There's a curious balance at work in the music of Oregon's Starfucker (STRFKR, for the less profane), a mix of the dark and dancey, as evidenced on the band's 2011 album Reptilians, and the track "Death as a Fetish" in particular.
Over bouncy beats and buoyant synth, singer Josh Hodges sing's "I'll never be good enough," but the pulse of the track makes critical observation feel like something other than the main goal -- thought those Alan Watts samples seem to indicate a deeper thought process than the celebrity-trash name suggests.
"You can be at a party, like when we played house shows," says songwriter Josh Hodges over the phone. "And just want to dance and get down, and hear those samples and someone wants to know what that is. That's something that has more meaning, and there's deeper meaning in everything."
Hodges and I discussed his fascination with conspiracy theories (just me -- the Reptilian thing is pretty hilarious and far out), achieving a balance between thinking indie rock and booty shaking dance music, and what the next STRFKR album might sound like.
STRFKR is scheduled to perform Tuesday, January 10, at Crescent Ballroom.
Up on the Sun: So, Reptilians. I've read that the album title a joke about the conspiracy theory regarding a race of secret reptiles that control the world.
Josh Hodges: Yeah, yeah. I have a lot of interest in conspiracy theories. I can fall in a rabbit hole. It hasn't happened in a while, but I'll spend all night watching YouTube videos, one leading into another, maybe starting with chem trails or 9/11, and you just get deeper and deeper, and when you go deep enough and it ends up in the reptilian theory.
Do you have a favorite person that is rumored to be a reptilian humanoid?
Everyone in power is supposed to be a reptilian. The Bush family, all of it.
I read that Kris Kristofferson is a reptilian.
Oh really? I've never heard that.
It's funny though, I'll something do the same thing. There's something fascinating about it to me. I'll stay up late listening to Coast to Coast AM, and there's just this certain time of night/early morning where it all sounds so plausible. And then you wake up the next morning and think, "Wait, I was considering that?"
Yeah. [Laughs] Totally. [The album title] is kind of a joke, for me, at least. It's making fun of myself for how far I can get into all that stuff sometimes. There is some logic, to it. It's a good mental exercise to question the structure of the world, and the power around it. That one's just funny though, because it's so out there.
"Good mental exercise" is a smart way to put it.
Lately we've been doing stuff just to get a rise out of people, like using Illuminati symbols. I just read this book, Illuminatus, by Robert Anton Wilson, who was an intellectual. He was friends with Timothy Leary, and he and this friend wrote this book called Illuminatus and its kind of similar [to what we do]; they're making fun of stuff, but at the same time, a lot of what they are talking about they've experienced first hand, with the government framing Timothy Leary. Some people believe that Anton Wilson was a CIA agent, that he had been killed and replaced by a robot. Really insane shit. We've been using symbols on our Facebook. Some people freak out, and think we're a part of the conspiracy. Some kid put a comment like, "To be in the music business, you have to be in the Illuminati."
You think he was being serious?
He was totally serious. There's this theory that Jay Z and the Kanye are put in power by the Illuminati to distract because the subject matter is so trite, to keep people caught up on the wrong thing.
You guys have used that imagery to push people. Is that a similar thing with the band name?
That's kind of a different thing. I had another band before this [Sexton Blake] and I was bored with it, so I quit and ended that project. Starfucker was just a joke making fun of the idea of someone sleeping with famous people to elevate their self worth or whatever. I had come across someone who was bragging out that, and it was really funny to me. It was basically a reminder that I wasn't trying to be famous or successful, it was about having fun. You know, not something serious. I never thought we'd be touring or even be a band when we first started.
But you guys did change the name at one point: Pyramid.
Yeah, for like, two weeks. [laughs]
Why change back? Also, was "Pyramid" some sort of Illuminati thing?
Totally. [laughs] We had our people, a manager and all these music industry people saying, "You could make this your job if you wanted, but you have to change your name." We were talking with some labels, bigger indie labels, and they wanted us to change our name. It was a weird period. We had been on tour and I don't think we were thinking right. So were like "Fine alright." But it didn't feel right. We were like "What the fuck are we doing?" The project was going to lose part of its heart [if we compromised]. So we just fired everybody, and changed it back.
The band seems to be doing fine anyway.
I never thought I'd be touring and taking things serious like this.
But the name change seems to suggest that people have trouble taking things on multiple levels. Can people be fine with dancey electronic jams and heavy subject matter?
I don't know. I think people can absorb that. That's why I use Alan Watts samples in my songs. You can be at a party, like when we played house shows, and just wan to dance and get down, and hear those samples and someone wants to know what that is. That's something that has more meaning, and there's deeper meaning in everything. The fact that I've met kids at shows, asking me about that stuff is awesome. I've had really good conversations with people because of that stuff. I mean, I often write about death, because I'm sort of obsessed with it. It has a similar thing -- I don't know.
The way you can listen to a comedian like Louis C.K. say these really awful things, and you're laughing, but also confronting really dark shit.
Exactly. Totally, he's good at that.
In its own way, your stuff does that.
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That's totally what I hope for.
So what should we expect from Reptilians followup?
I don't really know. The stuff I've been writing...some of it is more guitar, less synth. More drunk sounding. Happy, fun, kind of drunken guitar sounds, and a few dark synthy things, too. I don't know. Its definitely going to be different, whatever it is.