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Quick—everyone who loves contagious melodies and catchy grooves, pack up your things and move to STARRYVILLE. Or, buy the band’s latest CD, which includes such ear-pleasing, dance-happy songs as “Compromise 20,” “If You Say,” and “A B.” (Listen here.) Alexes (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), PJ (guitar), Arnaud, aka Dr Thorn (bass), Matt (keyboards, backing vox), and Jason, aka Coop (drums), hail from Northern Virginia, mythical Missouri, and even far-flung France, but D.C. brought them together to create the kind of music that, frankly, D.C. needs badly. And we need more of it, too.
What equipment do you use and what’s your favorite smoke?
ALEXES: Fender thinline Telecaster and Gibson acoustic. D.C. is smoke-free; that is cool for us nerdy asthmatics!
DR. THORN: SWR Goliath cabs, SWR 550 amp, Ampeg preamp, Fender Jazz bass, D’Addario strings, Tortex yellow pics, strong and agile fingers, guts, balls, sweat. Cigs perfumed with Provence herbs.
PJ: Fender, PRS, Matchless. I enjoy a good Camel light.
COOP: Pearl Drums and Zildjian Cymbals
MATT: [Keyboard God Matt was unfortunately napping and unable to contribute. However, he does play something almost as awesome as a Casio. OK, whatever he plays is damn heavy! It sounds incredible, too.]
What kind of drums do you play and what pets do you own?
COOP: Love Pearl drums. Custom A Zildjian Cymbals. Have two cats.
ALEXES: One adorably vocal Australian shepherd (Gracie), and one sweet border-collie mix (Sofie), and four assorted awesome cats (Mimi, Maui, Freddie, and Little Star). I sing the Lucky Charm thing and “Twinkle Twinkle” to Little Star! The Aussie and cat Freddie hang with us while we practice! We think they are deaf.
DR. THORN: I don’t like drums and especially drummers. I’ve got a problem with geeky keyboard players, too. Guitar players are just wuss with their tiny strings. I love pets, with salt and well-done (I nurture the secret desire to cook and eat Alexes’ cats.)
ALEXES: Touch my cat and die frogman.
What’s your favorite D.C. hangout and your favorite automobile?
ALEXES: I like old Jeep Cherokees; is that weird? Luv Iota in Arlington and at times Galaxy Hut. I don’t venture into the city too much, so tell me a good place to go. Wait, I did have cool time at the Rock-n-Roll Hotel last weekend. It was nice and dark and atmospheric. Actually, all of the last few bars we have played at were nice! Maybe I just like bars.
DR. THORN: Barnes & Noble, for the rock ‘n’ roll ambiance. 1995 Toyota Corolla pimped à la Thorn.
PJ: I like most dimly lit places and prefer German cars.
COOP: Dodge Viper
[Matt has some kind of SUV.]
What’s the worst place you’ve crashed and your worst haircut?
ALEXES: I slept in the laundry room of an apartment I lived in when I was in my teens, using my schoolbook as a pillow, and also the storage room of same apartments on someone’s old mattress. Yuk. I used to nap on I-66 during rush hour when I lived in Manassas. For real!
A school friend gave me a bad, short, freshman haircut that had actual steps going down the back of my head, and then I got a perm and the kids called me mon-chi chi. (Sigh.) High school sucks!
DR. THORN: A French train station. They are cold, smelly, and the benches are not comfortable at all. A wig could have helped keep me warm. Hey, Paul, you should always sleep out protected.
PJ: Sleeping on the beach without any protection, or in my car. Hair? What’s that?
Worst roommate and best audience?
DR. THORN: I hate roommates; I can only live on my own. One of my best gig memories is with a band called KGool. In France we celebrate what is called “La fête de la musique” (the music fest) each June 21. We had no band at that time and it was really a bummer not to be able to play for that occasion. Anyway, we just kicked our own asses and decided to create a band and a show just for that special day: KGool. We had a guitar, a bass, and a programmed drum machine/synth. We wrote some songs two days before the gig. Then we showed up in the streets of Lille, the big town of the north of France, all the gear packed in my luxurious Citroen BX. We had a powerful sound system, a load of shitty gear, and the eagerness to perform.
