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Starbenders @ Melkweg, Amsterdam

INTERVIEW: Starbenders Talk New Music, Touring In Japan & More

We recently got to sit with Kimi Shelter, Aaron Lecesne, Kriss Tokaji and Emily Moon from the band Starbenders. They were in the middle of their tour with Palaye Royale and YONAKA when they stopped in Amsterdam for a while. This is when we got to talk to them. We talked about what touring is like for them, some upcoming music and way more. Check it out!

So how are you guys?

Aaron: We are doing fantastic. Settling into the rhythm. On the road.
Yeah. Doing great.
: Very good.
: No pun intended.

You describe yourself on Instagram as a: ‘glitter punk, rock ‘n roll band’. How did that name come to be?

Aaron: I think it might just be because of the way we look.
Well, we put glitter on.
There’s a lot of glitter.
We have a joke because we say we’re very genre fluid. So, we just honestly came up with a quirky way of putting it together. But at the heart of it, we’re a rock and roll band. There’s different elements to it, but, when we say glitter, punk and roll, it’s just something that’s kind of sparkly and glammy, but it still has teeth. So, we might wear blouses, but we’re the type of band you want on your side in a knife fight.
, after the show, I have to call you guys?
Kimi: Yes. If you’re in a dark alley. Or need help in a vintage store, both.

What’s it like on this Europe tour?

Kimi: It’s really awesome. It’s a dream come true. I never travelled much growing up and had never really seen much of the world, and we’re kind of seeing it all in two months. Not all, but you know, Europe. So, that’s like a big, a really big benchmark as a band as well to be able to go and tour Europe in such a substantial tour. And with the band that we really love and are friends with as well. Palaye Royale.   Emily: We’ve been wanting a tour Europe for ever.
Very grateful over here. I mean, there are a lot of jobs that will let you travel. But very few will put you in a new country every day. And that’s been just. Mind-blowing to me. I’ve had so much fun, seeing like all like the museums and the historical sites and because I can’t sleep. I’ve been walking around late at night, so been exciting. I went to the old kerk yesterday, and let’s see what else we did. Wester kerk, he (Kriss) and I, we did the Anne Frank House. We did some good exploring yesterday.

What do you think of the city?
It’s beautiful. I love the canals. It’s not something we’re used to. At all. You know, it’s very, I don’t wanna say like foreign, but I would say like exotic and very new to us. Emily: We keep saying like, this country would be great in the summertime.

Is there still a show or a city that you’re looking forward to in this tour? Or is there a place you’d still love to play a show in?

Kimi: Well all of ’em really. I think that Budapest for Kriss is really important cuz he’s from Hungary, or his family’s from Hungary.Kriss: I mean, I think just every city that we’re hitting is like, you know, a really special place. So, it’s cool to like get the full, you know, platter of European cities in one gigantic tour. I think it’s intimidating but very rewarding.Aaron: It’s like the ultimate European backpacking trip.Emily: The charcuterie board of Europe.

You guys have already had three Japanese tours. Is there a big difference in crowds with like Japan and over here?

Kimi: Yeah, definitely. I think that the cultures are just different. Japan’s very unique. There’s no place really like it, and you just have to go experience it. And each country has its own rhythm. So we just try to be as in flow with where we are and respectful of, of whatever culture we’re in and all that stuff. So in Japan, you know, we do the Japanese crowd thing, and then here it’s different, you know. And the same and rock and roll and music is still very important in all those places.  Aaron: I would say. There are some similarities between Japan and Europe, but they’re different from America in the same way. There’s a certain lack of restraint and reservation when people like something like the audiences, the fandom. The fandoms are very similar. When when they like what’s coming off the stage. They’re into it. Americans sometimes are a bit more reserved and shy about it. And that’s something that I’ve noticed over here too. And it’s really special to us and that’s part of why we like Japan so much.

What’s the biggest thing you’d had to adjust to in, in Japan? Cuz you said it’s a big cultural difference.

Emily: Eating all that rice. It’s a lot of rice.
Kriss: A lot more compact. The city, like, it’s very, everything’s like really compact, you know? Aaron: Yeah. And we’re really tall so it feels kind of cramped for us. Kimi: And the language, there’s, people who understand English, but less people speak it. But here, I mean we haven’t had a problem with that at all. Like everybody speaks English pretty much. But sometimes that the language barrier being there, it’s funny cuz I’ll say a command to the crowd or something, I’ll be like, make some noise. And everybody’s completely quiet and I learn how to say it in Japanese and I say it and they go crazy. You know? So it’s like you have. You have to kind of like meet them where they’re at. You know?Aaron: She (Kimi) speaks the best Japanese out of all of us. Kimi: That’s not true. Don’t say that. I know like five things. Emily’s actually been studying it and doing even the alphabets and everything.Emily: It’s hard. It’s real hard.

What’s your, until now, worst tour experience yet?

