One thing you’ll probably notice if you attend the upcoming Stars concert at the National Arts Centre is that they draw audiences of all ages.
On the one hand, they attract a middle-aged crowd, many of whom discovered the band when they first emerged. On the other, people in their 20s and 30s are taken with Stars’ indie cred and by the nostalgia of their synth-pop and disco influences.
Stars started out as a collaboration between vocalist Torquil Campbell and keyboardist Chris Seligman in New York City, playing music inspired by 80s UK bands. They soon joined forces with fellow Toronto-born musicians, moved to Montreal, and today are a six-piece band centred around vocalists Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan.
Despite their longevity—the Canadian indie band has been around for close to 20 years—they continue to evolve their sound, moving seamlessly from electro-pop and rock to lush instrumentation and moving lyrics. No matter what, their music remains raw, honest and vulnerable, and audiences will be captivated with the emotion and energy of the band’s live performance style.
I spoke with Amy Millan about her band’s upcoming Ottawa show.
Apt613: Stars has been working out of Montreal for close to two decades. How does the city and its unique character inform and infuse your work?
Amy Millan: Funny to say “working out of Montreal,” as we are doing a lot more than that. We’re living here, raising kids, building community. I love it here so much—it’s home.
“Infused in our music is the snow and the cold of Montreal winters.”
Montreal allows us to life a life that’s not judged and formed by traditional views of success, income and industry. Rather, it’s a place where experiencing beauty and art is considered of value.
Infused in our music is the snow and the cold of Montreal winters. It’s so quiet when it snows, it leaves room to hear things you don’t hear in louder environments.
How would you describe your most recent release, 2017’s There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light? How does it compare to your previous work?
Peter Katis, the producer, was the boss on this album. We have never done that before. We have always co-produced our own albums and have been quite controlling of the outcome.
This time, we let Peter choose which songs we would record and the direction of the sound of the album, even down to the sequence of the songs. It was all the work of Peter. I think of him as the musical masseuse — he softens all our rough edges to make the songs float.
Stars has such an extensive repertoire, from the release of Nightsongs in 2001, to the Polaris-nominated In Our Bedroom After the War. What can audiences expect to hear at your concert in Ottawa?
Ottawa is a particularly special show—for the first time ever, we are performing with a 90-piece orchestra. This provides us with the opportunity to really stretch our repertoire—to play many songs we usually don’t. We will be representing our entire discography with the help of the incredible arrangers and musicians. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime show for us.
“Ottawa is a particularly special show—for the first time ever, we are performing with a 90-piece orchestra.”
This show is something we have always dreamed of and it is only happening this one time here. We hope you can come and celebrate that with us.