For this week's paper I conducted an interview with Stars of the Lid's Brian McBride, a Los Angeles native who also happens to be a coach of USC's debate team. Last year, over a half dozen records into their career, they released their most popular album yet, And Their Refinement of the Decline -- popular being a relative term for a band that specializes in extended electronic drones, lovely as they may be. Here's a Q&A that was left on the cutting room floor of my piece, about how Stars of the Lid's loveliness came to be -- a question about process.
Q: Has your method changed dramatically?
Brian McBride: Yes, but neither of us has any formal training, so our development has been haphazard. I consider us to be folk composers of a sort, because we learn from what we pay attention to. My compositional chops were picked up as a radio DJ. It was one of those things where I was layering multiple songs together. At first it was very chaotic. I'd pick from a doo-wop record and mix it with samples from an old TV show. I wanted to make music out of playing music. I discovered the less that was involved kinetically speaking, the more I was interested. I used to describe it as islands of song, and everything else building up to the melody.
Early on, I remember recording a soft-serve ice cream machine, then picking up a guitar and realizing I could make those sounds myself. For awhile the music was just us using guitars but we started bringing in cellos, then pianos, then horns. Starting with drone we began to bring in more melodic phrases. That's the phase we're in currently.
Though single songs and short excerpts don't do SoTL justice, they now they sound a little bit like this:
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Monday in Los Angeles marks the kick off of their first major US tour in many years. Let me also use this as an opportunity to point you back to The Sound of Music, a piece I wrote about them and the poet Robert Creeley in December 2001, soon after the release of SoTL's last album, The Tired Sounds of...
September 11, 2001 was still at front of mind for most of us. We didn't yet know that folks like Rudy Giuliani and the current presidential administration would try to keep those memories alive for the better part of the next decade. I was trying to imagine the sounds that might give comfort, and better help the most vivid memories fade.
A completely unrelated video Donald Trump making a pass at Giuliani after the jump!