Stars of Track and Field

Stars of Track and Field

BandAlternative

Biography

When Stars of Track and Field found themselves without a bassist over 18 months ago, the Portland, Oregon-based band didn't follow the typical steps to find a replacement. No want-ads were placed, no attempts were made to recruit from other bands and nobody within the group switched instruments. Instead, the band opted for the path less traveled: they went digital. “Our initial motivation was two fold; a chance to stretch our boundaries and break from conventional indie rock while avoiding the frustration of rehearsing bass player after bass player,” says guitarist/vocalist Jason Bell.

Stars of Track and Field had become an entirely different project, one that keenly opted to straddle the divide of vintage analog and cutting-edge digital, merging the best of yesterday and tomorrow into a succinct musical package. “We could finally embrace all of our influences,” says vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Kevin Calaba, “and add the colors of Aphex Twin and D’angelo to a palette that already included the Beatles and Built to Spill.”

Fueled by a newly found “digital chemistry,” Stars of Track and Field (which also includes drummer/programmer Dan Orvik) suddenly took on an entirely revamped musical outlook and feverishly began developing new songs for their debut EP. Five-hour practice sessions consisted of two-and-a-half hours of silence and self-imposed isolation; rehearsals were largely spent with all members' headphones on, experimenting with sounds and textures, only to later collaborate and begin editing. “Everyone listens to it, we’ll change tones, change the arrangement, so it’s a pretty intensive recipe,” says Bell, who adds, “I’m thinking in bleeps and blurps these days as much as I used to think in kicks and snares.”

The result of these sessions was the band's self-released debut EP, You Came Here for Sunset Last Year. Recorded and produced by Tony Lash (Dandy Warhols, Elliott Smith) and Jeff Saltzman (Stephen Malkmus) for a mere $2,500, the EP was released in June 2005 and garnered unprecedented radio attention throughout the Pacific Northwest, including commercial airplay on Portland's KNRK, as well as Seattle stations KEXP and KNDD. Without the help of a label for distribution or promotion, the band has sold several thousand copies via live shows and local stores and You Came Here for Sunset Last Year appeared on many Best of 2005 lists and reader polls, highlighted by SXSW Executive Producer Matt Dentler's blog, which listed Stars of Track and Field as the #4 “Band to Watch for 2006.”

“Whenever you start a band, your first goal is to earn the respect of your fellow artists,” says Bell. “We never wrote songs with the thought, ‘Wouldn’t this sound great on radio?’ The attention has been great, but it doesn’t change our compositional outlook.”

After a brief stint on the Southern California-based indie label SideCho Records, SoTaF switched to Wind-up Records. “James [Cho, owner of SideCho] was blown away by our EP and was very aggressive in pursuing us,” says Calaba. “But then we played some pretty well attended shows at SxSW and it seemed that a move up to Wind-up was the best thing for the band.”

Returning to the studio with Lash and Saltzman in early 2006, the team created Centuries Before Love and War, the band's first full length, which was released exclusively on iTunes on August 22nd. An ambitious debut, Centuries Before Love and War displays the band’s dichotomous formula, successfully mining elements from across rock's history while simultaneously embracing the digital technology of the future. "Tony really put his heart and soul into it,” says Bell. “He thinks it's the best thing he's ever worked on. That's saying quite a bit."

One listen reinforces Lash’s confidence. The CD begins with the title track’s intriguing blend of vinyl-sampled kick drum, digital handclaps, reverse cymbals and keyboard arpeggio which builds to the song’s crescendo of electric guitar feedback, layered vocals and live drums. The next track launches what will undoubtedly be the CDs first “single,” the dynamic and charging "Movies of Antarctica," which briefly incorporates a drum machine before launching into a guitar/drum attack that any rock band would appreciate. Centuries Before Love and War frequently traverses this sonic territory, from digital to analog and back, vacillating between digital minimalism and indulgent walls of keyboard and guitar.

"The [album's] main emotional pulse is that nebulous something that you think you're missing," says Calaba. “The sort of emotional tug of war that occurs when dealing with sorrow and elation.”

If the anthemic rock aesthetic found on the full-length feels somewhat melancholic, then similarly bittersweet is the lyrical content. "We called the CD Centuries Before Love and War due to the fact that all the lyrical content was dealing with maligned memory and love loss. And obviously, with the war going on now, it's pretty hard not to have that affect you

Discography

"Centuries Before Love and War" - 2006