Dead Lighters Go to Heaven feels eerily familiar. It’ll throw you back into sitting cross-legged on the floor, sweat dripping down your back, touching foreheads with someone you think you love because you’re on Ecstasy and everything feels possible and the room is spinning in fast, euphoric circles. But then, somewhere along the line a song plays and you remember that walk home the next morning depleted of endorphins, hyperventilating, tears in your eyes.
Andrew Starr, recently released a solo album Dead Lighters Go To Heaven. Starr, also known as Cam Frank, worked on the video Sojii released on Jettison. Here’s an interview with the artist about their influences, process, and the Grand Rapids music scene. Listen to the full album here.
Mad Penny: What are your musical influences?
Andrew Starr: I get a lot of musical influence from the Talking Heads. Grew up on them and grew to really appreciate the genius behind their production and musicality in the last five years. Mount Eerie by The Microphones has also been a big influence on me in the past few years. Production-wise mostly, but Phil Elverum is a hero to me.
MP: What did the album emerge from? Was there any particular emotion or state of being that shaped it?
AS: The album emerged from a lot of confusion in my life. Lots of change and new experiences i.e. moving, ending relationships, new relationships, combating lifelong mental illness really shaped the tracks and me as a person.
MP: What kind of experience do you want people who listen to your music to have?
AS: I want people to listen to my music and hear it as some sort of musical diary. I want them to feel like they’re flipping through an old photo album or digging through pages of an old journal.
MP: What is your musical process?
CF: Most of the time I formulate some idea of a song in my head while working or doing some mindless task. From there I’ll plop out a basic structure on a piano or guitar and then I take it right to recording. I’ll change the whole concept or feel of a song once I start recording tracks. A lot of the actual base of the song is created there. The studio is my creative place.
MP: How did you record this album?
AS: I recorded part of this when I lived at my parents in a closet upstairs. I made a lil’ studio and just stayed up to ungodly hours recording stuff. When I moved into my current house I set up a studio in our basement which allowed me to record louder instruments (electric guitar, drums, screaming vocals) and that helped shape the other half of the album. I recorded a lot of the instruments on tape and then would bounce them into my computer and edit them there. I overdubbed most of the vocal and synthesizer tracks on computer.
MP: What are the sound clips in some of the songs used from? What is the significance?
AS: A lot of sound clips were just things I had recorded on my phone. I try and record little things that I find interesting and use them at some point. I also sampled some old radio shows from the 50’s and a lot of AM preachers. There’s a channel on like 12:10 AM radio that has Catholic Mass being broadcast at every hour of the day and a lot of those preachers say some profound shit. I grew up in an extremely religious household and while I don’t fully believe in it now, I think that a lot of stuff priests and preachers say carry a lot of emotional weight. I also sampled American Beauty on the song Kevin because I love Kevin Spacey and that song is about him.
Music video by Jeremiah Bulkowski
MP: When did you get interested in playing and making videos?
AS: I’ve been playing music for a lot of my life but it wasn’t until the 9th grade when I got really invested in creating my own and collaborating with others. I’ve been making videos since 5th grade, there’s probably some embarrassing ones from middle school somewhere on Youtube. I was always drawn to the camera and writing little stories. I got a lot more into it in high school while taking some studio classes and I’ve been trying to motivate myself more recently to create visual arts.
MP: Why did you include the nail biting, twitching, itching in the video?
AS: Glad you picked up on that. Everyone has a tick of some sort and I wanted people to step back and realize their individual tick in times of uneasiness. I asked all my friends what they do when they’re nervous and most of them had something along the lines of biting their nails or scratching themselves or smoking or biting their lips or something. The song Glass Jar Baby is about analyzing yourself in a way.
MP: How is the Grand Rapids music scene?
Eh it’s okay. Kind of in a lull right now as some of the bigger DIY venues closed. There’s a lot of Emo bands here, but that’s kind of a Midwest thing. I feel like at this point everyone is just bouncing the same 6 bands around and not really paying too much attention to newer bands that are forming.