Stars of Track & Field
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Stars of Track & Field

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The best kept secret in music


"Stars Of Track And Field Reach The Finish Line With New Album"

Stars Of Track And Field, a three-piece outfit who take their name from a Belle & Sebastian song, want to join the likes of The Decemberists, Sleater-Kinney, The Shins and Elliot Smith and become the next hot act from Portland, Oregon. And if reviews of their Centuries Before Love And War debut LP are any indication, they're well on their way.

In the beginning the band had a bassist, but he left. Instead of finding some new dude to replace him, remaining members Jason Bell (guitar/vocals), Kevin Calaba (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Dan Orvik (drums, samples, programming) opted to go digital. It's a choice that they hardly regret.

"We didn't have some asshole bass player [coming in] who we had to keep telling to stop soloing," Bell explains over the phone from his Portland home.

Instead of holding auditions for a new bassist, then teaching him all the songs and allowing him time to get into the swing of things, they opted to augment their lush, shoegazing sound with the electronic wail of pre-programmed sequencing. They layered their music with Radiohead's post-Kid A-style "digital trickery."

"To the audience and to us, more importantly, it feels natural," Bell says. "It feels like there are actually people playing those [digital] parts… you see three guys, but you're actually hearing noise that five or six guys should be making."

The group's 2005 EP, You Came Here For Sunset Last Year was a critically acclaimed success. Though Centuries is already available to the public digitally via iTunes, and the good old-fashioned way at indie record shops, a major retail launch isn't scheduled until sometime in March.

The Wind-up album — recorded and produced by Tony Lash (The Dandy Warhols, Elliot Smith) and Jeff Saltzman (Stephen Malkmus) — isn't just another release that relies solely upon a single gimmick. It's a tender, deeply layered affair with melancholy, haunting, relevant and politically informed lyrics.

Bell describes it as "a concept album, with themes alluding to maligned memory, love lost and the conflict of war," but they never try to hit you over the head with their message. They're instead content to tell stories about doomed protagonists who've gotten in over their heads ("Centuries") or soldiers returning from the front who are incapable of readjusting to civilian life ("Lullabye For A G.I./Don't Close Your Eyes").

"We're definitely a very political band," Bell says. "But we really try our best to not be political in a grandstanding, listen-to-my-point-of-view way. We don't want to do collegiate varsity rah-rah protest songs."



centuries of love and war
Movies Of Antartica


Feeling a bit camera shy


When Stars of Track and Field found themselves without a bassist a couple of years 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 the conventional rock format, and avoid the frustration of rehearsing bass player after bass player,” says Jason Bell.

Stars of Track and Field had become an entirely different band, 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 Kevin Calaba, “and add the colors of Aphex Twin and early Pink Floyd to a palette that already included the Beatles and My Bloody Valentine.” Adds Dan Orvik, “between the three of us there are many influences, the musical direction could go anywhere.”

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 lyrics deal with maligned memory and love loss. And obviously, with the war going on now, it's pretty hard not to have that affect your writing,” says Calaba. “The difficult part is presenting your politics with insight and thoughtfulness, while avoiding trite rhetoric and cliché,” adds Bell. “How one cannot be shocked and horrified by the random violence and lackluster performance of this administration baffles me.”

With the album wrapped and label in place, the road ahead looks especially promising. The band completed an August US tour with Jeremy Enigk (Sunny Day Real Estate & The Fire Theft) and is preparing to head out for another US Tour in October/November with The Twilight Singers (Greg Dulli, ex-Afghan Whigs). “For me, the live setting allows for us to present songs like ‘Movies of Antartica’ or ‘Say Hello’ in a much more raw fashion than the record,” adds Bell. “Sounds like we’ll never be home again,” Orvik laughs.

And although Bell and Calaba have been writing material together for a number of years in other acts, playing in Stars of Track and Field still feels relatively new, particularly since the introduction of the fourth “electronic member.” "We're still a really young band in terms of playing together, so we'd like to think that our best days are ahead of us," says Bell. "We're still trying to figure out what the hell we're doing."