When blogs and webzines bombard curious listeners with an endless supply of buzzbands and one-trick ponies, finding new music in the Internet Age can be a daunting and exhausting task. The emphasis on the here-and-now makes it easy to forget about bands that have gradually progressed over the years into a talented collection of musicians. But during a time when steady growth is a lost art, Stars has proven that just because it doesn’t appear on a “Best New Music” or “Heavy Rotation” list doesn’t mean they’re not worth your time and attention.


Saturday, October 9
The Magic Stick
Tickets from $15

Now in its 10th year as a band, Stars will showcase its extensive catalogue — five full-length studio albums and five EPs — on Saturday night at The Magic Stick.

The Toronto natives are part of a Canadian indie-rock insurgence along with the likes of Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers and Wolf Parade that seemingly sparked out of thin air.

Bassist Evan Cranley claims the explosion of high-quality talent coming out of the Great White North is no coincidence. His explanation of the phenomenon is two-fold.

“We get a lot of government grants to help us make music and endowments through the government that help fund artists in Canada,” Cranley said.

Although policymakers have made their country conducive to creativity, the nation’s massive geographical landmass and the desire for connectivity among citizens have also contributed to the conception of many musical collectives.

“The fact that we’re such a huge country with a small amount of people, you need community around you to kind of feel a safeness and a home,” he explained.

Stars’s one-two punch of co-leadsingers (Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan) is consistently its most dynamic facet. The two play off one another’s strengths and weaknesses — both vocally and emotionally — creating an intimate and sometimes vulnerable relationship that has been essential to the band’s success and identity.

Campbell and Millan usually divide the songs on a Stars record into an even 50-50 split. According to Cranely, sharing the vocal workload is a conscious decision.

“The strength of the band is having two vocalists, so we think the more that’s kind of equalized between the two in the record, then the more it represents us,” he said.

Although Cranely isn’t part of this unique vocal relationship, he does play an essential role as one of two primary songwriters for the band.

For Stars’s latest record The Five Ghosts, Cranley noted some of the main musical differences from previous records.

“Instrumentally was the biggest change,” he said. “It was a lot less ornamental.”

“It was a big thing for us to try to really push the synthesis and the drums and the keyboards and stuff, because the lyrical content in this record, we thought it was really kind of cold (and) stark,” he continued. “We just really wanted to try to talk about these really stark kind of emotions and we wanted to have that really balanced with, you know, stark instrumentals.”

The emotional content felt throughout Ghosts’s 11 songs was a result of recent events in the members’ lives.

“We lost some people that were very close to us and we also had babies and started homes, and for us, those were themes we wanted to talk about on the record,” he said. “We want to come with personal themes because we want to encapsulate this kind of diary of what we’ve been doing the last year and a half.”

These personal themes — consistent throughout Stars’s catalogue — have caught the attention of a wide variety of people who aren’t confined to a specific style or scene.

Cranley describes Stars’s fanbase as “the people that were first into us 11 years ago, if you could take those same 200 people … and multiply them by 10,” then you would have an audience at a Stars show today.

“It’s kind of an interesting demographic,” he explained. “We don’t have people that dress a certain way that like us or (are) into one kind of music that like us.”

“These are kind of everyday people that like us. The characters in our songs are very kind of day-to-day, everyday people. And our fans are kind of the same people in these stories we talk about.”

And Stars dedicate a considerable amount of time preparing a live show to entertain fans.

“When you’re putting together a show, you really have to be conscious of telling a story in 90 minutes between the first song to the last song,” he said. “When we put the show together … we want to be as dramatic and textural as possible to the audience.”

“It’s one thing to scribble a setlist on a piece of paper and try to write it, but it’s another to try to create a piece of theater out of it, and that’s what we try to do when we put together shows.”

Although the steady growth of a band is not ideal for the rock‘n’roll lifestyle of most musicians, the members of Stars seem to be satisfied with their place in the music world. Speaking on the band’s longevity, Cranely cited patience, trust, work ethic, love and forgiveness as key elements to the band’s long-term stability, the fruits of which can be heard on The Five Ghosts as well as tomorrow night at The Magic Stick.

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