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Interview with Starship Gazelle
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I got into music when I went over to my buddy’s house in 5th grade and noticed a new little guitar he had. He’d bought it from the toy store, but it worked great. I was immediately enamored by how fun and exciting a real guitar could be. I bought my own shortly after and began piecing together my first melodies from songs I liked listening to at the time and learning to read sheet music from a book. If I had not gotten into music, I would hope my pursuits would be more athletic and academic. I may have more wholly dedicated myself to basketball from a young age (since I’ve always loved the sport) and maybe have had a more serious college major. Pursuing music during my college years made me want to learn something that was enjoyable and fun to do.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
When I’m not playing music, I like to rock climb, do Taekwondo, read, write short stories, watch TV, listen to music, and occasionally skateboard and draw. All these activities affect my creativity in ways that can be traced quite literally to the source and other times their influence is more ambiguous on my creativity. Releasing endorphins from exercising allows me to think clearly. It helps the music be more organized, helps me get set up in the studio quickly, and ultimately helps me attack a song with a fresh head. Reading, writing short stories, watching TV, and listening to the music of other artists, stimulates activity in my brain which keeps the wheels turning towards a light from which a new great song can be born. I think sometimes you won’t realize that something you read or something you see in TV turns into a great idea for a song. The inspiration may find its way into a lyric or an emotion you’re trying to create musically. Even melodies can be inspired by memories, people, or fun times, ultimately influencing my creativity.
How long have you been making music?
I’ve been making music since I was 12. That’s when I got my first guitar. I started singing at around the age of 6, but was never serious about it until I performed a couple songs at a family get-together at around the age of 10.
Where are you based and how did that influence your music?
I’m currently based in San Jose, but the project began mostly in San Francisco where I lived for 3 years while finishing college. That being said, I think San Francisco is a big inspiration on the older stuff. The first record (Feathers) is also very inspired by Seattle, where I lived for a year during my freshman year of college. There’s reference to city fog, the imagery of ocean beach, interesting encounters with natives of San Francisco, and bike rides.
The music scene in San Francisco fostered my creativity and spirit musically for two years. I went to 3 open mics a week at some awesome Cafes and bars in the city. I met a lot of great artists who influenced me and raised me up. I also played shows at many awesome venues in the city during this time.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
My most memorable shows involved people in the audience having my music really resound with them. I noticed a certain tense nature around the gentle emotional fingerpicking. I would pour my heart into song at these shows during the Summer of 2019. Sometimes an audience member would come up to me and make all these great comparisons for my music. “Oh has anyone ever told you, you remind them of Band of Horses?”
Sometimes I’d get requests from the audience, suggesting I was developing a small live audience fan base. “Play ‘I Don’t Wanna Go to the Party’ they’d say.” Creating an identity for myself in the local scene in San Francisco was gratifying and rewarding. It made me feel great knowing I was connecting to others with my music.
There was one show where an artist from LA who had found me on Bandcamp and contacted me about playing a show in San Francisco. And I think meeting this guy and playing music with him at the venue was a lot of fun. I really loved his music and still listen to it to this day. His music is definitely a cool influence to have in the back of my head. You can just look up Facekiss on Spotify if you’re interested in listening to his music. One of my favorite tunes by him is “On Poppy Peak Drive”. This chance encounter between networking musicians renewed my faith in the music community, and I couldn’t have been more grateful to have met such a cool guy and played music with him live for everyone.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
I really like playing at Honey Hive Gallery. I’ve only played there twice. When I first got to the city in 2016, it was my dream to play there. A lot of local bands that I liked would play through there, and I’d seen a couple of shows there and it seemed like a relatively prestigious location to play at, so I wanted to do that. I finally got around to my first Honey Hive show in the Summer of 2019.
I want to pay at The Bottom of the Hill. That’s the next dream venue of mine. It’s a cool venue in San Francisco.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I would want to play a show headlining the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco (a festival I grew up attending). Since I mostly play live solo, I would want the lineup to include a great drummer and bassist. On the ticket would be bands like Never Shout Never, Jeffrey Lewis, The Tallest Man on Earth, and Field Medic.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music?
Music found me young, so this may be a hard question for me, but follow that initial spark that makes you love music. Don’t forget it. Don’t turn music into a chore. Make music because you really love it, and don’t make music to impress anyone. You are your own best ears. My neighbor (an elderly Dad) growing up would tell me “If it sounds good to you, that’s all that matters.” I think trusting in yourself is important when you want to make music. Be persistent. You really got to want to make great music and sometimes it’s not easy. Put in the work. Stay inspired. And last but not least, enjoy every minute of it.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself to get an electronic drum kit sooner. I spent years putting together demos by drumming with my QWERTY keyboard. I would flesh these demos out with a sessions drummer or hauling myself to a studio myself so I could record the drums on a real kit with 6 mics placed in front of it. This worked for the first two LP’s, but then I had to make some moves. I think if I became a better drummer earlier on in my career and bought myself an electronic drum kit, my music might have taken strides forward at an earlier stage. I now enjoy being able to record drums directly into my software and being able to customize them as I see fit. Having the feel of a real drummer at your fingertips (orchestrated by a multi-instrumentalist like me) is invaluable. I feel like I’ve been really pushing the music forward for the past 3 years since I bought an electronic drum kit, getting better at drumming and bringing songs to life.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
I think “Mad Maps” means the most to me because it is about a journey away from home, an internal battle, deciding if you love someone, and a search within for who you are and your identity.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I really enjoy playing “Take Both the Chair” live. It was one of the first fingerpicking songs that I wrote after Feathers was completed, and I think it’s a very emotional song written from a very vulnerable state of being of mine.
“I Don’t Wanna Go to the Party” gets requested the most when I’m playing live. I think this is because a lot of people can relate to the sentiment of the song—you’re feeling introverted and don’t want to go out to party at the end of the week, but drag yourself to the party anyways for the prospect of spending time with someone special.
What is your creative process like, and what inspires you to write your music?
My creative process varies from song to song. Sometimes I like starting with a fun drum beat, throwing a guitar or synth on top of that and then supplement with bass guitar before tacking on a vocal. Other times, I start with some fingerpicking on an acoustic guitar. I fiddle around with a vocal melody until lyrics are ready to be written. Once I’ve solidified a melody, I like to write poetry for three days to “pre-game” the lyrics to be written for the song. I do this even if I already know what the song is going to be about. I believe in this process because it warms up my poetic brain and ensures that I’m putting out the best quality work, lyrically.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I like to get across messages of self-discovery, self-love, love for humanity, experiencing deep love for someone you care about, reverence of Mother Nature, and friendship.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
My plans for the future are to demo a bunch of songs until I find the ones that I’m comfortable releasing officially. I have a secret SoundCloud with unfinished stuff uploaded on it for my friends, so I guess I just wait to see whatever sticks. Since I just released two new songs a couple months ago, I do not have any new songs coming up to spotlight, but you can expect new music from me soon.
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