STARLING at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Saturday (August 24). $6. 416-598-4753.
Two years after roaring onto the scene, the Starling trio are fully out of the shell.The Ottawa indie rock outfit was a fledgling foursome when they released their Sustainer album in 2000.
With a seemingly too-good-to-be-true deal with L.A.-based label Time Bomb Records and a solid lineup of the coolest dudes in Canrock -- Supers star Maury Lafoy on bass, drummer-about-town Peter von Althen, rising star Danny Michel and sweet-voiced indie it boy Ian LeFeuvre -- the band had press types a-twitter.
Now minus Michel, who's pursuing his solo career, they've parted ways with their little nest of a label. (Time Bomb's name was a foreboding -- the band was dropped after the label blew up in a distribution deal implosion.)
They're older and wiser, and a helluva lot more jaded, but the Ottawa boys are counting on their new record to catapult them back into the spotlight, where they belong.
"We're not really getting any younger," admits main man LeFeuvre, taking time out at the Ottawa studio where he's helping produce pal Jim Bryson's new record. "There's a certain inherent lack of business sense in having kept our name in the first place.
"Most bands that get chewed up and spit out by a label think, "Fuck that -- we're changing our name. That way we'll fool everybody into thinking we're a new thing.' We decided instead to take a lot of time to ensure that our new record would be better than our first, that it'd have legs for a long time."
They've done a good job of it. Stuff You Should Have Said Before (independent) is a lush, cohesive album of epic pop. As LeFeuvre notes, Starling's worked to shed some of the wide-eyed chirpiness that characterized Sustainer. The new guitar-driven tunes are definitely more mature, carefully crafted and often sombre.
Stuff explodes right out of the gate with Rub It In, a perfect sun-drenched pop song with a delicate finger-picked acoustic intro, soaring vocals and a hooky chorus.
It's definitely the album's standout track, singable and radio-friendly. But don't tell that to LeFeuvre. Singling out particular tunes makes him antsy.
"I hate this mentality about pushing the big single and the rest of the record is shit. It's like creating a painting and saying just one corner is good."
Still, the Starlings don't have to worry about being one-hit wonders. They've made a cohesive-sounding record without succumbing to boring monotony. That could be due to the intricate detailing on the tunes, from the descending violin whinge that brings the airplane crash metaphor of Overrated to a sputtering halt, to the bright trumpet accents on Suitcases.
LeFeuvre says producing other people's records allowed him to explore his own experimental side this time around. His work on Andy Stochansky's latest disc influenced the new lush sound, as did seeing a recent Mercury Rev show that "messed (him) up" with its epic scope.
Offers LeFeuvre, "It's almost like we treated the record like a movie, where we're spending tons of time on a specific shot till it's just right."
Between LeFeuvre's gigs producing Canrock luminaries like Bryson, Stochansky and Lynn Miles, Lafoy's work with the Supers and backing up folks like Sarah Harmer, and von Althen's ongoing drumming gigs with everyone from Sarah Slean to Kathleen Edwards, the Starlings have covered their asses just in case this record bombs.
LeFeuvre's thankful music pays his bills, but sheepishly admits, "Yeah, we're sluts. I've had more than one person tell me that if we focused more on one band we'd probably be a lot further ahead career-wise. Whether that's some kind of subconscious sabotage, I have no idea. We just like too much stuff! I've always managed to spread myself too thin."email@example.com