Stars are a pop band from Montreal that are, at times, ethereal with their lyrics to the point of overcompensating melodramatics. Who gives a fuck, though? Stars donâ€™t and their fans are ga-ga over their new album, In Our Bedroom After the War â€“ 13 songs that jump from head nodding, finger snapping, latte pop to antidepressant anthems â€“ so by Stars romanticizing the ordinary, the group produces the unordinary.
The bitch in Tokyo, Amy â€“ singer, guitarist â€“, catches up with Format to discuss pretty French-Canadian women with bellies, popular fashion and In Our Bedroom After the War. (Amy was the bitch in Tokyo, however, she was not teaching English to rich kids. â€œOh wouldnâ€™t you like to know. Youâ€™re just going to have to use your imagination. Youâ€™re going to have to wait a few more years to get that story,â€ says Amy, who will receive a phone call in â€œa few more years,â€ asking why Tokyo is the home of sour Stars.)
â€œI can tell you who the bitches were and that was me. I was the bitch in Tokyo.â€
Format: There are a lot of misconceptions about Montreal life; itâ€™s the Europe of North America and people love the stunts by Just For Laughs Gags. What are your observations of Montreal living and how are they different from what outsiders assume?
Amy: That sounds all about right to me. I love Montreal, because it is nice to walk around in a park and not have to be bombarded by the language of the world at this moment, which is English. It is mostly French speaking. There is this beautiful part of Montreal that is called Old Montreal where the streets are cobble stone. You can find a proper piece of bread! And, theyâ€™re not shy about raw milk, which is also something hard to find in North America, people hate on raw milk. Youâ€™re allowed to sit in the streets and dance and drink and make out. There are not so many rules and constant security hovering around you telling you what to do.
Format: Is it popular for fashion?
Amy: I donâ€™t know if it is that popular for fashion, I just think people are comfortable in their own skin. Itâ€™s not like people are starving themselves in a way that youâ€™ll find in some neighborhoods. The ladies have little bellies, but they love their bellies so theyâ€™re so sexy, because theyâ€™re not thinking about themselves all the time; theyâ€™re thinking about how theyâ€™re going to go to the market and find flowers for the first time in the season or how theyâ€™re going to go to their friends house and put up a mural in the street for no other reason than beauty.
“Itâ€™s about two men who heed this violent time and fall in love and have really aggressive and violent sex with one another”
Format: Being in a band, how much pressure is there on you to be fashion conscious?
Amy: I think the world of fashion is an art and I think itâ€™s fun to go there. I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™m good at it, I think Iâ€™m a better singer than a fashionista, but I do have fun. I have lots of friends in the fashion industry and I go on the Internet to look at the clothes, and I have designers I like. It is a form of art, not the commercialism that it can be perceived as, because there is that side of it, but there is also another side to it, which is trying to find beauty in the completely obscure. I enjoy part of that. I just bought a Chanel vintage dress that I know Iâ€™ll have for the rest of my life and that says something: itâ€™s not disposable, when itâ€™s good, itâ€™s really good â€“ just like a good pop record.
Format: In a previous interview, you mention that Stars had written In Our Bedroom After the War in Montreal, however, Stars recorded in Vancouver. Why the city change?
Amy: We were on the hunt for the best studio that we could find in Canada and the US, but we wanted to stay in Canada for financial reasons. Once you go to America it changes the dollar and we have certain grants available to us if we stay Canadian and hire Canadians. And, this board was built for George Martin, I believe. It was great, too, because Torquil lives in Vancouver, the rest of us live in Montreal, so it was a chance for him to be in his own city for once. It was just a really gorgeous studio with wonderful gear. It rained and it was kind of like Montreal where we get a lot of work done, because it is so cold and we got a lot of work done, because it would not stop raining.
“They have sex and become lovers and the sergeant haunts this solider after he starts sleeping with his wife.”
Format: Most bands face humble beginnings. What are some odd situations youâ€™ve encountered with lodging, food or travel while working with a meager budget?
Amy: There would be six of us to a hotel room! Part of me wants to be nostalgic about it, but there is another part of me that remembers it really well and wants to yell at the nostalgic person, because itâ€™s way better now. I remember this one time, we knew we could not find a place so we went off the highway to a small town that was a really grim, weird place. We found one little motel and we needed a wake up call for 7:00 a.m., because we needed to drive another 12 hours in the van. So Dan asked the woman for a wake up call and it was her and her husband eating Doritios and theyâ€™re 300-pounds, watching TV. We went into the room and there were no phones in the room, so weâ€™re like how is she going to give us a wake up call? Anyway, we passed out and we were waked up by her coming outside the window and saying, â€˜Get up and get going!â€™ And that was our wake up call.
Format: The cover art for In Our Bedroom After the War is great. Who did the cover art and did Stars give direction in what was expected?
