Starling not caged by scraps with label

Rating: NNNNNJ ust in case emerging bands require further proof that big-ass record deals often don't amount to a hill.

Rating: NNNNN

J ust in case emerging bands require further proof that big-ass record deals often don’t amount to a hill of beans, consider the last few months in the life of much-loved Ottawa pop commandos Starling.

Then consider how wisely they plan to remedy the whole sordid business and turn over a new leaf.

When the group’s sunny, knock-kneed Sustainer disc dropped last April, everything seemed to be in place for a full-scale Starling swoop.

Cali-based, Arista-funded imprint Time Bomb was backing the band in the U.S. Early reviews were positive, and touring was imminent. Heck, we even slapped ’em on the cover of NOW.

But then something went terribly awry.

Bomb blows

“Things did get going with a lot of momentum,” concurs Starling singer/songwriter Ian LeFeuvre from his Capital City bachelor pad.

“After the album came out, we had a good month of touring in late April and May. We got added at, like, 90 college stations in the States in one week.

“We got added at a few stations in Canada. We landed a few film soundtracks, did some dates with Veruca Salt. Our shows got better all the time, but we just sort of hit a wall.

“Time Bomb didn’t have an Act Two. By the time everyone figured out the record wasn’t performing as well as it should be, nobody bothered to keep the momentum going. The moral is, you can’t count on people to do the things they say they’re going to do.”

Since Starling had signed an American deal, BMG Canada, which distributes Time Bomb, had very little riding on the record’s success, so they couldn’t help.

Admittedly, blaming a record label for a band’s failures is convenient when you consider the myriad X factors that make some records blow up and others quietly slip — regardless of their merit.

And Starling, as LeFeuvre admitted in the above-mentioned NOW piece, did play the field for a long time before settling on a deal. Maybe too long.

But what makes Starling’s case a bit of a head-scratcher is that the band is like no other, which leads us to Saturday’s once-in-a-lifetime Horseshoe show and Starling’s last for some time.

Also on the bill are the Danny Michel Band and the Supers. Michel, of course, plays in both Starling and his namesake outfit, as does LeFeuvre. And Maury LaFoy, who’s also in Starling, leads the Supers.

Point being, all the Starlings, including drummer Peter Von Althen, are multi-talented. As for Saturday, that means a pile of gear onstage and a bunch of accomplished guys quoting the repertoires of three bands. In the larger picture, though, if a group like Starling can’t make it, who can?

“Time Bomb itself is in trouble now that (former Arista boss) Clive Davis is gone,” LeFeuvre offers. “Clive really saw that label as a boutique rock label and was committed to it. But L.A. Reid, who succeeded him, is this bottom-line money guy. He started looking at Time Bomb’s books, and the numbers just weren’t there.

“So while nothing official has been said to us, we expect to be dropped, which may well be a blessing in disguise. We now know what the experience with them is like. It’s basically ‘Get paid and have your life fucked with.’ I have a lot of other things I can do to get paid and not have my life fucked with.

Free agents

“I tend to go through cycles where I want to stir things up a little. I’m going to go off and do my own record. Danny’s going on tour with Andy Stochansky for a month. Maury just doesn’t stop. He plays with everyone all the time anyway. And Peter just bought a house and he’s going to do some stuff with Jim Bryson.

“So we all have things to do, and we’re going to take a little breather from the band. And the huge thing that everyone’s thinking is, ‘Enough of this business.’ We’ve let the business aspect of this thing occupy too much space in our minds for too long, and it’s become completely detrimental.

“But just because we’re distancing ourselves from the band doesn’t mean we blame the band for how things turned out. We don’t have a fundamental problem with the project. Our perspective is, ‘That was fun and interesting. We took a couple of lumps here and there, but no regrets.’

“The weird thing is, Toronto shows are really, really good because people know who we are and the vibe is excellent, so people reading NOW will probably be wondering what we’re talking about. But it’s time for a change.”

If the moral for Starling is “Don’t depend on others,” the moral for fans should be “Catch them while you can.”

STARLING, with DANNY MICHEL AND THE WEDDING BAND and THE SUPERS, at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Saturday (October 7). $8-$10. 598-4753.

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