Amy Millan and her non-windy, wonderful, busy musical machines
J. Gordon
10/5/2008 7:21:00 AM

"They deserve more than some windy machine"

Amy Millan is a busy girl. She’s got her place firmly established as the prime female constellation in the indie-greats, Stars. She’s got a successful solo career, and plenty of work also as a part of the Broken Social Scene.

No matter which band we’re talking about, Amy’s sweet, innocent, little-girl voice is full of lyrics about booze and sex and death. It’s a fool-proof, never-tiring combination that’s won hearts over the ages in popular music. But Stars, and Amy’s music, has always been booze-heavy, “a private relationship made public,” she says.

“For a long time, alcohol was a pretty good pal of mine,” she says. “I’ve tried to move forward from that… I’ve come to be less dependent on the escape from the bottle. It can definitely help me chill out—but there’s a dangerous aspect, as well. I think I was just a part of that all-too-regular thing for people in their teens and twenties; binging and hangovers. But the alcohol isn’t really the story. The story is in isolation.”

The band has been touring on last full Stars album,In Our Bedroom After the War [Arts & Crafts], for about a year, and are soon adding numbers from Sad Robot, the new EP, that they’ve had available for free download on the Stars website. Expect more happy and sad pop, only this time, with some 80s-inspired guitar and rhythms.

“We just wanted to have a little nugget given to our supporters—we don’t want to call them fans anymore. They deserve more than some windy machine,” she laughs. She explains that the CD was posted on the Internet from 6:00 pm to 6:00 a.m. over a ten-day period, “to make some ripples and see how people responded.”

“Within ten minutes of having it live, people in England were talking about it on their blogs,” Amy says. “It was almost all positive, and everyone seemed appreciate. Word got around fast. Really, it was just a pre-leaving [for the Stars tour].”

The tour itself has been a huge success, with just a handful of US dates left before they’re back to Canada. About half the show is new album material, with the concept of war, revolution and the morning(s) after. Amy and Torquil steal most of the dramatic attention—as usual—but Paul Noonan sounds terrific on guitar and vocals, and drummer Pat McGee, surrounded by flowers this time, does undeniably great percussive work with bassist Evan Cranley, who spends half the set throwing roses into the crowd, making everything as interactive as possible. Amy Millan also proves live that she’s quite adept on the guitar. Really, it’s just too much talent for one small woman.

With so much ability, and obvious time and effort expended among her three musical projects, Stars, Broken Social Scene, and her solo stuff, wondered if she had a favorite way to use her energies.

“I like to use the metaphor of a wife,” Amy says. “Stars will always be my wife. We’ve been married eight years and at the end of the day, she takes priority. She’s who I come home to. Broken and the solo stuff are my mistresses, and they’re always fun for a roll in the hay. My wife does get jealous, I must say.”

The popularity of their record label, Arts & Crafts, is somewhat of a phenomenon. Even the major-label pop/alt/mainstream band, Weezer, is singing of it in their song off the new red album, “Troublemaker.” Sounds like they might even be a little jealous…

“It’s weird when a label starts to eclipse the bands on it,” Amy says, admitting this is almost becoming the case. “What came first, you know? We all started it together. We really did go to high school together, and we started it because none of the majors were interested in us.”

It’s the classic rock and roll story, otherwise: She says there was a very long time when Stars was very poor, driving around in Torquil’s parent’s minivan, “to some shithole in the middle of nowhere. We never had much money, but we had a lot of fun.”

“We started it [the label] out of necessity, not to be cool. A lot of what we did was modeled on Thrill-Jockey, out of Chicago, because we admired their bands so much. We’re not the first.”

Amy says that constant touring definitely takes its toll on creativity, when a new album deadline is looming just ahead of twenty dates in different cities. “It can get you so paranoid, to the point you feel you may never write again,” she says.

Stars is recording their next CD in February 2009, which means that Amy and the gang are busy writing and practicing it now. And Amy’s also got a new solo album to nail down in the studio this November, as well.

Does she ever slow down? She’s so busy!

“Yes, I have to be. I sense my own death when I’m not working. Who knows? If I’m not busy enough, I may start drinking…”


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