Although the debut LP from Brooklyn’s Starlight Girls doesn’t drop until later this month, the band’s presence has been strong in the indie world for a few years now. They’ve released an EP and a 7” and shared stages with some of our favorite slightly-subversive pop stars of recent years, like Kate Nash, Lucius, and Crystal Fighters. They’ve even hit up Philly a handful of times already.
Starlight Girls’ debut full-length, Fantasm, is out October 13th, just in time to be the perfect soundtrack for a Halloween dance party. In all honesty, I’m having a hard time not characterizing Starlight Girls’ latest sounds as Disco Goth… It’s reminiscent of that time in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when morose, poetic badasses weren’t afraid to dance and whose style (sonic and otherwise) was often reminiscent of a postmodern cabaret… I recently got a chance to chat with the band, who prove to be just as amusing, engaging, and clever as their tunes would suggest.
Izzy Cihak: So since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I’m curious your thoughts on the city: Any particular favorite things about Philly or favorite experiences? You’ve played here a few times now.
Josh Davis: The sandwiches. The good sandwiches.
Sara Mundy: Some real good cheesesteaks.
Josh: They make the best cream cheese.
Sara: We played an awesome show at North Star Bar.
Christina B: And a few great ones at MilkBoy.
Josh: People in Philly like to have a good time and support the arts. It’s one of the most art-rich cities on the East Coast.
Christina: It’s like the Paris of Pennsylvania.
Shaw Walters: And we had a pretty epic pool party at our friend’s house.
Tysen Arveson: That was the best part.
Shaw: Played some Whiskey Slaps.
Izzy: And I apologize for being super general, but what have been some of the highlights of the band so far? You’ve played a lot of really cool bills, been a ton of places, and garnered a lot of great critical acclaim.
Shaw: Playing with Lucius, that was great. Hanging out with Crystal Fighters in the Sziget Festival in Budapest was pretty awesome. They gave us all their booze.
Josh: And their assorted meats.
Tysen: That was great. Wait, the oxygen and massage chairs.
Christina: Playing with Sharon Jones.
Shaw: Hanging out backstage with Sharon Jones for like an hour.
Christina: Smokin’ a doob.
Tysen: Smokin’ a doob.
Sara: I didn’t hear this story.
Shaw: Sharon Jones is awesome. What a cool chick.
Izzy: Have you noticed any patterns in the kind of people who seem to best “get” or be most into your work? Does there seem to be a certain kind of person who most regularly turns up to the shows?
Sara: Forty year-old men.
Shaw: A high concentration of people who like us on Facebook are males from India who list “sex worker” as their occupation.
Christina: A lot of hot chicks come to our shows.
Sara: That’s true.
Shaw: Lots of hot chicks and old men. Hot single chicks…
Tysen: And rich old men.
Izzy: Although you’ve been a band for a while now, your debut LP, Fantasm, is still set to drop. How do you feel like the album compares to previous releases, whether in terms of your sound or just your process of writing and recording together?
Shaw: This is our fucking masterpiece.
Tysen: I give this guy credit for asking decent questions.
Shaw: You know, this is our first full-length, but it’s kind of like most of our stuff. We spent a lot of time working on these songs. We recorded it ourselves. We put a lot of time into it.
Sara: This one was done right.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences, both musical and otherwise?
Tysen: Ayahuasca documentaries?
Christina: I was into Michael Jackson a lot working on this album.
Tysen: You can’t really say what your influences are. It’s like if Fleet Foxes said, “We’re influenced by Neil Young,” then people are going to say, “They totally ripped that off.”
Christina: I don’t mind if people compare us to Michael Jackson.
Shaw: You can’t really avoid comparisons to music.
Sara: It was the product of our dreams. Our nightmares.
Shaw: It was really the product of sitting around and saying, is this cool, or that’s not cool, what if we try this. Our music doesn’t really sound like anything else. We can all agree on some shit.
Izzy: Do you currently have a favorite album track? I know you’ve been playing the songs for quite some time now, despite the fact that “proper” “studio” versions are still yet to drop. “Lion in a Cage” is one of my favorite songs of the year. It reminds me of early Cure (like, Three Imaginary Boys-early) coupled with some combination of dark cabaret and psychedelic singer/songwriters (Hopefully you take kindly to that, as it was totally meant as a compliment.)
Shaw: Yeah, that’s my favorite because I wrote it. Actually, it’s my least favorite.
Tysen: My favorite is “Cobra,” because I wrote it.
Shaw: I’m glad he likes it. I really like “Lodestar” and “Fancy.” And “Red Rover.” They’re all pretty cool.
Sara: Mine’s between “Hero” and “La La Lune.”
Isabel Alvarez: Right now? God, it’s so hard. Yeah, it changes every week. I really feel “Lodestar” lately. But “Fancy” is my all-time number one, I have to say.
Josh: I don’t know. We have some strong songs for different reasons. We have catchy songs, dancy songs. I think the album works better as a whole versus parts.
Sara: I don’t really like any of the songs.
Christina: I like their old stuff better.
Izzy: In addition to really digging your music, I’m a massive fan of your visual elements, both your awesome sense of fashion and your music videos (“Inhibitionist” reminds me of a Herschell Gordon Lewis film, minus the profound abundance of boobs and blood, and “7×3” makes me think of the Alleycat Rock movies, which I was just recently introduced to.) What are the biggest influences behind the visual elements of Starlight Girls, whether visual artists or “style icons?”
Tysen: Yeah, gifs.
Shaw: We work with a lot of people. Share a lot of images back and forth.
Christina: There are lots of people we’ve worked with. Mark Brickman—
Shaw: Dr. Midnight.
Christina: Olivia Russin, Jenna Graham, Jonathan Phelps.
Shaw: We have really cool friends who do really cool stuff.
Christina: Our friends Stuart Solomon, Olivia Russin and Avery McCarthy produced the music videos you mentioned.
Izzy: Since you’re based out of Brooklyn, which has just housed so many amazing musicians in recent years, I’m curious if you have any particular favorite local peers, whether they’re doing anything similar to yourselves or not?
Tysen: Peers, or favorite local bands?
Shaw: I think Sharkmuffin is happening. Honduras is cool. I think Ava Luna’s pretty cool. Zula, definitely.
Tysen: Monogold, Not Blood Paint.
Isabel: I’m a huge Teen Girl Scientist Monthly fan now.
Christina: I like Def.GRLS.
Isabel: New Kingston! They play reggae.
Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you? How do you hope and plan to spend the remainder of 2015? What are you most excited about, in addition to the release of your album?
Sara: Debt, baby, debt!
Christina: How do we hope to plan to spend the remainder of 2015…not dying?
Tysen: Yeah, that’s what I think about. Not dying and dinner.
Christina: I might be moving to a house by a waterfall.
Shaw: Inventing the future. I’m looking forward to the new RGB+D Toolkit.