Pigeon-Holing the Shimmering Stars

Photo credit: Jana Sasaki
Photo credit: Jana Sasaki

 

With the upcoming release of their sophomore album, Bedrooms of the Nation, coming out Aug. 13th, Shimmering Stars are back with a different take on Phil Spector and The Everly Brothers, one that mixes them up with bigger rock beats. I was able to reach frontman Rory McClure on the phone, where we not only talked, at length, about how much I enjoyed seeing them live, but also about the difficult reality of being a band that gets pigeon-holed, and why touring in Canada is awesome if you are a Canadian band.

Vancouver Weekly: I discovered [Shimmering Stars] when you were playing at Gropps earlier this month.

Rory McClure: Oh really?

VW: One of my co-workers lives in the house, and said I should check it out ‘cos I might like it. You guys were pretty great.

RM: Thank you. That was a really fun show. One of the more memorable shows we played in a long time. 

VW: While I was watching the show, I noticed you had a new girl bassist, Elisha [May Rembold]. How does the addition of a new bassist add to your new album?

RM: It frees up everyone else to do different things. Brent [Sasaki] has now moved over to guitar. He’s an excellent guitarist, and he is very adept at creating cool, atmospheric soundscapes, so it fills out our sound. And Elisha is a powerful bassist so she adds a lot rhythmically to the band.

VW: Your new album, Bedrooms of the Nation – the title comes from a band you were in before Shimmering Stars. Are there cross-over songs from your Bedrooms days onto this record?

RM: There aren’t any direct crossover songs because that band ceased to exist four years ago but in terms of style of music, it’s very similar to what we were doing in that point in time. Shimmering Stars started up as heavily indebted to the 50s and 60s early pop sound with subversive and darker themes. What we were doing before that was more reflective of what we grew up listening to, which was The Pixies, Nirvana, Sonic Youth. So, in that sense this album is much more similar to what we were doing when we were Bedrooms Nation. 

VW: It took you two years to release this record. What’s the biggest thing you learned while making your sophomore?

RM: It’s more like three years when I think about it. It’s kind of shocking how long it takes for things to happen in the fickle music industry. I guess for a period there were some set-backs personally. I had to move to Dawson Creek in northern BC for six months. I was a teacher. I had to go on a bit of hiatus. I was extremely poor, and needed to get a job.

And then there were set-backs with labels. We had a lot of interest from several different labels but a lot was said but no actual commitments. We eventually decided we wanted to self-release it and do it on our own terms.

The biggest thing we learned was that it’s good to be self-sufficient, especially in this day and age. I don’t think labels are necessary to a large degree. I don’t know why it took us so long to embrace self-releasing but now that we have I’m very happy about it. 

VW: What are some of your favourite tracks off the record?

RM: I like “Shadow Vision.” It was the first single we released. It’s more punk rock and noise but still melodic. We just released a song today called “Role Confusion” and the idea for that was taking a Joan Jett beat – a big rock beat and creating a bunch of noise around that. Those are my two favourites.

VW: It’s different to the stuff you did before.

RM: This record will definitely alienate the people who loved us before. I’m sure of that, and I feel bad but at the same time, it’s the worst thing to feel stagnant, like you’re not doing what you want to do.

VW: Totally. And it’s your sophomore too. Your debut had great reviews.

RM: It’s easy to be pigeon-holed, and one thing that’s nice if your first album isn’t hugely successful, is that there isn’t pressure to do the same thing. We don’t have a record label counting on huge record sales or a fan base that is enormous and wants us to continue to doing the same thing. We have a lot of freedom.

The sophomore album is a tricky transition but if you’re faithful to what you’re passionate about and what you want…

VW: That’s all you can hope for.

RM: How other people perceive it is out of your control, to some degree. 

VW: You guys said before that you are a mediocre live band. Do you still stand by that statement?

RM: We absolutely were a mediocre live band for much of our existence but I think we are a much better live band, I think we’re a good live band now.

I like an interactive show with a lot of non-consensual crowd interaction – which you probably might’ve seen. We’ve played Gropps three or four times now in the last six years, and a few of the times it was shut down by the police before we could get on-stage but house parties are the funnest things to play because you know a lot of the people, and it’s a much more lively setting than when you’re just on-stage, and you stare out there, and everyone feels awkward. 

VW: It was low-key so people were loosening up.

VW: You guys are touring but will be having your record release party with Skinny Kids and Gal Gracen. What are you most looking forward to?

RM: We’ve toured Europe and done a few festivals, but I’m more excited about this Canadian tour than anything we’ve done before. The biggest reason is that the Canadian music scene is incredibly supportive. I booked this tour myself and I can already sense the enthusiasm. If you’re playing a city like Regina, that’s a pretty special thing for a lot of people, for a band from the west coast to come out to. And I never sensed that very sincere enthusiasm for us to play anywhere, so I have a feeling it’s going to be a really awesome tour.

I’m excited to play Canada. We’ve never done that before, and it’s important to play in your home. In Canada, it’s a smaller pool and people take note. It’s special. I’m grateful for that. I feel a deep appreciation for the support we get in Canada.

We’ve set it up through people we’ve known through the years, so it’s organized at a DIY level, and I think that’s when you get the best results.