STRFKR Dish on Death, Dancing and Dressing in Drag

The ordeal is finally over: This band are officially known as STRFKR (typically for print and press purposes) and Starfucker (for the cover of the new record and when spoken out loud). Discussions of Starfucker's name change have been floating around in the press ever since the Portland band altered their moniker, fearing it would derail bigger prospects. They temporarily rechristened themselves PYRAMID and Pyramiddd, but all of that is now behind them.

The electronic/dance/indie/whatever pop band have been busy with other pursuits, like creating Reptilians, their second LP, which was released earlier this week. The four-piece stop by Detroit Bar this Saturday for a gig with Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Brahms. In anticipation of the date, we stole bassist Shawn Glassford away from his task of constructing a loft in the band's van to catch up with STRFKR's deceptively colorful world.


OC Weekly
(Reyan Ali): I imagine that you're sick of talking about the band's name at this point, right?

Shawn Glassford: Absolutely. That's like the most sick of anything we've ever been, I think.

If discussions of your name were to banished from history and replaced entirely with talk about something else, what subject would you choose? You can't say music. It has to be something more specific.

“You can't say music”? For some reason, that's the one thing a lot of people don't talk about, which is ridiculous. I don't know. Art, maybe? Our album art? That would be a cooler thing to talk about.

I was about to mention the cover of Reptilians. What's the story behind it?

Our friend Kevin [Sohale Kevin Darouian] did that art. He's done the art for all of our albums, actually, so we've stuck with him because he's amazing. We view that new cover as two post-apocalyptic survivors, if you will–maybe not survivors, but people looking onto a new world. We're really into '70s sci-fi art. All of us can agree on old '70s sci-fi book covers. Nothing super-bright. That's pretty much what we gave him as inspiration. We're all kind of nerds.

In one discussion of it, someone pointed out that you're using the same font as the Scorpions on the cover of Reptilians.
Yeah, that's a new discovery for us, actually. I don't think any of us are really Scorpions fans or knew about the Scorpions font until recently. That's pretty much coincidental, or we can pretend that it's some sort of tribute. Early Scorpions aren't bad; '80s Scorpions, though–eh.

Are you saying that if you listen to this album backward, you won't hear “Rock You Like a Hurricane”?
 No, absolutely not. That's their '80s hit. Ugh.

In another interview, Josh Hodges [STRFKR's front man] discussed the importance of death as a lyrical theme for this record. Can you weigh in on that?

He's a hypochondriac, first of all, and then he's also super into existentialism, which is always looming on his mind at times. He's fascinated with it, mainly through meditation and stuff, realizing that death isn't something to be feared or dreaded or whatever. It's to give meaning to what we're actually doing here while we're alive. Death has a purpose. If nobody died, then we probably wouldn't do anything. [Laughs] There's kind of a sense of a “Live while you're alive,” which we like to keep in mind. We're only alive once, so you might as well do something.

How about any juxtapositions between happiness and sadness within your music? Do you think the brightness of the melodies and synth exist to offset that dark part? 

Yeah, we like that juxtaposition where somebody, if they don't want to listen to the lyrics, can just dance and have a good time, or if they want to get down to it, they can get bummed out and actually know what we're singing about. [Laughs] We like our music to [sound] happy, even if we're singing about death. It's something that should be fun. Music serves a purpose to escape life sometimes–to get distracted in a good way or to let go of the everyday mundane and have a good time, especially live. We like to think that we can let people let go for a little bit while we're playing and not think about the bullshit. There's that aspect. Then you gotta sing about something. There's the other aspect.

Writers frequently link your music to dancing and discuss a danceable quality to it. Do people actually tend to dance as much as these multiple references might indicate? Do you consider what STRFKR does dance music?

Yeah, we like to consider it dance music–the kind that we listen to–because there's a lot of dance music–techno and rave stuff–where it's mindless dancing. If you don't want to dance, you can just sit there and listen. But yeah, people dance at our shows. Some places more than others, of course, but it would kind of suck if people didn't. I remember [Detroit Bar] last time. Maybe half the room was dancing, I would say.

How about the dressing up as drag queens? You guys don't that all that often anymore, right?
 We do, occasionally. It's not really a thing we want anybody to expect. We just do it when we're bored or when we feel like people need to be challenged, mainly in the South. 

The last time STRFKR was covered in OC Weekly, Josh mentioned doing it in Birmingham, Alabama, to freak people out.

The reaction in Birmingham was actually really good, but every once in a while, you can see a look in somebody's face in the audience that they just don't know how to react–somebody that maybe is a little too young to understand something or a certain way they feel. It's really interesting to see people's reactions sometimes. When I can tell that it's somebody that is kind of afraid of it, then it's nice to engage and make constant eye contact or try to make 'em as uncomfortable as possible because a lot of people have interesting views about stuff like that, especially in the Midwest and the South, so it's good to challenge people sometimes and make them think little bit differently. If it's by wearing women's clothes, then why not?

Do you remember any particular conversations you've had with someone who was unaware of STRFKR's drag side before seeing your show, and then had something to say about it?

No, I haven't had any actual conversations about it, but it's mainly just people being surprised. Actually, one time in Olympia, Washington, a woman thought we were actual girls until she came up and talked to us at the merch table. That was funny to see the look on her face when she realized we were actually dudes. I don't know how attractive we are as women. I think it's pretty obvious we're some dudes wearing women's clothes.

It's good to have that aspect out there. At least you have options.

Yeah. [Laughs]

In that same OC Weekly story, Josh mentioned that he started the project as a sort of “fuck you” to the whole music industry. He was referencing the name itself, but are there any other aspects of the band in which that idea plays out?

Yeah, let's see. We think the music industry is a bit of a joke overall. It's really hard to find genuine people in it. We've gone through a lot of bullshit, talking to a lot of fake people who are not really interested in music more than money or whatever. That completely grosses us out. Fortunately, we found a label to be on with Polyvinyl. It's truly amazing because they are definitely an exception. They are as genuine of people we could ask for in the industry.
That's hard to find these days, I think, especially with the way things are failing with sales and whatnot. It's getting kind of grim out there. I don't know how we said “fuck you,” but we like to. [Laughs]

STRFKR perform with Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; March 12, 9 p.m. $10. 21+.

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