It’s a somewhat odd version of the Sam Malone and Diane Chambers dance.
Except it’s not will they or won’t they get together, it’s will they or won’t they break up.
Stars, that is.
During a recent interview to promote the beloved Canadian band’s current tour in support of their eight studio album, There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light — a tour which brings them to Calgary Tuesday, Nov. 27 for a show at the Bella Concert Hall in Mount Royal University’s Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts — co-frontman Torquil Campbell box steps his way to and from the topic deftly and without any prompting.
The first time is upon discovering the previously east-only-based singer and his family are now living in Vancouver.
“It’s great,” he says of the move to the wet coast. “First time in 20 years we spent 12 months in one place, so it’s been a revelation, frankly, it’s been really great.”
As to how that will affect Stars, Campbell notes that he’s never really lived in the same place as the rest of his bandmates — Amy Millan, Evan Cranley, Patrick McGee, Chris Seligman and Chris McCarron.
“So it’s not that different. It’ll been interesting to see what happens next year when I’m not around ever,” he says, before the dance begins. “But, you know, who knows if we’ll even exist next year?”
Q: Scoop? Are you giving me a scoop?
A: (Laughs) No, but the music business such as it is is so fucked that I don’t think anybody can count on anything more than a month ahead. It just isn’t working. And, we’ve been doing this for 20 years, so I think that the possibility always exists that this might be it. At this point we’re grateful for every year we do it and we don’t have any expectations beyond the next thing we’re doing. And it’s just going to take some time to sit down and reassess and see whether we want to keep going.
Q: So this (tour) could be the last chance people get to see you?
A: It could, it could, yeah, it could be. Which is sad to think about, but also kind of necessary, I think, to continue to be honest with yourself about why you’re doing it and what you’re doing. And I mean it could not be — we could continue. We’ve got some stuff we need to figure out, I would say.
Q: Well, I’m guessing either way you’re going to enjoy this tour, because I think I said it the last I think it’s one of the best albums you guys have done, so it might be nice to …
A: Yeah, we love this record.
Q: And do you love it even more now that you’ve had the chance to live with it and play it live?
A: Yeah, It’s the one record that I can still listen to a year later and not wish that all kinds of things were different about it. And the songs that we’ve been making recently are also — we’re in a great place, we love each other, we get along great. But I think if you ask any musician in the place that we’re in in our career, “Does the present form of the music industry, is it conducive to existence?” and I think you’d get the answer, “No, it isn’t. It’s conducive to people lasting 10 minutes and then disappearing.” We’ll see what happens, man, but I think to some degree with us, too, we’re not sure that we want to be taken for granted any more. I’m kind of into the idea of leaving and letting the world feel what it’s like without us. (Laughs) I think we all feel that the industry as a whole has utterly failed us. We’re tired of doing this on our own steam. I don’t know, we’ll see, we’ll see what happens.
Q: On one hand you sound accepting and on the hand you sound … a little defeated and maybe a little bitter.
A: I don’t think I’m defeated. I mean certainly anyone who’s done business in the music industry has bitterness because of its insane unfairness. When you’re getting .00063 cents per spin, it’s hard not to feel bitter, because it’s theft, isn’t it basically, it’s just legal theft. Companies are making billions and billions of dollars off our art, off the art of musicians, and musicians are struggling to survive, so it’s hard not to feel that is — like everything in the endgame of capitalism — deeply unfair and deeply immoral.
Defeated, I don’t feel because we have incredible listeners and we have an amazing time doing this thing and we’ve done so much more than I ever could have possibly dreamed we would do and reached so many more people than I ever could have dreamed we would that it would be impossible to feel disappointed or defeated by our career. You know, we make a living in music and we have for almost two decades and that is an incredibly rare and lucky thing, but I guess I feel to some degree like Stars is a band that has not gotten its due and is better than our bank accounts might suggest (laughs), I guess is how I feel about it … But there’s lots of bands like that, there’s lots of great bands like that, and in a way we set ourselves up for it because we’ve never compromised and we’ve never tried to play the game and we’ve never pandered and we’ve never sucked up — we haven’t done the things necessary to break the cycle and I think our fans love us for that, but it’s also made existing a little bit harder.
It depends on the day you ask me, man, but I don’t want to give impression that we’re breaking up, but I also don’t want to give the impression — and I think this is something that people really need to begin to understand is it is not water. The term “streaming” gives the impression that it’s a tap you turn on. Art is not water, it has a limit and the people who make it need to eat, and the economy of art right now is not conducive to survival for anyone. Making a lot of money in the game right now, you’re having to give away so much of yourself through social media in order to do it that it’s hardly worth it. You look at these young pop stars, it’s like, what portion of their life is theirs, do they have anything left, is there any corner of their house that hasn’t been photographed, is there any disease they have they haven’t talked about? It is truly perverted the extent to which we’re obsessed with fame and it belies a deep sickness, I think, inside of this culture.
When you look at the world it’s hard not to feel like giving up, but I don’t think that’s exclusive to artists, I think it’s just how everybody feels right now. The bullies are in charge and it’s tough not to feel like running out into the woods and building yourself a cabin and not coming back.
Q: Yeah, I could certainly go all unabomber, no problem doing that.
A: (Laughs) There’s a good headline for you, but you said it. (Laughs) “I could go full unabomber,” says journalist covering band.
Q: How’s everything else going for you? How is the theatrical life?
A: It’s going great, I’m going to be do my play (True Crime) in January and February at the Centaur (in Montreal) and at the Art’s Club in Vancouver.
And we’re very, very sort of unified right now, the band is very unified and very close. And I think there is a part of us that wants to out of sheer bloodymindedness continue forever, but it’s been a challenging year in the sense of losing our manager and just the world has been trying this year. So I head out on tour ready to release this sense of hopelessness that seems to be permeating everything and everywhere. Art has always been an affirming thing for me, and getting up on stage and seeing those people who like us and want to listen to our music is deeply, deeply — it’s life saving. And I think we all feel that way, I don’t think the band has ever felt more grateful for what it has, but also I don’t think we’ve ever felt more focussed on revenge. (Laughs) We’re going to show these fuckers who’s good and who ain’t … Once we get on that bus I think we will feel like we always do, which is that we can never stop.
(Photo courtesy Shervin Lainez.)
Stars perform Tuesday, Nov. 27 at the Bella Concert Hall in Mount Royal University’s Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts. For tickets please click here.