STARBENDERS LOVE POTIONS
Releasing 14th February 2020
via Sumerian Records
Atlanta alt-glam band Starbenders will release their hotly anticipated sophomore album, Love Potions, on February 14through Sumerian Records, fresh on the heels of 2019’s Japanese Rooms EP and serving as the follow-up to 2016’s Heavy Petting debut album.These are words similar to those which you will read on countless press releases, but there really isn’t anyone else out there doing what Starbenders have been doing since forming in 2014: The intoxicating combination of ‘70s glitter and ‘80s glam with new wave and new romantic, seduced into this new decade by four thrilling musicians and, in front woman Kimi Shelter,one of the most exciting songwriters in contemporary rock & roll.The band is completed by bassist Aaron Lecesne, guitarist Kriss Tokaji and drummer Emily Moon, with Moon making her full-length debut with the band on Love Potions. The album sees the band moving in a more adventurous and slightly experimental direction.“We even had some string arrangements on some of the songs,” says Tokaji. “So we’re going further along with the more experimental side of our sound. But at the same time, this record is a bit more cohesive than Heavy Petting because all the songs have been put together at the same time. We had a single focus in mind about what we wanted this record to sound like.”That’s evident from the opening “Hangin’ On Tonight” through to the crushing crescendo of “One of Us.” The focus is tangible, as is the sense of urgency enhanced with pure, goose bump inducing emotion. That’s where the pop and the punk collides, without ever moving into pop-punk territory.
“It’s really interesting to see it bloom into what it is now,” says Shelter. “I guess us leveling up as far as musicians go,and having to be capable of pivoting–be decisive and be resourceful in the midst of creating as well–has really shaped us. The sound has captured this sort of restless, relentless side of my spirit. We got to that very hungry place and, as a writer, my voice started to become more confident, while it became more vulnerable. As a band, we’ve been doing some big tours in-between the recordings and have been playing live quite a bit. The violence of the stage has shown up in our sound as well.”That relentless work ethic, the invaluable band experiences gathered when getting out on the road and living together in close quarters, all of that is evident when listening to Love Potions. They’ve gone from hugely talented, bright-eyed musos with bags of ambition and drive, to a rock & roll unit with an edge that sits comfortably alongside the glamor. Grit mixed with the glitter. Still, when it came time to record this new album, nothing came easy.“The process of this record was challenging,” says Lecesne. “The things that we went through as artists, as a band and on our own personal levels–I think you can hear that in my playing. There were some dark moments that year, there was a lot of joy and excitement, and there was a lot of stress, doubt and second guessing oneself. I felt a lot of pressure–I’m sure we all did.But pressure is what turns carbon into diamonds and I think we came out with something cool.”Love Potions was recorded with producer Nico Constantine and engineer Jeff Bakos at Bakos Amp Works & Studio in Little Five Points, Atlanta, as were their previous album and EPs.
“We recorded in the same studio we usually do,” says Moon. “It’s very small–we’re basically all crammed into one room. It’s very intimate and old school. It’s been a long, arduous process–it took about a year. But we all grew tighter and stronger together through it.”Moon’s addition to the ranks after Heavy Petting saw Starbenders move up a gear, with Shelter citing her life force as both refreshing and the sort of push that they needed.“She looks like a woodland creature, but plays like a warrior from hell,” says Shelter. “She’s got this life force behind her that was so refreshing to us. It was just this very sort of free and organic essence that came out. Her playing style was also more suitable for the ethos of the band. She was coming from a pop-punk background and that sort of aggressive and also technical prowess really clicked.Shelter is the main songwriter–she’s responsible for conceiving the skeletal structure of the songs while the rest of the band, she says, add the muscle. Atlanta legend James Hall helped with a couple of co-writes, but Shelter carried much of that weight. Most of the music, she says, was inspired by adversity.“It was just like being up against it,” she says. “Being challenged–not in a negative way but in a constructive way, by people who thought I could handle being pushed. It was a mental obstacle that really pushed me forward. I’m appreciative of it.When I was in the midst of it, I was definitely encountering some self doubt because there were a few songs that we had tokeep going back to the drawing board on. You just want to throw the book at the wall and say, ‘Fuck it, someone else do it.’But the band and everyone else around me was so supportive that I was able to be fostered within that. When it comes to creation and writing, when you have to dig deeper, most of the time it’s a brutal and painful experience.”
All of that pain and positivity, angst and awe, grime and glamor, hell and harmony, has resulted in one of the most exciting and unpredictable albums produced under the rock & roll banner in a long, long time.“I think that’s what’s so exciting about Starbenders in general,” says Shelter. “As soon as people think they’ve got us figured out, we change it up again.”