“[Bands] lose sight of what’s really important. What’s really important is the music, and the …
Starset have always had a lot of support from their fanbase, who offer positive feedback to their work as a cinematic rock band and conceptual storytellers.
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For third studio album Divisions, enigmatic frontman Dustin Bates says he’s been overwhelmed by the reception. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says, “If you go to YouTube and look at the likes against dislikes, most of them are at a 0.3% dislikes to like ratio.
“I always think of my high school; I graduated with 250 people – that means less than one of those people disliked the record. I’m ecstatic about that, we’ll see if it can continue to grow and appeal to the masses, but so far, our fans are enthralled.”
The music aside, the intricacies in Starset’s narrative on Divisions are as complex as the astrophysical areas that Bates, a PhD candidate, loves to study himself. Compared with its stellar predecessors, Transmissions and Vessels, this album keeps its feet on the ground. Instead, it looks toward a potential (but almost certain) dystopian future for planet Earth. Songs like Manifest are set in 2049 which is only a quarter of a decade away. The album does indeed reflect the world we live in now. “I like to have the record deal with both the future and the past simultaneously —there’s a lot of different things that the word ‘division’ harkens to.
“The divisions of the people in the future but also the divisions of our fandom—race, colour, creed, taste in music—and how they might see the actual record, and also the past versus the present.
“Within the context of the narrative, the accompanying novel [to be released] is almost entirely within that 2049 era, but the release of the record dealt with real time – our demonstrations [performances] bring the future to the present, and that’s what you’d experience if you came to one of our shows right now.”
I absolutely want to cultivate the super fandom to be as immersed and as communal in this as possible, so we try to serve each potential type of fan in a way that we can achieve that.
Right here in the now, Bates says he wanted to be able to write songs that resonate with people so they don’t have to dive into the narrative at all, to just live the record on surface value. Bates talks with such a profound perspective and such frenzied imagination that any pre-prepared questions are quickly made redundant, for Bates provokes in conversation, new ideas and things you didn’t know you were thinking – listening to Divisions does much the same thing.
It’s hard to escape Bates’ comment about division among the fans. Divisions largely unites everybody in that we are a society dependent on technology but now united through our love of this music. “This record, much more than the others, has seen the true dedication of a core group of fans that I didn’t actually try to develop to this level. And it’s wonderful.”
Naturally there are cryptic messages and different ways for Starset to reveal certain elements of the band. There are certainly things fans are revealing through their search of the Starset community that Bates himself wasn’t aware existed. “I certainly learn a lot from the theories,” he says. “The group that did some of our art is called Tension Division, and they are incredible. They’ve said in the past when they’re developing this sort of thing, they’ll read the fandoms and realise the fandom almost write some things [for them] – that hasn’t happened yet [for Starset]. I’m a little too precious about. One day there might be room for some offshoots, but the fandom hasn’t written anything yet, but it would make it a helluva lot easier!”
“I want this band to be as big as possible, I want to play arenas. That requires people to listen to the songs without the narrative and not be scared off by the sci-fi element.
“At the same time, I absolutely want to cultivate the super fandom to be as immersed and as communal in this as possible, so we try to serve each potential type of fan in a way that we can achieve that.”