It’s been almost exactly five years since Starcrawler was on the cover of L.A. Weekly, heralded at the time as disciples of the Runaways and Ozzy Osbourne, thanks to its striking aesthetic, often theatrical performances, and uncompromising rock ‘n’ roll sound. The earliest version of the band had the ability to shock and confuse audiences, as listeners in a decidedly “unrock” era tried to come to terms with what Starcrawler’s deal was. They’re likely still trying to figure that out.
It’s not that hard. Starcrawler is a typical band story in that it’s about a group of friends finding their sound and then evolving over time. Their oddities, what makes the band atypical, is the subtleties. Frontwoman Arrow de Wilde might remind some people of the likes of Iggy Pop, Wendy O’ Williams, Cherie Currie, Stiv Bators, etc., but she’s very much her own person, her own artist. Like those vocalists, de Wilde is a captivating performer – unpredictable and charismatic, and occasionally shocking. With her naturally lean frame and sneer, she literally looks like she was born into this shit. The archetypal rock star. The rest of the band members are, of course, key to the sound, integral components of what Starcrawler is and has become.
So yeah, it’s been five years and Starcrawler is back on the cover of LA Weekly. It’s been a fruitful half-decade, too, with the band enjoying a steady rise.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m definitely very happy,” de Wilde says via a Zoom interview. “I think we’ve always had goals for ourselves, but I think from the last time we were on that cover, we definitely have made some progress. I remember when we did that, it felt crazy. I mean, it still is, but it was very unexpected for that time.”
The band were promoting the debut album at that time. Since then, they released the Devour You sophomore effort, and now are set to drop their third – She Said. Guitarist Henri Cash says that there’s been a natural progression between records.
“It’s been so many years since we recorded that and, also, we have new members with us,” he says. “My brother [Bill Cash] joined us at the beginning of quarantine and so did our new drummer Seth [Carolina]. We were just playing together a lot during quarantine, just really getting super tight. It was the natural progression of the music that we were making when we were playing together.”
Of course, like most other bands, COVID played havoc with the band’s ability to play together and continue on their current trajectory.
“It was really hard at first, because we’d been on tour for five years and we’d never had more than two weeks at home,” says Cash. “Then all of a sudden, we weren’t seeing each other, which felt super weird because we’re like a family, and we all like to sleep in the same beds on tour and in the car. So it was such a shock to the body that I would just go driving nowhere, just to feel like I was doing something. Then a couple of months in, we started writing songs through Arrow’s window. That’s how it all started.”
They got innovative. Sitting outside of de Wilde’s place, writing and even recording demos through her window. If nothing else, the pandemic forced us to think outside of the box.
“In L.A., it’s very common that all the windows are barred, but there’s one that we were able to put a mic through,” de Wilde says. “He sat out there, and we were very safe and responsible about COVID. It was at the beginning, so we had no idea. For a while that’s how we were doing it – we would just write and record demos through the window. Once we were able to create our pods and all that, we would sit outside and whatever. That’s how it started, which I think is kinda cool. Romeo and Juliet vibes or something.”
When the time came to actually record She Said, they entered Sunset Sound studio with producer Tyler Bates and engineer Robert Carranza.
“They’re both just amazing people, and also felt like family,” says Cash. “Tyler is an exceptional guitar player as well, so it was cool to spend time focusing on that. But he’s also a dad, and so when we looked hungry, he would cook us grilled cheese sandwiches, so that was really cool.”
The album’s theme, they say unexpectedly, is pink.
“I’m actually in between painting a bunch of stuff pink right now, which is a headache,” says Cash. “But our stage set is pink. Even before we wrote most of the songs, we were pretty set on the color tone. When you visualize something like that, it helps put stuff together.”
“We’ve always had a color scheme, but it was loose,” adds de Wilde. “Like now, we’re putting our all into it and making it this world. Before, our color scheme was red and white, but it was kinda loose. Now, each record has its own visual world.”
It’s an interesting approach and one that doesn’t always take the conventional approach. What is pink? That can be subjective.
“For some reason, the name She Said is pink to me,” says de Wilde. “I don’t know if that’s weird. None of the other songs when I was thinking of them sounded that pink. I have a weird thing where certain words and numbers I associate with colors. Four is also pink. I don’t know how to explain it, but to me She Said felt very pink. It was also just the one that we could all agree on.”
However you want to look at it, it’s working out for them. Starcrawler has a sound that is clearly rock ‘n’ roll, but it’s also flexible enough that they can open for artists as diverse as Nick Cave, My Chemical Romance, Jack White, and Porno for Pyros.
“You can’t really pigeonhole our music,” de Wilde says. “We can play with My Chem, Jack White, we just played with Nick Cave, and then I think we could play with Insane Clown Posse. Who knows? We’re all over the board. I think any type of music, not even just rock. I think it would be cool to play with rap artists and stuff. There’s something about our music. There are people who come to our shows who have told me they don’t usually listen to rock, but they like us. Which is cool, and very interesting to me.”
That said, Starcrawler is still a rock ‘n’ roll band, and the members have seen the scene develop since they formed.
“It seems like it’s getting to a better place,” says de Wilde. “When we first started, there weren’t a lot of other bands that I feel like we could play with. Like, I didn’t really know a lot of other rock bands at the time. People viewed rock as this cheesy, ironic thing, which I understand, but I feel like it’s coming back in this new way where kids, younger people, can relate to it, too.”
“Now that there’s a bunch of younger bands playing rock music, it feels like a new thing for a lot of people, especially younger people that before didn’t listen to that genre – it feels like their own, instead of their dad’s music or something,” adds Cash.
That’s what’s so great about Starcrawler – they feel like a fresh, young rock ‘n’ roll band and not a stale, lumpen vehicle for nostalgia. The latest single is an example of that – the excellent “Broken Angels.”
“That one started with Tim [Franco, bass],” says Cash. “It was his brainchild, and it was a lot slower. It was a ‘60s jam. Then I found it, and we made a chorus for it. We didn’t know if it was going to work for Starcrawler, and there was a long time of sitting on it. This could be cool, but it would be a leap. I think once we did it together, it really showed our dynamics as a band. I think that’s something that we’ve grown the most. When a lot of people start playing music, they go really hard or really soft, and it’s hard to find a place in-between. I think we’ve started to develop that. I also think about how Led Zeppelin’s hard songs wouldn’t be as good without the soft ones. We needed to have some of that in there.”
By the time this feature goes to press, Starcrawler will have played their album launch show at the Troubadour. After that, there are plenty more plans.
“We have another single that comes out with the release of the album, and then we’re doing a two-month long tour across America,” says de Wilde. “Then we go to South Korea, and then the Dominican Republic early next year, which will be a first.”
There’s simply no stopping a band that is rocketing, rather than crawling, to the stars.
Starcrawler’s new album She Said is out now. They play the Observatory on Tuesday, October 18.
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