Kimi: Well, I think, it doesn’t even like fall under negative per se cuz it’s all part of the bigger picture. And you learn so much in kind of the adverse situations and things like that. And every time we’ve been up against something that’s been challenging or difficult, it’s just made us stronger as a band. So we can’t really. Knock anything.
Aaron: I think adversity is constant on the road, and you kind of have to roll with the punches. So as far as like a worst experience, I would say that’s a regular day. And you just have to like get through it and do the best you can. I think that’s true of everybody on the road, honestly.
Kimi: Yeah. And really, it’s just about like, at the end of the day, are we healthy? You know, Probably the worst experience was the headlining tour We did. Aaron got sick and I mean, that kind of puts everything into perspective and he’s okay. But it was definitely scary. And we really view health as being our number one commodity. 

You guys also have a new single ‘the game. It came out February 9th. Can we expect more singles after this one and maybe a whole album?

Kimi: Yes, absolutely. We’re gonna be putting a record out and it’s ready to go. Just gotta get it buttoned up. And then just gotta put its little jacket on. So it’s not cold. You gotta take care of our children, you know.

Is there anything else you can tell us about the upcoming album?

Kimi: Well, it’s definitely showing a different side of the band. I think that we just had a lot of fun stepping into our power in terms of volume and kind of, frizzier side of the band. We just had a lot of fun with it and like leaned more into our metal backgrounds and hard rock backgrounds and everything like that. And every time we’ve put out new music, we’ve all grown as musicians and surprised ourselves and each other. And it’s really great to be like in a band together because everybody’s constantly raising the bar. Elevating together. You know, like the quote says: ‘rising tides raise all boats.’ So that’s sort of been the progression of the band and the progression of also our new music and everything like that.

Looking forward to it! Are there any paths you guys are interested in taking the band in the future?

Kimi: That’s a good question. We just want to tour as much as we possibly can and reach as many people as possible. See where we, where this thing can go. And we’re just really excited to be on the road and be active again, we never wanna take for granted playing live music ever again and getting to go meet and see people and look into their eyes and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, really we just wanna dig into that and be present.
Emily: Well, this year, we have like six music festivals that we’ll be playing. And that’s new for us to play festivals. So I’m excited for that.
Kriss: We wanna come back to Europe more and more. We’re already like, we got the taste of blood in our mouth, you know.

If there’s one artist or band that you would collab with dead or alive, who would it be?

Kriss: Oh God. I love Prince. A lot of people know that. But I think he’s just such a freak and so awesome. I don’t even know what would come of it, but just thinking about what working with him would be like. It would probably be an insane experience.
Emily: I think OutKast would be cool.
Kimi: Yeah. OutKast would be really cool. So like Abba or, of course, Bowie, all those acts, what about you, Aaron?
Aaron: I mean, I was gonna say OutKast too. But being from Atlanta, like, I don’t know. I think like, at least for me, hip hop is kind of a big part of my musical upbringing. I was really into OutKast growing up. Atlanta hip hop collab with rock. It’s gotta happen.
Emily: Weird al Yancovic.
Kimi: Yeah. Weird al Yancovic.
Emily: Or is Ludacris from Atlanta?
Kimi: Yes, I think so.
Emily: Okay. Or Ludacris.

When you get on stage, what’s the first thing you guys look at?

Kimi: Each other. Every time I walk out I definitely throw up a quick prayer and look at each other and, and, it’s cool. It’s a really cool moment. And it’s something that only the four of us can share, and it’s very intimate. It’s more intimate than any relationship you’ll have, you know?
Emily: It’s like going into the trenches.
Kimi: It’s beyond siblings. It’s beyond boyfriend girlfriend, it’s beyond friend. It’s its own thing. I think that when you’re connected to somebody through creativity, like you’re on such a higher frequency that like you’re your best self in that moment and you’re actually able to operate and you’re like true highest self. And that’s something that a lot of people never really give themselves permission to have access to. And the fact that you can do it with people that you’re friends with and that you trust and everything, that just makes it so much better. 

Do you guys also have like a pre pre-show ritual?

Kimi: We dance. We dance and we’re just stupid and all that kinda stuff. We jump around, we twerk for justice. 
Emily: The more weird and dorky is usually the better we play.

What’s your guys’ favorite soup?

Kimi: Oh, actually I’ve really liked the local pea soup that we’ve been getting everywhere. That’s really ripping.
: Snert? Great name. We’ve had a really good mushroom truffle soup. We’re a big soup band.
Emily: Yeah. Everyone’s gonna think I’m gross, but I love clam chowder.
Aaron: I love clam chowder too. 
Kimi: Clam chowder is good. Probably my favourite is Fasolada, which is a Greek soup. It’s like white beans with carrots and stuff like that.

Stream Starbenders’ most recent single The Game below and get ready for their full-length album to release (hopefully) later this year!

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Aspen van der Wijst