We caught up with Dead Stars at the 4Knots Festival this weekend to discuss the roots of their fuzzy sound, gigging tips, and their performance this weekend at 1.21 Gigawatts Festival in Brooklyn.
Dead Stars Interview
We chatted with the group after their scathing set to open up 4Knots. In a (semi) quiet corner of the bustling artist lounge, we huddled around a cell phone mic and talked shop.
Dead Stars is: Jeff Moore (vocals + guitar / left of photo), John Watterberg (bass / middle of photo), and Jaye Moore (drums / right of photo).
How’d you guys get started making music?
Jeff: Well, Jaye and I are cousins, so we’ve kind of been playing since we were kids. You know, I play guitar and he plays drums, so it was very it easy to just get together and play Iron Maiden or whatever.
Jaye: We played in a ton of bands all throughout high school. We eventually moved to New York and met John [Watterberg]. I knew him through a mutual friend and I didn’t even know he played the bass. So we were looking for a new bass player and I was like ‘hey, you know any bass players,’ and he was like ‘I play the bass!’
John: [laughs] You never even came to see my band once.
Jeff: Yeah, so we just got together and one of the main criteria was like ‘Can we hang out with this guy? Will we all get along?’ And we do sometimes…
Jaye: We’re like this big weird family.
John: They grew up so musical that they both play everything. They can switch off. Jaye’s not just a drummer and Jeff’s not just a guitarist.
How would you describe your sound for someone that hasn’t heard you guys?
Jeff: We’re pretty loud–I like to call it fuzz pop–because we write kind of catchy tunes, but we like the guitars really loud and fuzzy. I guess you can call it ‘fuzz pop’ or ‘calm punk.’
Jaye: Yeah, some girl just called us ‘calm punk’ in Madison, Wisconsin.
Jeff: ‘Calm punk!’ Like she couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that we weren’t a punk rock band, so she had to somehow describe it that way.
Yeah, just had to inject that punk in there…
John: An all-ages show in Madison and this girl was like ‘These dudes are sick! #calmpunk.’ Trend that shit!
Jeff: We just try to focus on what we think are good tunes, then play them really loud.
What are some of your favorite artists. Where do you guys draw influences from?
Jeff: A lot of late ‘80s, early ‘90s stuff like The Replacements, Hüsker Dü… Dinosaur Jr., of course. Teenage Fan Club…
Jaye: Foo Fighters.
J. Mascis walks by with a plate of food.
You mentioned Dinosaur Jr. What’s it like to play the same festival as one of your influences?
Jeff: It’s awesome, man. It’s really cool.
Jaye: A weird rock and roll fantasy come true.
John: Otherworldly is a good adjective to describe it.
Jaye: My dream jam-out would be either Neil Young or J. Mascis.
Jeff: The funny thing about it was that I just saw Dinosaur Jr. at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and the next day Village Voice asked us to come play the festival.
So you guys just came out with an album (Slumber) last month. Talk a little bit about how that came together.
Jeff: Last summer we had put out an EP, and we just thought the next logical step was to put out a full-length. So we had a bunch of songs, and we just started writing more, and then went into the rehearsal space to just hash them out and pick the best ones.
John: [to some girls talking] shhhhh, we’re doing a interview.
Jeff: So we recorded them ourselves and made sure everything was cool so we could be super prepared once we went into the studio. And then we went in and recorded the whole record live in like two days. Then we shopped it around to a few labels and Old Flame decided to put out the record. It was a very organic process.
Since you guys have started gigging, what are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
Jeff: I think not taking too much time between songs is important. I hate when there’s that awkward silence.
Jaye: Yeah, it’s no fun when a musician is up there noodling around with their instrument. It drives me crazy when a drummer is like [makes drum solo noises] you know? Like doing a bunch of Neil Pert fills… then their band plays and it’s nothing like that. Then I’m like ‘they’re just trying to show off.’ Just get up there and play.
Jeff: Whatever type of band you are, just keep the energy going. You don’t have to be Mötley Crüe or something, just have fun and feed off the crowd.
John: You’re on stage to entertain.
Jeff: At the same time, if you’re My Bloody Valentine, you can go up there and not move. That’s their thing. They do it really well. But for us it’s just, do what you do, and do it really well.
Is there a different approach to playing something like 4Knots, given the strange environment?
Jeff: …Kind of.
Jaye: Eh, I don’t know. I just think about it like any other gig. Maybe I know it’s going to be hotter outside and I’m like ‘Oh, man. I’m going to be really sweaty after this.’ But I mean, whether you’re playing for three people or 3,000, you should treat it the same. I only know how to play one way. Just go out there put on your A game.
John: That actually came up before–it’s like ‘should we play covers or stuff from our influences? Should we do anything to please the crowd?’ Absolutely not. We play straight down the middle, all originals the whole set. It’s not about pleasing the crowd as much as it is about introducing the crowd to the way you are. Yeah, we could play a Queen cover…
Jeff: We could? I doubt it.
John: [laughs] Well, we could try. We could impress them with our musical ability. But it’s more important to let people hear the songs they don’t know.
Jaye: We’re not out there to win over that guy with his arms folded.
Jeff: The short answer is treat it like any other show. You go out there, do your best, and play your songs. That’s it.
We’re seeing you guys at Gigawatts Fest next weekend and…
Jeff: Is it pronounced Gigawatts or Jigawatts?
John: No, it’s Jigawatts!
Jeff: I’ve always wondered that.
OK, let’s try that again. We’re seeing you guys at Gigawatts [pronounced ‘Jigawatts’] Festival this week. What can we expect from your set?
Jeff: Well, it’s interesting. My original idea was that at Radio Bushwick they have this 95 decibel volume cap, so I was like ‘let’s just do an all acoustic show,’ but then I was like ‘nah.’ So, we’ll probably play a bunch of new songs from the record and it’ll be really fun.
Jaye: But only under 95 decibels. We’ll probably push it to 96…
John: 1.21. We’re going back in time.
Jeff: We’ll try to keep it exciting.
John: Bust out the rockers.
Jaye: Play the hits.
Any artists you guys are pumped about seeing?
Jeff: Yeah, I want to see Frankie Cosmos. Who else..?
Jeff: Yeah, I mean, half of the bands I’ve already seen a million times, but that doesn’t mean I’m not excited. Definitely want to see Slothrust.
Thanks, guys. See you this weekend!
Article by Nicolas White