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Stars Discuss Touring With a Baby, the Perks of Playing Festivals + the Prospect of New Music

Norman Wong

There was a time when discussing Stars required one to mention their role as an extended part of the Broken Social Scene family. But after seven full-length albums in 13 years, the Canadian quintet has established its own identity. On last year’s ‘The North,’ that identity shifted from the dramatic and somber group heard on predecessor ‘The Five Ghosts’ to one that’s much more jubilant and playful. As singer and guitarist Amy Millan puts it, the change-up enabled “a lot more jumping up and down and a lot less looking at your ghosts through the rearview mirror.”

Having already visited Europe and Asia in support of ‘The North,’ Stars will begin their North American tour tomorrow (March 5) in Vermont — a seemingly strange kickoff location that actually makes sense considering the proximity to their current home base of Montreal on Wednesday in Philly, Vermont is cancelled. Speaking by phone with Diffuser.fm, Millan is warm and familiar from the initial introduction, providing insights into what fans should expect at these concerts and beyond, as Stars prepare to record new music and help their label, Arts & Crafts, celebrate its 10th anniversary.

What is the preparation like for a Stars tour?

We take a lot of care in what we’ll be doing with visuals and lights, but this tour is a particularly interesting time, because on some of the cities, we will be doing double shows, playing 40 songs over the two days. Fifteen of those we haven’t played in six years. So, a lot of the preparation is working out the kinks of those tracks.

‘The North’ is just so fun to play live. It was a reaction to writing the last album, ‘The Five Ghosts,’ which was a very intense album, with some very sad songs. To balance that, we wanted to make a more “dance” record, a celebration of love.

One love you will be celebrating is your baby, who is turning two while you’re on this tour. In fact, it’s the day you play a semi-hometown show in Toronto. Is your daughter going on the road with you, and was it planned to be in Toronto for that day?

Absolutely. We are originally from Toronto and live in Montreal, now, but a lot of our family still lives in Toronto. So, we are going to have a birthday party for her there. She really makes everybody a lot less grouchy on the road. It’s hard to be in a bad mood or hungover when Delphine is around. She just brings everybody up and makes us all turn into kids.

Has motherhood affected your songwriting at all, or at least your contribution to the songwriting?

I know it has influenced one song, but I don’t think it has influenced my arc of songwriting. I couldn’t write more than one song about her on a record without seeming self-indulgent. And, I get more excited writing about other people’s lives, the people I see walking the street and taking the subway. They are just fascinating to me. But, the song ‘Light Changing Color’ was written about my daughter, and that will probably be it, unless she turns into a bratty teenager, and I can write a punk record about how she is driving me insane [laughs].

Stars is playing Coachella for the second time in your career. What is your experience with playing big festivals? How does the band treat the opportunity?

The best part about playing festivals is that you get to see your friends, as well as meet new musicians. There is so much about touring that is very lonely, so when you get a chance to play these events, the whole community really comes together. It’s over so quickly when you perform, as you are on stage for 45 minutes or an hour, so the experience of actually playing the festival flashes before your eyes. But, then you get to be backstage and hang out with the other bands and make some great connections. Metric will be playing, so it will be great to watch that. We are going to tour with Tegan & Sara for a bit between the two Coachellas, and we’re big fans and friends of theirs, but we’ve never toured with them. But yeah, the sense of a community coming together is the best part.

Speaking of friends and festivals, Stars were recently added to the Arts & Crafts Anniversary Field Trip, which features many of your old friends, like Broken Social Scene, Feist and Jason Collett. Have you discussed with the other groups what you have planned for the event?

Well, that’s all a big secret! I can’t give anything away!

Well, the lineup clearly points to some great collaborative opportunities.

The cool thing is Arts & Crafts have so much planned for this anniversary. Besides the festival, there are also some records coming out. Stars actually collaborated with Chilly Gonzalez, and I am really proud of how it turned out. It was such a treat, as we are all huge fans of his. For this collaboration album release, we were asked to pick someone to work with, and Chilly Gonzalez was our first choice. We had just seen him when we were touring in Europe, in Cologne, and he ended up coming to our show and getting really excited, and then sent a seven-minute piano piece to us. So we touched it up, and then I worked out some lyrics, and then Torquil [Campbell] got on it and added even more lyrics. It was really quite the experience to work with him.

Has anyone given Metric any crap for not being on this bill?

Well, Metric wasn’t on Arts & Crafts.

Yeah, not really, but I think the label did handle the Mexico releases for Metric or something.

That’s true, that’s true.

But, Metric are the one band that when you look at that lineup, it seems like they should be there. I’m sure they are busy or whatever, but…

Well, you never know. [Emily Haines and James Shaw] are both in Broken Social Scene, so it is very possible that they will show up. They’re our best friends, and we just finished going across the country with them, but again, secrets I cannot deliver to you at the moment.

Have you given any thought or consideration to the current music climate and Stars’ place therein? Because it seems to be a strange time, where “indie rock” and “indie pop” are getting less critical attention, yet ‘The North’ had the highest chart debut of your career.

That’s not a world that I pay attention to. I focus on songwriting and the concerts and the people that show up. I don’t have a Google Alert on my name, so I have no idea what people say about me or us. I just focus on the people that love us, because we love the people. They’ve been with us for so long, and we will be with them for as long as they are with us. Everywhere they are willing to show up, we will show up, and that is really all I focus on.

Are there any plans to do another solo album in the near future?

I’ve been working on some different projects. Actually, right at this moment, I am in the studio working with Porter Robinson, who is a songwriter and DJ, if you don’t know him. We are collaborating on something that should be cool. And, I still find my way into the bedroom to write stuff, but it gets harder and harder between being a mom and being in a full-time band. And really, my solo music came from my time alone, and if I get a chance to be alone now, I’d rather just hang out with my kid. It will probably happen, but it’s just going to take longer than if I didn’t have this awesome child.

What’s on tap for Stars after the current slate of touring wraps?

We are going to be working on new music and recording in May and hope to release an EP in the summer. So, we are definitely going to keep writing, and we have some plans about the next album, but again…

Secrets.

Right. Our problem is that we are friends and we love hanging out together. We can’t really get enough, and as long as we keep putting out albums, that means we can keep getting drunk together.

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