After a few songs, the crowed surrounded us and starting cheering. That was really a surprise. Finally, we were so successful playing our stuff that night, people wanted us to come back the next day. We had a radio interview, a producer contacted us, and we even hooked up with two girls and spent the night at their place. Unfortunately, they were lesbians, but great friends. Anyway, we did all this for free and with no intention other than having fun. We were there to spread love, and we got it back. Great memory, and great lesson.
ALEXES: What the hell is he talking about?
PJ: My ex had to be my worst roommate ever. Never move in with someone when the relationship is basically over, it really does put the nail in the coffin. Any audience that is at a show to hear music is fantastic to me; the biggest would be best.
[Sorry, Matt was recovering from a weird ,random sports-related injury (crooked pinky splint) and was not available for comment.]
Explain your band name and define your sound.
ALEXES: Starryville is not just a celestial, cosmic, primordial force—OK, maybe that is a little much. Ha! I think the name Starryville evokes something cool and that is why I like it.
DR. THORN: That band name is absolutely stupid. Most of the people make fun of it calling us SorryVille. I’m forced to play with those guys because I’m French and I need a cover to pursue my illicit activities.
PJ: Starryville, to me, is a place to go to escape, reflect, and rock.
COOP: RUSH—oh, crap, no, I mean Starryville!!!
What clothes do you like to wear onstage and what do you eat on the road?
ALEXES: I am happiest in black and dark colors and something skintight. I wore a skirt a few times recently and I felt like I was in drag. Although I am feminine, I feel kind of bizarre wearing a skirt onstage. I am short, so I stand on a box. Very sexy!
DR. THORN: I love to wear my cheetah speedo, and nothing else but my bass. I tried skintight pants, too, but they are really uncomfortable due to my anatomy. It also makes other people feel very uncomfortable.
PJ: I try not to over-think what I wear at a show. Something simple, tight, and “Euro” usually works for me. I prefer to focus more on the music. Eating on the road can be dangerous. I try and make some decent choices, but it’s so easy to slack and just choose a burger—but beware, beef takes like a month to pass.
ALEXES: They look like “Sprockets,” seriously!
COOP: Black T-shirt, jeans, and a beany, better known as my thinking cap.
[Matt was still deep into his nap, but we know he always wears (old) leather flip-flops, even in the freezing Tundra. What a dude!]
What’s the worst stage you’ve played and your best payday?
ALEXES: Any time we are paid is good.
DR. THORN: Along my 20-year career as a very professional bass player, I think the worst place I’ve been playing is the D.C. area. People spend their time drinking beer, cheering us, dancing like freaks, getting drunk, want to touch my silky body—all this is absolutely insane and immoral!
PJ: Any stage we can’t fit on can be pretty crappy.
COOP: No Comment!
What are your influences and worst equipment experience?
ALEXES: I don’t want to relive the trauma of my worst equipment nightmare, thank you very much. Influences: check out myspace.com/starryville for the long list. I won’t bore you. Basically, I have a huge ’80s influence, with some standard rock ‘n’ roll thrown in. But I would live and die for Robert Smith.
DR. THORN: Claude Francois, C. Jerome, Kraftwerk, Telephone, Bernard Lavilliers, Alain Bashung, Julien Clerc, Serge Gainsbourg—mostly French and German stuff, finally. As for my first bass amp, I was using the stereo of my parents. Then I bought a 12-inch speaker, but I had no money to buy a cabinet. So I used a trashcan to make the resonance box. The resulting sound was trashy for sure, but I was 14 and it was so cool to make enough noise to bother my neighbors.
