Interview: The Star Department
Published on May 21st, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Dublin duo The Star Department are preparing for the release of their debut album The Pea Green Boat, so Rocksucker fired some questions over to Michael Orange to find out a little bit more about how they operate. First, though, do enjoy this taster of their suitably celestial sound, which so impressed legendary producer Kramer [Low, Daniel Johnston, Galaxie 500] that he took on mastering duties for their debut EP and unreleased mini-album Auditions…
What’s the line-up of the band? How did you all meet, and how long has the band been going for?
Currently, there’s just two of us, Michael Orange and Justin Commins. We began as a four piece in 2006. Justin and our old guitarist met each other randomly and started writing together. I joined soon after, along with another friend. We went our separate ways towards the end of 2007, I think. Myself and Justin continued to write together though, and after an extended hiatus, we started working on this album sometime around 2009, while we both had other projects we were/are involved in. How we work now though is totally different from when we started out.
How would you describe your music, if pushed?
I suppose I’d say it’s an alternative form of pop. We wanted to shy away from being too obvious in terms of structure and content and try our best to let the subtleties come through. I don’t like anything that’s too obvious, musically or lyrically. At the same time we love hooks and melody and we wanted to try and incorporate that sort of thing as best we could. We don’t really have a set formula though or any specific genre in mind when writing, we just try and go with it.
Where are you based, and what do you use to record with?
We’re from Dublin and that’s where we’re based. We’ve been using Ableton for recording.
Are you signed to a label?
No, we’re completely DIY at the moment, but we don’t know yet what way we’ll release the album. We’re open to the idea of working with people though. I suppose it depends on a few things.
Is there a full album in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it? (Feel free to be as abstract as you like!)
Yes, that’s what we’re working on now. We’ve released two songs from it so far, “Antlers” in December ’11 and “Porcelain Doll” in May of this year. There’s going to be ten tracks on it and it’s called The Pea Green Boat. We’ve been working on it for a while, too long possibly, but I’m glad we’ve taken our time with it. We’re not too far off the finish line.
Where can we hear your music online?
I guess either Bandcamp or Soundcloud would be the best way to find our music online:
Which have been your most exciting gigs and/or overall moments so far?
Most exciting was probably right back when we started – we opened for The Futureheads in a beautiful theatre in Dublin. We had only been a band about six months at that stage, so that was a special show for us. We were very youthful and giddy! The first time we played CMJ in New York was a lot of fun and we did a little ten-day mini-tour in Canada last summer, around the NXNE festival, also great fun, but made us realise how much work we have to do to get the live show right! But I think when we finish our first album and release it, that’ll be our proudest moment thus far.
Got any more coming up? (Gigs, that is…)
We’ve decided to finish recording and then focus on the live thing. We want to make sure that we do it right. Seeing as there’s only two of us, we have two or three friends who are going to play live with us. We’re hoping to start playing live again after summer.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
I’m really liking Dutch Uncles, Wild Beasts, Women and Wild Nothing. I’m not sure they qualify as ‘obscure’ or ‘up-and-coming’, but it’s what i’ve been listening to a lot. There’s a wealth of musical talent in Dublin just now, lot’s of great stuff. Off the top of my head I’d definitely recommend Autumn Owls, Bear Bones, Bouts and Ships.
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
That’s a hard one, but if we’re talking ‘entire works’, I’d have to say: Field Music, The Smiths, Radiohead, The Beatles and Right Said Fred.
Michael Orange, thank you.