Stars: “It’s the holidays! So we are pulling out all the stops.” (12/11 at WCL)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Stars’ debut LP, Nightsongs.  It also sees the Montreal-based intellectual indie poppers bringing back their customary holiday shows, after last year’s painful...

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Stars’ debut LP, Nightsongs.  It also sees the Montreal-based intellectual indie poppers bringing back their customary holiday shows, after last year’s painful drought of live music.  Torquil Campbell, Amy Milan, Evan Cranley, Chris Seligman, Patrick McGee, and Chris McCarron will bring The Together Tour to five North American cities, across six dates, this December, including a December 11th stop at The Music Hall at World Café Live.  The band will be playing fan-favourites from their eight studio albums, in addition to a few new tracks from their upcoming 2022 LP on Last Gang Records.  I recently got a chance to chat with lead vocalist Torquil Campbell about the band’s first 20 years, some of his favorite music of 2021, and what can be expected of Stars’ upcoming sounds and shows.

Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, as you’ve played here many times over the years.  Any favorite memories or experiences, whether onstage or around town?

Torquil Campbell: Well, there is always the hunt for two things in Philly when we go there: sneakers and vegetarian cheesesteaks. It seems to me that both have become more challenging over the years.  Why?  I don’t know.  We need a huge proliferation of sneakers and veggie cheesesteaks in the Philadelphia area.  But I do have a wonderful memory of playing TLA with Broken Social Scene many years ago.  We were all just starting out and were traveling as a crew of maybe twenty people, and we were all in love with each other and the road and every night was a joyful shock as we realized that people actually dug our music, and our friendship could take us around the world.

Izzy: I’m just now realizing that this year is the 20th anniversary of your first album.  Without thinking too, too much about it, what have been some of the personal highlights of the band for you over the course of the past two decades?

Torquil: Oh my god… moonshine in Taipei night markets, feeling like The Beatles in Manila, playing KCRW for the first time and meeting Nic Harcourt, Lloyd Cole opening for us, watching the Moors go by in the bus early in the morning in Yorkshire (the place of my birth), the thousands of awesome people who have been kind to us for no reason, seeing our first album on the shelf at Other Music in NYC, traveling with friends and playing rooms huge and tiny, most of all laughing.  Laughing, laughing, laughing with my buddies about surreal, absurd, heartbreaking and brilliant life is to name a few!

Izzy: On a related note, what do you think are the biggest differences in how the band currently approaches music, compared to then, aside from the obvious experience under your belts?

Torquil: Everyone is a better musician and knows more about recording, so it’s very different, because the instrumentalists in the band are only limited by their imaginations at this point; they can play anything, so the question becomes what shall we play?  I think we are better listeners, in every aspect.  We listen to each other better, and we listen to the music better, too.

Izzy: I understand that you’re going to be playing some new material from an upcoming LP on The Together Tour.  What can be expected of your latest sounds?  How do you feel like it compares to previous releases?

Torquil: It’s heavily influenced by the beautiful ears and joyful approach of our producer/mixer Jace Lasek.  It sounds like vintage 90’s Morrissey in some ways.  Without the grumpy racist bit, obviously.

Izzy: What has been influencing you lately, both musical and otherwise?  I’m guessing the circumstances of the pandemic played a role in it all.

Torquil: Ghosts (as usual), trees, the Experimental Pop Band (look ’em up), pianos and dogs; they are alike in that I cannot see either a piano or a dog without saying hi and trying to become friends.  On the negative side, fear, fear, fear, fear.  It feels like we all eat way too much of it.  I know I do.

Izzy: And what else can be expected of your upcoming shows, both in terms of the setlist and just the general vibe of the evening?

Torquil: It’s the holidays!  So we are pulling out all the stops.  We’ve got weird xmas decorations for the stage, and we are doing covers of xmas classics and I’m positive that Evan and Chris McCarron will be wearing holiday outfits that will simultaneously delight and appall me.  These shows mean a lot to us, we’ve been doing them in Toronto for years and expanding them to some of our other favourite cities is very happy and exciting for us, especially after all the bullshit and loneliness of the last two years.  We’re digging deep into the catalogue, too, we just want to make the incredible people who have supported this band for so long feel happy and hopeful and a little bit sad at the thought that all of it, the horror and the beauty, doesn’t last forever.

Izzy: This is a personal question, but what are your current thoughts on The North?  I think that’s the only album of yours that I have officially reviewed, and it definitely holds a special place in my heart.  I think you still regularly play some material off of it.

Torquil: Thank you!  I haven’t listened to The North since it came out, but I love it.  It’s my third favourite Stars album!  We had a great time making that record.  “Hold On When You Get Love” should have made us rich, but the music business is a pyramid scheme, so what are you gonna do.

Izzy: Considering that we’re coming to the year’s end, what has been some of your favorite music of 2021?

Torquil: Kacy Hill, Cassandra Jenkins, The Weather Station, Charlotte Cornfield, Dry Cleaning, Snoh Aalegra, Nick Krgovich singing Veda Hille, Real Lies (the best band in Britain), John Carroll Kirby’s music and mullet, Kali Uchis, Navy Blue, Speedboat, Wet Leg, Joseph Shabason, Judee Sill, Phylis Dillon singing Perfidia, Gruff Rhys, Susannah McCorkle, Yumi Zouma, Kacey Musgraves; in short, women own the game these days.  Oh and that AMAZING movie by Todd Haynes about The Velvets.  Oh, and MOST OF ALL… the sound of my daughter singing in her bedroom.  Best music ever.

Izzy: Finally, how are you hoping and planning to spend 2022, after your new album drops?  Are you planning on doing some more extensive touring?

Torquil: We hope this goddamn fuckin’ evil bullshit boring fucked up stupid asshole pandemic is over and that we can roll around the world playing tunes for kind people who are dedicated to only picking fights that they are certain they will lose.  As usual.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.