Easy Come Easy Go (Tooth & Nail)
An interview with guitarist/vocalist Jason Martin
by Tim Den
After Alternative Press gave Starflyer 59‘s last studio album, Everybody Makes Mistakes, five out of five stars, it seems like the world finally tuned into these unsung modern rock heroes. Formed in the early ’90s and led by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Jason Martin, Starflyer 59 has put out five full-lengths, three EPs, two 7″s, one live record, and appeared on a slew of compilations without ever creating waves in the rock “scene.”
Hopefully the anonymity will be a thing of the past now that the band is receiving nationwide attention with their new, two disc-set retrospective Easy Come Easy Go. Compiling the best songs from each of the band’s past releases, along with a disc of b-sides and live tracks, Easy Come Easy Go is a luxurious journey through the band’s career. All of us who missed out on a decadeful of Starflyer goodness can now familiarize ourselves with one single purchase. Hear them as the heirs to My Bloody Valentine during their early, wall-of-guitars-and-minimal-singing days! Experience shoegazer rock bred with Black Sabbath riffs during their “middle era!” And finally, witness the emergence of the band as a polished, synth-pop giant! It’s all here, and it’s bound to finally create some buzz for these guys, just in time for their tour with Pedro The Lion in 2001. Starflyer 59 deserves your attention!
Where are you based?
Orange County, California. I’m home doing the 9-5 thing; driving and making deliveries.
Are you working on a new record?
It’s done. We just finished. Ten songs; did it in mono. Got rid of that “stereo” thing. Shot everything straight up the middle.
Ya know, trying to do something cool. Been listening to Pet Sounds, and thought it would be cool to do a record in mono. Putting a little twist on stuff.
Wow. What does it sound like?
There’s a similar vibe between it and our other stuff, but it’s just a new batch of songs. A little bit of orchestration in there, a little more minimal.
But orchestration kinda calls for stereo.
Yeah, unless you’re trying to do a mid-’60s kind of thing. It sounds cool that way. It doesn’t confuse the mixes.
Who plays on it besides Jeff (Cloud, bassist)?
A drummer named Joey Esquibel and a keyboardist named Josh Dulli. That’s the band right now.
Who produced it?
A guy named Terry Taylor. He is a personal icon of mine. I’ve been listening to his stuff since I was five years old.
How was working with him?
Pretty neat. Getting to know him and working with him, getting a lot of good ideas… pretty cool situation.
Were you a total fanboy at first?
Oh yeah! The first few days I probably sounded like an idiot, talking about all these things I wondered about in my room, listening to his records. Kinda weird. It was fun. Just meeting him was amazing. Literally, I’ve listened to him for 20 years. I still listen to his records.
When is the record coming out?
I’m not really sure… either spring or early summer. It’s called Leave Here a Stranger.
What happened to your previous drummer (and backup vocalist, Wayne Everett)?
He’s in another band called The Lassie Foundation. He’s really busy doing that. We started to part ways… not in a bad sense, but just too much stuff going on.
For the most part, Starflyer 59’s always been your thing anyway, right?
Yeah… I write all the songs, but it’s me and Jeff Cloud. The other guys we have are the actual line-up, though. The drummer we have has been playing with us for a couple of years. It’s pretty much a unit right now.
But you’re directing, getting the band to complete your vision…
I write the songs, but we all talk about it. The mood of the record I usually have an idea about, then we get together and see if it works, if we can do it.
How is it working for the first time in a long time without Gene (Andrusco, keyboardist/producer for the last two full-lengths, who died last year)?
It was a little weird at first. You know, you get used to something and it’s hard to adjust. This is a new record and it’s different, which is a good thing, but… I miss that guy.
If you don’t mind me asking, what was the cause of his passing?
I think he had a brain aneurysm or something. Kind of a fluke thing; just woke up one day not alive. It was mysterious. He’d had really bad headaches ever since I’d known him. It was really one of the strangest experiences of my life. It was awful. I talked to the guy once or twice a week, about the new record, then I get a call from my friend saying “he’s dead.” It really creeped me out. It was so bizarre cuz I’d just spoken to the guy a couple of days before. It was obviously unexpected. He was only 38 or 39.
How did you meet him initially?
He owned the studio where we always tracked our records. He didn’t do our first couple of records, but he’d come in and maybe play organ or something. It reached a point where we just asked him “you want to do the next one?” and built it up from there. He really clicked with us, and basically became a part of the band. He never toured with us, but he did play a couple of shows. Mainly, he was a good producer and engineer. He changed our sound.
Do you play any of the really old material live?
No. We stopped that a couple of years ago. Not that I’m totally opposed to it, but I wanted to just go out and play the last couple of records. I felt like the older stuff didn’t really fit with the set.
Is it difficult being a Christian band? It’s kinda deemed “uncool”…
I really don’t know. I’ve never really felt anything weird about it. It’s not like I’ve heard anybody say “we like you, except you’re Christian.” I’m not gonna deny my faith in Jesus Christ for the sake of looking cool in the indie world. But I honestly haven’t felt anything weird.
It seems like “evil” is hip, for shock value if nothing else, but not Christianity.
There is kind of a stigma. I don’t want to get too mean, but a lot of Christian music is just trying to be “the other music’s” counterpart. Taking somebody else’s songs and putting different lyrics to it. We’ve always tried to do what we’re doing, not just be the Christian form of some other band.
It’s not a strong theme in your lyrics, either.
I just sing about what’s going on. Maybe it is a little too hidden, but I am a Christian and I believe in the gospel. But yeah, a lot of our songs are just about what’s going on. If anybody ever wants to talk to me, I’m fully into telling them about my faith and what I believe.
Is your family Christian?
Yeah. I guess you can say we’re Protestant. I was born into it, but I didn’t really understand what it meant ’til I was a teenager. I made my commitment to Jesus Christ when I was about 15 or 16. I was brought up with it, and it finally made sense. Just cuz you’re brought up in a Christian family doesn’t make you Christian. I knew all the stories and this and that, but it finally became an actual “thing” to me.
It must’ve been difficult for you at that age, especially since your peers were probably all going through the “rebelling” thing; the whole Orange Country punk rock thing…
Yeah. (laughs) I wanted that mohawk, but my hair just wouldn’t do it.
Do you listen to anything that isn’t Christian?
Yeah, I listen to whatever… well, not whatever. Ah, now I feel like I’m preaching. Okay, I do watch what I listen to a little bit… If a band is blatantly singing what I’d consider to be blasphemous things, I won’t support that cause. But I listen to a lot of different music. There is music that I wouldn’t listen to because I find it a tad evil. I don’t have to buy the new Marilyn Manson to find it offensive.
So you’re not rushing out to buy the new Eminem? Wife-killin’, mother-bashin’…
Uh, no. (laughs) But I’m not gonna get goin’ on some guy cuz he’s buying it, you know? It’s just not my thing. Personally, I’ll stay clear of stuff that isn’t portraying the best messages.
So what records have you found yourself attached to recently?
It’s kind of old news, but I really liked The Flaming Lips’ last record. I thought it was really cool. I thought the Richard Ashcroft solo had a few good songs.
I thought a lot of it was really repetitive.
I didn’t like the whole thing, but there were a few tracks that I really liked. I wasn’t in love with the whole record.
That song “New York” just goes on and on…
I like that song! But it can wear you down a little bit; I’m with ya. You can go to a movie and come back, it’s still going.
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