Amy: It was Torquilâ€™s brother who painted it and weâ€™re a big fan of his paintings. We gave him a copy of the record and he came back to us with that.
Format: How did you come up with the album title?
Amy: You know that big poster board that says, â€œThe war is over if you want it,â€ itâ€™s a John Lennon poster. I think it was that same idea if we put it out that the war was over then that is a good sentiment to be thinking of right now. And, in our bedroom is the place to go to be safe. There are big wars and small wars: wars with your lovers, your parents, your countries. The one place you can go to recover is the bedroom.
Format: In the start of â€œToday Will Be Better, I Swear!â€ a sample says, â€œThe only problem with going to bed is waking up in the morning.â€ Has there been a time when you did not want to wake up in the morning?
Amy: That is a sample of Chris speaking. Chris has this interesting way of looking at life. We were on vacation in Jamaica once and it was a beautiful day, we were sitting at the beach and he looks at me and said, â€˜The only problem with coming to Jamaica is having to leave.â€™ He has an interesting way of always seeing the end of things and not being able to be inside of them. That is, sometimes, the worst thing: you can get through life before you realize that you have not actually lived today, you live for the fact that today is going to be over and how sad that is.
Format: Are your songs therapeutic?
Amy: I donâ€™t really look at the creative process that is going to relax me. The process is torture. Feels like Iâ€™m in the trenches. When itâ€™s done there is a sense of accomplishment. Itâ€™s a constant struggle. Iâ€™m hoping that when we write them that it makes other people feel better.
Format: A lot of bands face border problems when they tour. Have Stars experienced any disgruntled boarder patrol workers?
Amy: I had one, once, heâ€™s really interesting. We were waiting for our visas to come through, he had been to Iraq and he wasnâ€™t enjoying being the person handing out visas at the border of North Dakota and Manitoba. He looked frustrated that he served his country and now is a border guard in the middle of nowhere. I kind of felt for him a little bit. He came off as tough, but I felt that inside he wanted to weep.
“He has an interesting way of always seeing the end of things and not being able to be inside of them”
Format: Stars have toured in America, Canada and Europe. Are the reactions from your audience different, based on geography?
Amy: No, it is all the same kids with big hearts in their eyes.
Format: Where is Genova Heights and who is the man youâ€™re singing about in â€œThe Ghost of Genova Heights?â€
Amy: That is a song with lyrics written by Torquil and I think heâ€™s talking about a man that was a sergeant in the war and he told all his troops to stop fighting and then he ironically got shot. And, one of the guys in his group ends up coming back from the war and tells his wife that he was a great sergeant and ends up falling in love with her. They have sex and become lovers and the sergeant haunts this solider after he starts sleeping with his wife.
Format: The lyrics of â€œBitches In Tokyoâ€ are really personal and do not directly call out a specific bitch from or in Tokyo. In the press release, it reads that â€œBitches In Tokyoâ€ is inspired by â€œpersonal turbulence amongst the band.â€ What situation inspired this song?
Amy: Oh wouldnâ€™t you like to know. Youâ€™re just going to have to use your imagination. Youâ€™re going to have to wait a few more years to get that story.
Format: Can you say anything about that song?
Amy: I can tell you who the bitches were and that was me. I was the bitch in Tokyo.
“There would be six of us to a hotel room! Part of me wants to be nostalgic about it…”
Format: Is it hard to sustain a serious relationship while living band life?
Amy: Thatâ€™s another secret. These are all serious relationships. There is a serious relationship with your family, yes it is hard to sustain and keep on top of it. You have to make time for that and include them as much as you can while youâ€™re on the road. There is always an open invitation for family and lovers to come on the road at any time, because love takes work. For us, it is always difficult, but you can live in the same house and stop speaking or put any effort to get to the bottom of what is wrong.
Format: Although its meoldy is slow, â€œBarricadeâ€ is a tough song. You sing about tear gassings and beatings in Bermondsey, an area in south London. The sample in the song sounds like dudes chanting. Is â€œBarricadeâ€ about football?
Amy: Itâ€™s about two men who heed this violent time and fall in love and have really aggressive and violent sex with one another, but when the time passes, they soften and separate. In that time, what was so ugly made them love one another, but it had to end.
“but there is also another side to it, which is trying to find beauty in the completely obscure.”
Format: Who has the affection for football?
Amy: Weâ€™re all into a bit of football every now and then, we do tour in Europe a lot.
Format: Did you see the film Green Street Hooligans?
Amy: No, but it sounds like that song should be in it.
Format: If Stars could allow any companyâ€™s product use a Starsâ€™ song in a commercial, what companyâ€™s product would Stars choose?
Amy: It wouldnâ€™t happen, because thatâ€™s a blood-letting deal that we made when we became a band.