There’s a rad show going down tonight at Rough Trade. Stargazy will be playing a release party for their new EP The Fashion. But wait! There’s more! Also on the bill is Folding Legs, who you might recall from our showcase in January at Cameo Gallery. They will be joined onstage by Sam Hillmer of experimental/avant-garde band Z’s. So how about you read on for all the info, a new video from Folding Legs, my thoughts on the Stargazy EP and an interview with the band. Stargazy is a six piece band of Michael Romano, Jared Lindbloom, Michael Panico, Alex Shifrin, Brian Garbedian, and Rocco Romanelli. They are all set to release The Fashion. It’s a collection of five songs that do not sound like the work of a young band making only their second EP. By that I mean when you have six members each with diverse talents, it’s not unreasonable to think it might take a little time and several recordings for everything to gel. But Stargazy is blowing up that learning curve with an assured EP that is cohesive and sonically rich.
So what does it sound like? To me, it’s very interesting that I can listen to the songs and get flashes of other music I enjoy but not really feel comfortable saying Stargazy sounds like “If Band X and Band Y met on a dancefloor with Band Z DJing, couldn’t keep their hands (or mouths!) off each other, decided to ditch the club, went home to get it on and didn’t use any contraception, and birthed musical baby approximately 8 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days later.” They have their own vibe going. I feel that if you like bands with soaring vocals, layers of textured, shiny guitar, and a subtle yet sturdy rhythm section, you should give the band listen.
The EP opens with the insatiable rush of “Years,” ends with the meandering, murky, nocturnal “Golden Hour,” and hits some other points in between, like the slow spacious verses of “Soft Words” that swell into huge choruses and the seamless integration of acoustic and electronic touches on title track “The Fashion.” You’ll be able to get the EP here when it’s officially out, but for now, you can sample some tracks.
Or, hey, why not go see the band perform it live tonight at Rough Trade? Once again, they’ll be playing with Folding Legs. The show starts at 8 and costs $10. Tickets available here. You really shouldn’t miss it, but if you do, you can catch Stargazy again 5/24 at Cameo and Folding Legs 5/31 at Glasslands.
I had the chance to speak with Michael Romano of Stargazy about their new EP and more, read that below. And be sure to watch the brand new video from Folding Legs I’ve included at the end of the post for their song “Glorious.”
GP: Your name makes me think about a few things. You can treat this first question as a choose your own adventure and pick the one you like most, or answer all of them.
-Have you ever seen anything really cool in the night sky (planets, shooting stars, UFOs)?
-Where is the best place you’ve ever been able to stargaze? Or, somewhere you’d like to.
-Does anyone in the band believe in horoscopes? Who most resembles the traits of their zodiac sign, and in what way?
Michael Romano: I (Romano) once wrote a folk concept album that built a story around multiple geographic places on the Moon; Sea of Crisis, Bay of Rainbows, Ocean of Storms, so forth). Other than that we are just as much connected to the sky as everyone else. We spent some time recording music in the New Paltz area and had some real far-out night visions, especially since our accessibility to the stars is so limited being in the city and all. Alex and Romano share the same birthday (Nov 7), are both Scorpios and arguably the most clever of the group.
GP: “Years” seems to be a song about looking back. I wanted to know, what have you learned about yourselves as a band from inception until this point?
MR: “Years” is most certainly drenched in nostalgia. However, we are all about forward momentum. We are constantly in a state of learning and changing and I believe that’s the biggest truth we’ve come to find. Expecting that everything will be different including our sound. It’s about accepting and owning it.
GP: The song also has an interesting dynamic in that lyrically it’s in the past and perhaps a little bit of a lament, but musically, it’s all forward energy, almost unwilling to stay in one place and look anywhere but towards what’s ahead. Was that contrast was intentional? Which temporal state do you find yourselves most drawn to creatively – processing what you’ve experienced, capturing the present, or considering the future and possibilities?
MR: Definitely not an intentional juxtaposition. Unfortunately the mode we most rarely find ourselves is in the present. It’s a curse that we are always living with the burden of thinking forward and simultaneously behind. Lyrics usually serve a function of telling a story, describing a feeling, or stating an ultimate truth. Obviously this is no story. When I write lyrics I tend to focus on expressing experience.
