Seafarers will tell you there’s a calm right before the storm. Then, gale-force winds and sideways rains might blow a boat to smithereens. At some point after—however long that might be—the calm comes back.
Life’s kind of like that, too. Relationships have an ebb and flow of commitment and turmoil. And to weather 10 years of being banded together musically is an achievement worth celebrating—although it might have taken battening down the hatches to get there.
July 2011 marked the local rock band Starmy’s decade-long existence, and to celebrate, they will release their fourth full-length album, Blue Skies Abound.
Starmy’s last album, Starmageddon, was released in late 2008. It is a powerhouse album, with loads of guitar solos and catchy chorus lines—many of the tracks are crafted well enough to be singles in their own right. But Starmy took four years to complete it.
Bassist John Lyman describes releasing Starmageddon as cathartic. “Those songs had existed for a long time, so it was nice to finally share them. Releasing a CD is weird—you give birth to and kill your songs at the same time.”
After playing several gigs in 2009 to support the album, the band—like those songs—went half-dead, due to inner turmoil and personal issues. Kevin Ivers and Joe Denhalter both left the band; with them, the Starmy hype became cloudy. But when the original drummer, Will Sartain, returned for a 2010 Utah Arts Fest performance, the band’s spark was reignited, and the group started writing new material. The current lineup consists of co-founding member Mike Sartain (lead guitar/vocals), Dave Combs (guitar), John Lyman (bass), Will Sartain (drums) and Dave Payne (keyboard).
The group spent nearly a year working on new material. During that time, they gigged only occasionally, with the aim to debut a brand-new set list. Mike Sartain describes the writing process as an “open-ended, poetic chronicling of the inner hardships of the last decade.”
When it came time to record that chronicle, rather than take a DIY path and keep things internal, Starmy chose to work with guitarist/producer Mike Sasich at his Man Vs. Music recording studio. Without the burdens of playing and producing, they achieved a playfulness in the studio, which added to the musicality of the release and helped them finish the recording process just two months after they began in July 2011.
“Starmageddon was so drawn out,” Lyman says. “Like, years drawn out. So it was nice to go into a brand-new environment, with songs that hadn’t had the chance to age. We [wrote] a few of them as we went.”
Blue Skies Abound is the perfect title because the album serves as a rock-fueled rebirth. From the onset, a cool change in tone, both in aesthetic and attitude, is clear when compared to previous efforts. Mike Sartain’s angsty vocals are matched up with nearly every supportive guitar tone, for interesting affect. The album’s unsung heroes are the rhythm section, Will Sartain and Combs, who maintian the cool vibe and atmosphere on each track. The album shows growth from a band that seemed dead just two years ago, making this a fitting new chapter in their collective careers.
“It gives me goose bumps, because when I hear its contents, its ebbs and flows, I know where they are coming from,” Mike Sartain says. “I know how hard it is to get up off the ground after roundhousing yourself in the face with self-destructive behavior for the past six years.”