PJ: Andy Summers, the Edge, Peter Buck, Jerry Garcia. During a Sunday night show at TT’s a while back, my amplifier blew a fuse during soundcheck—of course, I did not have another. After much panic, our manager at the time found a usable fuse from something unknown to me and it worked! Cheers, Nathan.
COOP: Rush, 311, Dave Matthews, Rage, Disturbed, Kiss. The band house practice set is OLD.
ALEXES: But it’s new to you! Har! Did I mention our biggest dream is to play on Letterman? But we will settle for Leno.
What are your songs about and what’s your favorite drink?
ALEXES: Most of my lyrics are like dreams that make perfect sense while you are having them and then later are mostly bizarrely unrelated moments with some weird emotion that glues it together.
Actually, I write based on what vowel and consonant go together with the particular tone and note I want to sing. So if I changed the consonant to something hard or soft or a different vowel, it just might not work. So I would definitely say the music and melody I sing create the words and ultimately what the song is about. And that is kinda cool, but sometimes weird. Well, that sounds kind of analytical, but it is not; it is very intuitive and instinctive and tangible.
Matt puts smiley faces next to our cheerful songs and there are three so far; get the picture? I dunno, I think all of our songs are cheerful, but then I like the Cure.
Drink: cabernet, Guiness, lately Odwalla mango tango, umm…grape juice. Vodka drinks. Hey, does chocolate count as a drink?
DR. THORN: I don’t really get the lyrics of the songs. In “Strange,” one of our tunes, the song starts with: “Wild stag, I found your horn and I wore your horn.” Come on, that’s absurd! That’s why sometime I need a good Saint Emilion Grand Cru with some Diet Coke on top; that helps me endure StarryVille.
ALEXES: Those who do not understand will mock…
PJ: Welch’s Concord Grape. Sometimes I can write a chord progression with a thought in mind that influences the sound of the chord. When Alexes writes the lyrics though, the song can take on a whole other meaning, so I guess our songs can mean different things to different members ultimately.
What’s your favorite tour memory and worst band squabble?
ALEXES: I always bicker with Paul, but then, he’s a guy.
PJ: The worst squabbles seem to arise during the rotation of band members.
DR. THORN: With a band called Coal Faces, we played in Aix-Noulette, a tiny town of the Pas-de-Calais in France. There was no stage and people were dancing so hard that the band was just part of the crowd: the public and us were just one: excellent!
What’s your transpo and what’s the worst place you’ve ever dropped trou?
ALEXES: We do not have a van yet, so we take our own cars. I squeeze into Paul’s GTI. Ask Arnaud about dropping trou in the parking lot at the ski lodge. We have the photos.
DR. THORN: What are you talking about? Yes, we’ve got a friend named Van. He is Vietnamese and he can carry a lot of shit on his back, especially if we have to play in the jungle, under the threat of air strikes.
What are your current projects and political thoughts?
ALEXES: Well, I was thinking that the Bush minions need to put out a clever and cute little bumper sticker to promote the war. “Don’t be left out, another 4 rockin’ years in Iraq people!!” YAHOOO! Make it seem fun and trendy; a new war chic for the American pop culture.
We plan to begin recording again soon. We have some intense new songs that are screaming to be recorded.
DR. THORN: Send us some money, we’ll make some music that makes you forget your problems, put your brain to sleep, so we can take over the world. Send us your watch, too; we’ll give you the time.
PJ: I am looking forward to significant political change in our country and the restoration of our tarnished image with our allies. I also believe in global warming and that we are slowly but surely destroying our planet. Maybe we can turn it around with alternative energy sources. PEACE.
ALEXES: He believes in global warming, but does he support it? That is the question.
What’s the stupidest move your singer ever pulled?
ALEXES: All of my stupidity is part of my greater charm.
DR. THORN: Fart on stage. Ah, no, that was me.
[Time to wake Matt…]
Wake up? Charming? Grade the quiz.
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