GP: “Soft Words” has the line “Breaks my heart in two.” What is a piece of art/pop culture that has wrecked you in a memorable way?
MR: There are certain pop oldies that literally make me cry every time I hear them. The Beatles medley at the end of Abbey Road is one. Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball”, obviously.
GP: I definitely felt that there was a different vibe and texture to “Golden Hour,” but it wasn’t until reading that interview with Willow Wood music that I registered it not being verse-chorus, or, in your words, that “it’s totally linear.” It sounds like you enjoyed writing this and also playing it. Can you go in more detail how you decided on this approach and why it’s so appealing to perform?
MR: With most songwriters, you get happy about anything that strays for your own conventional “formula” and even happier when it actually works! There was really no decision, as with most writing efforts. “G-H” is one of the moments in the set where we blast off, lose our footing, and let ourselves sail a bit. We are by no means a jam band, but this song allows us to go off the grid while taking the audience with us.
GP: In “The Fashion,” the chorus strikes me along the lines of “selling out” or having some moral bankruptcy, compromising yourself, etc. Is this something you deal with? Also, with how music is consumed marketed changing so much, do you think there have been any shifts in how you protect yourselves as creators or how you act to spread your music?
MR: “The Fashion” is, as you suggest, clearly about this issue. It’s really easy to get tainted in the New York music scene. The longer you’re in it, the more susceptible you are to the disease. However, we’ve done a rather good job at staying focused on our own project while remaining very aware of some of the crap that’s going on out there. A few years ago, the Williamsburg scene was riddled with bands that existed only if there was a ukulele, accordion, washboard, and saw. Then the MacBook phenomenon came about. All you needed was one dude pressing “play” to trigger some backing track. Perhaps a guitar player thrown in for good measure. Then in the pop world Mumford came about and everyone wanted to have this neo-Anglo-English-Folk/Soul revival that has completely infected the airwaves.
GP: More generally speaking, what music made you want to make music? And would you say there is a common artist or two that helped you all unite to begin developing your sound – even if that doesn’t have anything to do with your actual sound now?
MR: Music is simply existing everywhere and it’s really freakin’ important for how people move about their days, how they celebrate, how they reflect. And it’s becoming increasingly important. Sometimes I look around on the subway and everyone has earbuds in and they are completely transported out of their reality. It honestly makes me a bit sad that we can reject reality so easily. It’s almost like we are overusing music and even over-producing it. I’ve been making it a point to remove my headphones for a little bit each day during transits. There’s a lot of good noise going on everywhere else. The screeching sounds of subway cars don’t have catchy hooks (perhaps they do?), but it doesn’t mean their sounds aren’t important or musical.
Which brings me to the next point. Six dudes can rarely agree on anything. Especially our musical tastes. I do believe that when we create our songs that each of us are writing our parts based on a combination of what we are feeling at that very moment and what we think music should sound like at that very moment. For some it’s Toto, others it’s Radiohead, for someone else it’s Stevie Wonder. It’s tough, we are talking about lifetimes of music exposure here and the list is constantly growing!
GP: I read that you share a rehearsal space with Folding Legs, who you’ll be playing with at this show. I’d be curious to know what you like about them as a band and how they might inspire you.
MR: Yep! They’re amazing. They inspire us to be better every time we see them. They are our constant reminder that there is serious greatness happening, and we must all realize that there is no time for settling on anything. The White Whale, ya know.
GP: Finally, since we are Greenpointers, what do you love about Greenpoint? Does anyone in the band live here?
MR: We’ve all lived in Greenpoint or Williamsburg on and off for several years. A lot of bouncing around. A couple of us still live directly in the hood. Otherwise the others are in the general vicinity. Greenpoint is really the crown jewel of the North Brooklyn region. Before they built that crazy ferry port on India St. we used to crawl under the broken fences and chill on a concrete slab that jutted out into the East River. We’d drink beers, smoke weed, laugh, and love the city. Our memories there are endless. The days of Coco66 before they shut down. Red Star wings, which are still the greatest in the world. Greenpoint has a je nais se quoi that cannot be denied.
Thanks to Stargazy for answering the questions. And since they shouted out their buds Folding Legs, and since I promised you this video earlier in the post, let’s end things with the brand new video from Folding Legs. “Glorious.” It most certainly is.