INTERVIEW: The Starling Radicals

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Very well thank you! We’ve enjoyed being a lazy band for a little while, having burnt out a few times in the past. We’re finding a healthy cruising speed at the moment, which is very encouraging.

Can you talk to us more about your song “Heart of this City”?

We just had to put strings on it. It’s just that kind of track. Though it works remarkably well no matter what the arrangement. It’s been in our back pocket for a decent spell now, and it’s always been one of those songs that makes you think “when we record that, we’ve got to do it right”. It’s about home, in the most general of terms. About the grey concrete concourse of whatever mundane urbanity taught us to grow old, and a love for what’s yours, no matter how drab or crass. Because we shape these places as much as they shape us. It’s a love letter to park benches.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Just a moment of clarity. Occasionally we all get these brief moments where we settle on a thought that we endorse wholeheartedly. Most people let those moments pass without ever looking back on them as anything other than confirmation they were right about something, but for those of us who rely on this intellectual content to create material, be it for songs or prose or poetry, these moments are golden. It’s like somebody showing you the answers to an exam, and you’ve got to write down everything you see before it disappears.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

Yes, we want to do something fitting for it. We probably can’t go too wrong with ripping off the Manics’ Motorcycle Emptiness video to be honest! Though knowing us we’ll probably have to put a werewolf fighting Donald Trump or something like that in the background. There’ll be something soon though,
whatever it may be.

The single comes off your new EP Promiseland Vol. 1 – what’s the story behind the title?

Promiseland refers to a couple of things, not counting the Israel/Palestine subtext, but mainly it’s what’s obvious that’s truest. It’s a manifesto for our future, as a band and as people. A promise to ourselves and the world that we will continue to create and strive to matter. Vol. 1 promises a Vol. 2 which is already half recorded. When that’s released Promiseland will exist as a full album, and the third part of a trilogy that includes our two previous releases Saintland and Wasteland.

Would this record be a sort of conceptual EP?

You could say that, though only retrospectively. The songs all come from different times and different places. For example, The Scottish Play was written around the time of the Scottish referendum, and deals with the conundrum of national identity and national sovereignty, whilst I’m With Her came together during last year’s American presidential election, and touches on the evolution of identity politics in modern Western society. When put together on a tracklisting it’s obvious that these songs are related conceptually, but it wasn’t planned out or anything. We didn’t devise a concept and then write the songs. The songs dictated the concept.

How was the recording and writing process?

Recording was a blast. We did it all in one go at The Boneyard in Neath, where as a result of salient organisation and pre-production on our own part we got to enjoy our most relaxed studio experience to date. Having carved out a really smooth relationship with Andy and Phil at the studio over the last few years it felt like the tracks ended up taking care of themselves and we all just had a laugh! Writing always takes care of itself though. One day that well will dry up, but for now it’s pretty moist. You might find yourself starting a song in your head as you walk to your car, and by the time you’re home you’ve finished it and just need to confirm you got the chords right. That was the case with You Make A Mess Of Me. I’m With Her was written whilst walking around Boston last September. The riff, the vocals and lyrics, the structure. Everything but the middle-8 came together on the Freedom Trail. Sitting at a writing pad with a guitar is vastly overrated.

How has Nirvana and Stereophonics influenced the band writing?

Hugely. The Phonics are, naturally, very popular in Wales, and those first four albums of theirs were of immense inspirational value to the early direction of the band. The attitude and the atmosphere was something we aspired to, and the songstyle of small-town stories and urban myths made into these monstrous great national anthems was so infectious that it’s very likely that without the Stereophonics there’d be no Starling Radicals. Nirvana made it cool to write weird songs. They helped to show the world that saccharine sweet isn’t the only flavour on offer. That sometimes a bit of pure discordant churning noise is the most human kind of music. The cellist who played on the EP called it “scrunch” when talking about some of our musical choices. Nirvana brought scrunch into the mainstream, and helped make us what we are.

How has the departure and new member additions have affected the band’s sound?

To begin with we slowed down. The tempo of our songs dropped. The sound became more relaxed, because after our first drummer everything that came fterwards was taken in a spacier direction. We used to play and write rantically. It was our USP. But we became a little more technical and less irect with different influences on the kit. In a three-piece the drums are absolutely integral to the feel of the songs. Every new member made the songs different, some for better and some for worse. With Joe we found that erfect blend of energy and technicality in a drummer that we have managed to embody as a band, so he’s the perfect fit for us. Right now we’ve got a very happy balance, and we feel we can write and play anything at all and it ould still sound and feel like us.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Life events, current affairs, other artists… Other artists is a big one. It’s important to be enthused by your music when you listen to it. So when you hear something new and it blows you away, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to find that recipe and bake up your own take on it. Studying the works of Bowie and Lennon and McCartney, and James Dean Bradfield and Jonny reenwood and Josh Homme, whoever you like, can be an immensely rewarding xperience. Musical choices are just tools for building something greater han the sum of its parts, so learning from the choices of others is a aluable principle both in songwriting and in life.

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes. As we speak we’re arranging dates that we will be releasing details of soon. We hope to celebrate the release with a hometown launch as well, with special guests and party food and everything.

What else is happening next in The Starling Radicals’ world?

I’m With Her will be dropping as the first single of the EP with a video very soon, then we’ll be finishing off Promiseland Vol.2 in the studio before leaking that out early next year. In the meantime stay tuned to our social media for gig updates, and we’ve also started a band podcast for our fans who want to get to know us a little better, and share in some frankly disgusting conversations that we’ll be recording whenever we get the chance to sit down with some beers. That will be appearing on our Soundcloud and YouTube pages and will be shared on social media whenever a new podcast drops.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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