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The scene: a Brooklyn brownstone party circa 1999. Halley DeVestern passes a pound to Metric's James Shaw, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner totters by the keg, and the Stars' Torquil Campbell and Chris Seligman are on the stage, playing their first show. Out of the speakers billow pylons of sweet melody and ever-so-earnest lyrics. There's a dash of The Smiths, a bit of Belle and Sebastian, and a smattering of light, electronic textures.
No, this isn't the fantasy of some Poplife-going girl from Killian High (well, maybe it's that too), but an early profile of one of today's most promising acts. But the Stars who gigged in New York City's converted loft spaces in the late Nineties are distinctly different from the incarnation now conquering the indie nation. The Stars' sound has progressed from a drummerless duo to a six-piece ensemble of guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, and assorted brass pieces.
This evolution has not left behind the gut-wrenching confessionals or the swirling, beautiful melodies. Rather it has revealed Seligman and Campbell's dedication to song craft. "We went from barely even being able to write a song to becoming fascinated with the process," says Seligman.
The Stars began in the minds of the childhood friends who spent countless nights in Campbell's bedroom digesting his extensive record collection. After years of letting their ideas incubate, the duo finally stepped into the limelight with their 2001 debut, Nightsongs.That album almost exclusively used electronic beats, and although there were some beautiful melodies, the overall atmosphere was claustrophobic. "At the time, we were into music that was much more electronic and sequenced. [The first] album was written before we ever played live," says Seligman.
After the album's release, the Stars toured the Eastern Seaboard and quickly began adding members. The growth and change on Nightsongs to the decidedly more organic, live-drum-driven sound of 2004's Set Yourself on Firereveal the band's more accomplished guitar pop. The addition of vocalist Amy Millan has helped flesh out the group's harmonies, and the guest spots from hardcore punk drummer Pat McGee gives Firea more grounded, traditionally rock sound. And though Seminole Hard Rock Casino may lack the intimacy of a Brooklyn loft, the incarnation of the Stars who step onstage there is one more rich and fully realized.