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A modern-day adulation of Iggy Pop, The Runaways and L.A. steeze, Starcrawler embody the riotous spirit of rock’n’roll with their own unique spin.
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First forming in high school back in 2015, Starcrawler swiftly went on to become festival favourites courtesy of their vintage ethos and modern chaos. A band seemingly born to further the foundations of hair metal, pop punk and beyond, it’s now been three years since the quintet have released a new album, with 2019’s Devour You boasting everything from handclaps to helpings of riffs – and even a Ramones cover for good measure that popped up on the 2019 movie Pet Semetary’s closing credits.
With non-stop tours in their wake and two albums already out in the world, the surrounding global pandemic that coated the timeline of Starcrawler’s eventual journey to a third full length album was always bound to shift or alter any band’s underlying creativity. But it’s on the band’s new album She Said, and their first on their new label home Big Machine Records, that Starcrawler wholly expand and push the confines of their own swagger, injecting heart and a steadfast cohesion beyond their signature sound.
Having already stacked 2022 with appearances at All Points East festival, alongside Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, as well as shows with Jack White, My Chemical Romance and the best laid plans to appear on the ill-fated Friday of 2022’s Splendour In The Grass, Starcrawler aren’t exactly crawling to the finish line of 2022. Instead, the group are bolting into the last few months of the year armed with ten new tracks ready to dazzle the world with the bright, bold and diverse new record She Said. And in the days just before the new album dropped, vocalist Arrow De Wilde and guitarist Henri Cash opened up about creating during a pandemic, Dave Grohl watching them side of stage while they were still in high school and, ultimately, the reality of being on the brink once again of a new album release.
“I’m stressed out to be honest. Like – completely!” laughs De Wilde a mere days out from She Said being released. “I mean, I’m super excited, but I feel like I’ll be a little less stressed after it’s released.”
Kickstarting the entire She Said album process, the album’s title track itself came together like a millenial Romeo and Juliet story, with Cash coming to De Wilde’s window playing her a demo of what would eventually become the She Said single – and also, ultimately what would drive the entire album journey.
“It wasn’t a record yet” reveals Cash of the album’s very early days.”
“Yeah, exactly,” agrees De Wilde. “We were kind of just starting to write, and be like: ‘Oh, this is cool!’. But there was no real direction. And then after we wrote and recorded the first demo for She Said, we were like: ‘Oh shit! Let’s do it’.”
“Yeah, we decided this is the record, we gotta step up our game,” Cash pauses as De Wilde laughs. “We wanted to make the best record we’d made yet.”
Having already blown minds and speakers around the world with their punk-meets-classic-rock wiles over the past few years, She Said emerges with a metaphorical box of sonic chocolates waiting on offer surrounding their established elements. As described by their own label, “Starcrawler have morphed into a modern day take on LA legends X, with a sprinkle of The Go-Go’s, a smattering of The Distillers and some Rolling Stones sleaze for good measure”. But while She Said wasn’t anyone’s first album rodeo within Starcrawler HQ, there was a freedom of evolution along the way.
I remember we played Cal Jam pretty early on when we were still in high school, It was on a weekend, so we were at school the day before. And right before our set, Dave Grohl’s standing on the side of our stage – and it was in the morning too, we were one of the first bands on, and had no idea he was gonna be there.
[ Arrow De Wilde ]
“It pretty much evolved along the way,” De Wilde shares of She Said’s stylistic direction. “The only thing we were sure about is that the theme colour of the record was gonna be pink! That was the only thing.”
“For the actual She Said song, that was the first one that came together when we were both on the porch together during the pandemic,” says Cash. “And then eventually, as it evolved, it evolved into all of us getting an Airbnb together, and we formed a pod together.”
“But it did start out in isolation,” De Wilde adds, before trailing off. “But then slowly …”
“We couldn’t take it anymore!” Cash concludes of the group’s decision to bunker down together at the Airbnb to bring She Said to life.
With the band placed front and centre on the album’s hot pink-laden cover, complete with tuxedos and De Wilde’s iconic snarl, She Said appears, on its surface, as a bright and bouncy outing; all hair metal swagger with deliciously fraying edges. But, as a full, deep listen into the album reveals, there’s an array of emotions, styles and levelling up on offer from the Los Angeles group; a fact that became apparent during the unexpected and inevitable downtime that accompanied the pandemic.
“I feel like we just had a lot of time to really develop,” shares Cash of unexpectedly conjuring an album during a global pandemic. “With our past record, we didn’t have a lot of time, and we were in between tours and it was super rushed. This time when we made the record, we didn’t make it for anybody. We weren’t on a label, we didn’t have a tour that we were trying to get it ready for. We were able to make a record for ourselves, and that was really special.”
“I really hope that people can identify with it,” says Cash. “And I hope each person listening can find at least one song that really makes them feel a certain way. And hopefully they like it!”
“Yeah, I think that every song on the album has almost a different feeling or emotion attached to it,” De Wilde continues. “I feel like there’s something for every situation that you might be going through. Or not! It also doesn’t have to be that deep either, I just hope people have fun with it too!”
“I think especially through the whole COVID timeline for me,” Cash adds, “whenever I’ve gone through a tough time, music has always kind of been there, whether it’s made me feel a certain way, made me either feel better or feel like somebody else felt the same way. And it’d be cool if that’s how people identified with our music.”
Able to return to stages at long last armed with new material, Starcrawler have been rapidly reacquainting themselves with the frenetic life of a musician pre-2020. And along the way, they’ve also been able to reacquaint with fans, which leads to an honourable mention for Melbourne Starcrawler fans.
