It’s no fun anymore. Someone went and sucked the fun out of rock & roll, then spat it like a loogie onto a passing car that carried it to parts unknown. Starmy aims to bring it back.
It means “army of stars.” The name, that is. It came to Mike Sartain while he was booking bands for Ya’Buts. Friend John Lyman walked into the club one night wearing an Army shirt; the ubiquitous gray top with the stoic, bold-faced logo: ARMY. There would seem to be only one message, yet Sartain got something different out of it.
“I said, ‘Hey man, we should start a band called Starmy, like an army of stars,’” says he who would be general. “And it just grew from there.”
At the time, Sartain had been jamming with vocalist Mike Sheranian. The two began to write together and soon had a batch of songs that “sounded good to us.” Sartain would be lead vocalist and play guitar and bass, Sheranian would be the roving backup vocalist. Lyman took up an axe, and Sartain’s brother Wil would enlist as drummer. They’d play some shows together before shaping that batch of songs into their first album, Dead Ready.
The 10-track disc (nine plus a hidden track, the goofy show-closer, “Brain Dickin’”) is due for release May 18, and is already a contender for best overall local disc, ever. The band calls it “basic rock with happy, sexy lyrics,” which translates to lo-fi, radio-chummy rock & roll. Though the band worked without any particular influence in mind, the end result checks unadorned, Stooge-y stuff plus dark psychedelia á la the Doors plus golden harmonies of the Beatles. More contemporary comparisons would check broody alt-rock, namely Nirvana. Themes of love (sick, lost, found, otherwise) and fun prevail.
“We’re just into having a good time, doing fun stuff,” says Sartain, as Lyman gives a thumbs-up in the background. “The record is basically good and happy and fun. And the parts that aren’t are either about wanting something or putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s not too metaphoric. A lot of things these days, even if the music’s happy, the notes are happy, you get a feeling that it’s not happy. And we’re completely happy.”
Dead Ready was recorded at Casa del Sartain as well as the apartment of Sean McCarthy, who originally served in a production role, but liked what he heard so much, he enlisted. “Sean was recording the album and one day added some keyboards, which became one of the most important parts of the album. He asked me what I thought and when I heard it, I said, ‘You’re in the band, man. It sounds fantastic!’ He makes everything really, really good.”
Given that Starmy sprouts from and exists alongside and within a slew of influential local bands—Sartain (Mike) bashed skins in the Possibilities and Fumamos before becoming the Red Bennies’ and Optimus Prime’s resident trapsman; Sartain (Wil) is part of up-and-comers Redd Tape; Lyman, McCarthy and Sheranian were all in Phelgmatic and the Toilet Smurphs—it’s a wonder they found time to create such a fine record. It amounts to careful scheduling and the basic ethic: fun.
“We just have to work together to make it happen and everybody is really talented, so it makes it easy.”
Of course, that doesn’t leave time for touring. Which is OK—Starmy want to take their time.
“We don’t wanna burn out. We just want to concentrate on the album. Our second album is pretty much done, but we don’t wanna kill the audience. Fumamos just played so much, it kinda ruined everything. Starmy is specifically my vision of how fun rock & roll can really be. Dead Ready just means we’re ready to rock.”