Out of the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania, The Stargazer Lilies come bearing dreamy, ethereal melodies, off-kilter, disorienting ambiance, and heavy washes of fuzzed-out, cinematic guitar.
Comprised of bassist / vocalist Kim Field and guitarist John Cep, the husband and wife team who previously led the influential New York shoegaze/disco group Soundpool, along with Los Angeles-based drummer Tammy Hirata, the band made its full-length debut in 2013 with, We Are the Dreamers, a collection of tunes curated by Tobacco (Thomas Fec) of Black Moth Super Rainbow.
After a series of singles and experiments, The Stargazer Lilies are back this spring with their second album, Door to the Sun, an exploratory record that ruminates on all life’s random happenings and possibilities and showcases the band’s psychedelic side like never before.
We caught up with Field for an in-depth look at the new album, and learned more about how a solid rhythm section can keep shoegaze / psychedelic audiences from floating away, and why her in-ear monitor is her most essential tool for live performances.
Door to the Sun comes out 6/3 via Graveface Records, but you can stream it in its entirety below.
She Shreds: Door To The Sun seems like a great album title for this time of year, as we head into summer, but it seems to contrast with some of moods throughout the record and songs such as “Personal Autumn” and “Summer’s Gone.” What were some of the themes coming into this album?
Kim Field: We didn’t really go in to the album writing process with a theme. We never do. Our albums always just end up being a collection since we usually write over a long period of time. The songs end up coming together organically from different moods swings and random things that inspire you. Then the best songs stick and a lot of songs get put on the shelf usually to collect dust indefinitely.
Sometimes I write about other people’s lives. A song that may seem to be coming from my own experience is really about someone I’m thinking about and what they’re going through. For instance, “Summer’s Gone,” was inspired by my sister and something she was battling. However, I wrote the lyrics to be somewhat universal in interpretation. It could be about a lost romance, a loss of season, a loss of a pet, a loss of your youth…any sort of loss
“Personal Autumn” is just really about depression.
Door to the Sun is a metaphor for the search I think we are all experiencing. It’s different for everyone, I’m sure, but I think we all are on a quest for the golden key. Whether it be to open the door to success, or to your perfect living environment, love, death or other. I guess that’s why that title sort of encompasses all of the songs. I also just thought it sounded like a good album title and it’s the chorus lyric from the opening track, “Golden Key.”
Did the experience of bringing in another artist to curate your previous record influence how you evaluated your new material when putting this record together?
Tobacco curated our first record which kind of took a lot of pressure off of us since we were narrowing down from a pretty large catalogue going into our debut release. We spent a lot of time touring together over the last couple of years and while we were writing for Door to the Sun. I’m sure that had some influence on how it came out although not intentional.
I think that we are actually just now realizing how much he influenced our direction as we start to put our third album together. We ended up dropping a few of our heavy-hitting guitar driving gazey songs from our first album with his curation, and then being on the road in the psych scene really pushed this second release toward the more psychedelic arena though [it is] still heavily guitar oriented. I think we are now sort of stepping back and thinking our third album is going to go back to what we started the project as, which was just a hit you over the head with heavy, heavy guitars and heartbreaking melodies power trio. I think some people were wanting more of that from us and we’re going to give it to them. It’s what we want right now in our studio time too and just how we’re feeling. We finished Door to the Sun over a year ago, so of course our writing heads are on to the next thing. In the meantime, we think the heavy, gaze guitars meet dreamy psychedelia is perfect for right now with Door to the Sun and we’re loving playing them live.
The Stargazer Lilies incorporate a number of unconventional time signatures into the songs on On Door to the Sun, which is commonplace in some areas of music, but less so in rock and pop. How do you think this has helped your band further your sound? What tips would you have for less experienced musicians looking to break outside the 4/4, etc.?
I think not just sticking to 4/4 gives us some originality. It may hurt us a little too. Who knows. Sometimes it seems people just want what they’ve already heard and are comfortable with and until enough people say, “Hey, this is cool!” they just won’t get it.
If people are wanting to break out… I think the best thing to do is to expand your genre listening horizons. There are great things to be found all over the place. We listen to a lot of classic shoegaze, tons of ambient stuff, 90’s indie rock, classic psych, Brazilian 60s, French 60s, classic soundtracks, 60’s girl groups and then just great more modern stuff like Broadcast, Stereolab, Blonde Redhead, Black Moth Super Rainbow… All great references for experimentation.
Some consider the bass to be the “anchor” of many in shoegaze and psychedelic bands while the guitar and drums are more free to explore. Do you find this to be true with Stargazer Lilies? How do you strike the balance between experimentation and keeping the beat intact?
I don’t experiment at all live. I’m naturally a really shy person so I practice a lot and I like to know exactly what I’m doing well before I walk on stage.
Being the vocalist and bassist I have to be the anchor. John has all these washy, ambient, heavy-delayed guitar sounds. If it weren’t for Tammy and I, the audience would probably float off into space. My bass lines also have to be pretty heavy, punchy and driving in order for me to be able to sing lead while playing. So that definitely keeps the songs moving and driving hard as John’s out in the stratosphere with his guitar experimentations. Tammy and I lock in and then no one gets lost in space.
Slightly off topic, but last year the Stargazer Lilies combined the music of Serge Gainsbourg’s “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde,” substituting the original lyrics with the poem written by Bonnie Parker. What drew you to song and how did you come to put it together? Do you personally find inspiration from Bonnie and Clyde, aside from all the bank robberies and stuff?
We went through a little obsession with them a couple of summers ago. I think we’ve always felt like we were on the outside of society so maybe in a way we relate. John and I both have feelings of anxiety and uneasiness with authority and society in general. Maybe that’s why we live in the middle of the woods with our cats. But, their story is so fascinating and there’s a reason they’ve been made into pop culture heroes. They were acting out on what a lot of people were feeling during the Great Depression just as a lot of people are feeling now. The climate is ripe as it was in their heyday to really be angry about the banking industry orchestrating the downfall of the lower class. This resonates with us. We’ve both been fans of French pop for a long time. We wanted to take the overly romanticized version Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot did and make it a little more real with words directly from Bonnie’s diary which are kind of devastatingly dark and beautiful.
And lastly, what one piece of gear is most essential for you?
My in ear monitor is the most essential thing. I think I could probably play whatever bass if I were really desperate. But I’d never want to be without in ears again. I went for years and years and years during our previous band, Soundpool and then the first couple of years of the Stargazer Lilies without them. We’ve always been turned up to 11 live, so as a soft ethereal vocalist it was really stressful for me to perform and not be able to hear myself at all, often. I had to not pay a couple of bills to invest in the device but it was totally worth it. It completely changed my live experience and gave me the control over my voice instead of whatever random sound engineer or stage monitors we might get, gig to gig. I wish I would have made the leap a lot sooner. I could have saved myself from a lot of traumatic shows. There’s nothing worse than not being able to hear yourself sing. It’s still not that easy to hear but I’ll never be in the pitch-black dark with my voice as long as the thing is working. Good pitch is really important to me so having that power in my control has been life changing as a live vocalist, definitely the hardest job in a band.