“It’s definitely been a challenge,” De Wilde says, musing about more recent gig times. “I mean, like with any new songs it feels weird when you’re first playing them. But now, it feels great! And now that some of the songs have been out and some people in the crowd know them, it feels really fun. And I haven’t experienced that feeling since the last record, which was a long time ago!”
“It’s pretty crazy,” Cash adds, “when we’ve gone to certain places on tour … actually, even when we were in Melbourne the last time, we went over there and played some of the new songs – and people were already singing along. Which was crazy, the song wasn’t even out yet?!”
“Yeah, yeah, Melbourne popped off!” De Wilde laughs.
“They must’ve heard it through YouTube videos or something, but it felt really special,” Cash says, smiling.
While both De Wilde and Cash unanimously agree that they like every song on She Said, various tracks do inevitably hold special meaning for them personally. And one track in particular, the summery, sultry Broken Angels, proved a challenge following its initial demo phase.
“I really like every song on the album,” laughs De Wilde.
“It’s weird because with every story for every song, there’s a different personal connection,” Cash adds. “I feel super biased!”
“I do really like the She Said title track,” De Wilde continues, “just in terms of what we were talking about earlier and how it really started the whole album. But also, Roadkill is really fun to play live”.
“Broken Angels was actually one of the hardest songs to record because we wanted to make it perfect,” Cash reveals. “We made a demo for it, and the demo sounded so good that when we first went to record it for real – it just didn’t have the same kind of sparkle!”
“So, after we recorded the whole record, we went back and did that song. We really wanted to give that one that dreamy space.”
With countless live shows in their wake, Starcrawler have proven time and time again that their onstage potency and gleefully caustic presence can command any room, venue or audience. Whether supporting British rockers The Struts, headlining their own shows, or ripping global festivals a new one, there’s nothing quite like a Starcrawler gig to really jolt you into remembering the power of live music, particularly following the drought of it over the past few years. But every success story has its first time, and the first time Starcrawler played together as teenagers was a completely packed affair; albeit, in a unique way.
“It was this little space in Sunset in Hollywood,” muses De Wilde of the first time Starcrawler played together as a band. “It wasn’t actually a real venue, our friend had this space and it was really small. Like – it was pretty much a supply room, it wasn’t meant for anything other than, I think, storage or something. But it was kind of perfect, because when we played … I mean, not even a 20 minute set, it was like a 10 minute set. We played, like, six songs, and it was packed! But it was only packed because it was just all of our friends there and it was a tiny ass room, so it was pretty easy to pack it out,” De Wilde pauses, laughing.”
“It was a good move for our first show though, rather than trying to book somewhere,” De Wilde continues. “It was cool because it was all ages which meant all of our friends could come along. I mean – it was only our friends, it’s not like we had any fans or anything at that point!”
“We didn’t have songs out yet,” adds Cash. “But it was cool because we waited a long time before we even booked our first proper show, because we really wanted to sound good for our first show. We played for almost a year before we played a shot!”
Fast forward to now and Starcrawler have since played with some of their own childhood heroes alongside continuing to create and sharpen their musical wares. But just what “pinch me” moments stand out for De Wilde and Cash after such a whirlwind career?
“For me, the first time that I just had a crazy feeling was when we played Fuji Rock in Japan,” shares De Wilde. “It was the first time that I’d experienced a crowd, and it’s still really rare, where I’d clap my hands or wave in the air – and everyone’s doing it with me, and they’d do anything, this huge crowd. It’s hard to explain, but I just remember I was so shocked too. With festivals, even when you play big stages as a smaller band, it’s really cool, but most people are usually finding out who you are and are just watching and it’s not super crazy or anything.”
“And at that Fuji Rock Festival, I didn’t know that they were gonna be so excited, and singing along to songs and stuff like that. I just remember looking at Henri and the band, and my face was just like….” De Wilde trails off, her jaw dropping. “I was just so shocked. All the other guys go onstage before me, so then I came on and I hadn’t seen the crowd yet. It was the craziest feeling!”
And it’s these crazy feelings that have followed and burgeoned for Starcrawler, with the likes of Jack White, Elton John and countless others now numbering amongst the band’s high-profile fans. But how many high school students can say on a Monday morning at school that they spent the weekend playing at a festival with Dave Grohl watching their entire set side of stage?
“I remember we played Cal Jam pretty early on when we were still in high school,” says Cash. “It was on a weekend, so we were at school the day before. And right before our set, Dave Grohl’s standing on the side of our stage – and it was in the morning too, we were one of the first bands on, and had no idea he was gonna be there.”
“And Dave was like: “Hey guys, how you doing, how you doing?” And I thought, oh that’s cool, maybe he’s just going to meet everybody at the festival, that’s nice. But then he was sitting side of stage for our entire set. And it was the scariest thing ever.”
“Luckily I didn’t notice that for a long time,” De Wilde laughs. “I didn’t see him until, I think, the set had almost ended. I was like: “Oh fuck!! Was he there the whole time?!”. How long has he been there, fuck!”
Delectably dishevelled, frenetic and fun as all hell, it’s little wonder that Mr Grohl himself couldn’t resist getting caught up in the magnetic magic that is Starcrawler. And while the band are collectively focused on the release of their new album She Said, Aussie fans may very well get to witness this epic new album live in action much sooner than they realised.
“Hopefully we’ll be coming back to Australia at the end of 2022,” reveals Cash.
“Yeah, we’re really hoping,” adds De Wilde. “I mean, we really just wanna come back and escape winter and go to the beach! But also, we’re playing Korea for the first time at the end of September, which is cool too.”
“But we can’t wait to come back to Australia, we have so much fun when we’re there,” Cash enthuses.