How would you classify your music?
I like using labels with music. Some artists will insist that they’re music shouldn’t be pigeon-holed, and I understand that fear, but I think that saying someone’s music sounds kind of “rootsy” or “power pop” helps to create a sense of context, and not a concrete, prison-like definition of a sound. So with that, I tend to describe June Star as an Americana type rock band. My lyrics waver in abstractions and pointed ideas. I always believe that the music is there to support the lyrics.
Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?
Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground, Tom Waits, Gillian Welch, The Jam.
What do you want fans to take from your music?
Fans, or listeners, should take whatever they can from the music: anything from advice to solace. I think that music is an up-close and personal communication between the speaker in the song and the willing listener. That’s something I got from listening to Paul Westerburg and the Replacements. I don’t know if he was actively trying to speak to the individual, he’s probably just trying to speak, but what I found was that listening closely to his lyrics, I was generously rewarded.
Can you tell us a bit about your latest album? When will it be released and how does it differ from your previous work?
For Pull Awake, we worked with someone outside of the band, Andy Bopp. I’ve pretty much been in control of all the previous releases, and I just couldn’t bring myself to produce another one. So, I called Andy, whom I’ve been acquainted with, and he’s had lots of experience in studios and songwriting with his bands, Love Nut and Myracle Brah. He suggested we work with J Robbins of Jawbox, Burning Airlines, and Office of Future Plans. Andy and I went over the songs and for the first time someone made changes to the song structures and I said, “okay.” The ten days we spent recording were really, really fun. That was a first too. The studio always seemed like a pressure cooker: you have X amount of time and X amount of money and X amount of talent = good luck! But with these guys, it was expedient and smooth. In fact, I could have kept going for… what’s today’s date?
What do you love and hate about the Music Business?
I love the fact that there is an even playing field, sort of. I have my own web presence, I have my own songs, I have my own access to broadcast/podcast types of things… I don’t like all the details. Booking and promotion are the hardest because it takes money to make money and sometimes we don’t make enough money to cover the costs. Maybe that’ll change?
What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing live?
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings at the Recher Theater in Towson, MD. Just two people and four microphones. My god. Their harmonies and their sense of song and playing were absolutely thrilling. The thing about live performance is finding a performance space, inside your head. Recently, the conversation in the band has been about playing live and connecting not with the audience, but with the song… if you connect with the song on stage, your audience will connect too. I recently played a house show in Pittsburgh for the nice folks at Future Oak Records, and it was one of the best shows I have played in some time. It was solo acoustic with about 20 people attending, and I was very tuned into the speakers in the songs and it made for a great evening.
Is there a song on this latest CD that stands out as your personal favorite, and why?
Okay… so, two songs stand out. “Feathers” because it went through so many drastic changes in the course of its evolution. We sped it up and changed a lot of the chord progressions which also affected the vocal delivery from a sad sack dirge to angry, stand offish rock declaration of independence. My favorite writing on the record is “Apollo.” Being a huge Lou Reed fan, his death was pretty devastating, so I wrote that song for him after reading Laurie Anderson’s eulogy in Rolling Stone and re-listening to “A Dime Story Mystery” and Magic and Loss. I guess I felt he needed a tribute.
How have you evolved as an artist over the last few years? What made you decide to come back into the music business?
I never left the business. But I’ve evolved because I’ve gotten better, more skilled, more observant, and more comfortable with who I am and my place in music: locally, nationally, and globally. Weird Al Yankovic said it best, “Every album, for me, is a comeback album.”
If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, get drunk with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?
I’ve been fortunate to see or meet a lot of my musical heroes. I saw Lou Reed walking his dog, met the members of the Church at XM radio, chatted with Hugh Cornwell of the Stranglers, had my picture taken by Robyn Hitchcock. I think I’d like to take a car ride with Raymond Carver, my favorite short story writer… or maybe have a drink with James Baldwin. I don’t know what we’d talk about, but it’d be interesting.
So tell us what’s next?
We’re putting out a 7” with Future Oak records in March 2016. In July, we’ll be doing another full length record… I tend to write a lot; I rarely let the grass grow under my feet.