances you’ve gotten to see that left a big impression on you?
Patty: Before the great plague, I took everything social and cultural for granted. Since being released into the world again, I’m ravenous for live music and cultural events. My favorite shows this year have probably been Archspire w/ Entheos, The Smashing Pumpkins, and BACKXWASH. My favorite record this year is “Epigone” by Wilderun.
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