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Friday, October 22, 2021

Student Sounds: Starrsha

JG PHOTOGRAPHY / COURTESY
JG PHOTOGRAPHY / COURTESY

Davis band talks shoegaze, laziness and their new EP

“We all live together — and you would think that’s a good thing — but because there’s no scheduled practice, and people don’t have to be somewhere, we get kind of lazy,” explained Mitchell Rotter-Sieren, the drummer for Davis band Starrsha.

“Lazy” came up surprisingly frequently during my interview with the band, especially considering Starrsha is comprised of Rotter-Sieren, a fourth-year chemical engineering major; JE Paguyo, a fourth-year mathematics major; and Carlos Pineda, a fourth-year psychology major. Though it was used in reference to their lackadaisical practice schedules and the delayed release of their new music, such self-proclaimed laziness also manifests itself in their sound.

Whether it’s Pineda’s hushed vocals seamlessly intertwined with his echoey guitar or the indistinguishable layers of Paguyo’s bass and Rotter-Sieren’s drumming, their psychedelic sound is of the laid-back variety. (That’s not to say it was lazily produced — it was professionally mixed, and sounds it.) Their EP is a complex collage of hazy sounds that places them at the forefront of the shoegaze revival.

The band’s taste in music is “a Venn diagram of music palette[s],” Rotter-Sieren said. His personal taste ranges from garage rock to electronic, while Paguyo’s centers around dream-pop and Pineda’s oscillates between reggae and punk. “But,” he added, “we all love shoegaze, and that’s the center of the Venn diagram.”

Their sound is most prominently influenced by shoegaze, a subgenre of indie rock that arose in the UK in the late 1980s that is typically characterized by blurring distorted guitars, feedback and vocals into one indistinct sound. But “everything really just melts together in terms of influences,” Paguyo said.

Each track is heavily layered with the diverse sounds typical of shoegaze, but the vocals — as Pineda pointed out — are the most interesting component in that they are essentially unrecognizable.

“If you listen to the genre, usually lyrics become more of another instrument. They don’t pop out like they do in other genres. I center more around the overall sound rather than putting something out there that people will be able to understand, [and] my voice more becoming another instrument,” Pineda said.

But it’s not just Starrsha’s sound that draws influence from shoegaze; their punk-ish, DIY aesthetic also pulls influence from the genre — known for its small, dedicated fanbase — that Starrsha calls a cult genre.

“There’s a residual following from the 90’s, and those fans focus on the 90’s stuff, but new bands show up and they [still] show support. It’s a very small community relative  to everything else,” Pineda added.

With support from other local bands, KDVS and members of the underground scene, Starrsha eagerly anticipates the distribution of their new music. Already available online (including on Spotify, Bandcamp and Soundcloud streaming), the three plan on circulating physical tapes and CDs as well.

“I’m just excited about having something to hold […] people just forget if they see you once [live] and never see you again. So it’s just something to give out,” Pineda said.

With multiple upcoming shows, the recent release will aid in gaining more publicity as well.

“It will help with booking shows outside of Davis, just to have something to show,” Paguyo said.

The production techniques of the album were mixed; although the band recorded and produced most of the album themselves, they also had professional assistance.

“Nowadays it’s really easy to just stick yourself in your room and have all the equipment ‘cause it’s cheap enough to do it,” Pineda said. “So that’s the way we did it.”

However, when it came to mixing and mastering, the band decided to call in outside help.

“We had to contact people to mix it and master it, and had to make connections that way. We ended up getting the guy from Ringo Deathstarr to mix our album,” Rotter-Sieren said.

Deathstarr, a prominent shoegaze musician, had an influence on Starrsha that extends beyond the production and into their sound. One of his songs, in fact, was the inspiration for Starrsha’s name. After a recent performance hosted by KDVS, Starrsha shared the stage with their idol, who ended up sleeping on the band’s couch. (Their home, it’s worth noting, is called “The Starrship.”) Letting Deathstarr crash on their couch provided the band both with valuable information on funding and record labels and a great story.

Not that the band is in short supply of good stories. Whether it’s their semi-famous status on Yik Yak as “That Avalon band” (they used to practice in Rotter-Sieren’s bedroom of the South Davis apartment complex), or the time Rotter-Sieren discovered party-goers using his drum as drug paraphernalia — (he was reportedly too lazy to deconstruct the drum set after a show and later discovered it at the party) — their tales sound like the ones bands tell, after making it big, about “the early days.”

After the conclusion of our interview, the band walked one way, stopped, mumbled, “We’re indecisive,” and turned in the opposite direction. This was followed, of course, by Rotter-Sieren shouting from down the street, “This is why it took us a year to release an album.”

But good things take time.

Check out Starrsha at their next show on Oct. 15 at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen.
Written by: Ally Overbay – arts@theaggie.org

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