WATCH: “Fade Away Love” by Daystar

And also read our exclusive interview with this secret weapon of Portlandia Pop

Derek Phillips, Daystar. (Art: Ron Hart)
With roots in Chicago but currently based out of Portland, OR, Daystar are one of the more exciting new American pop acts to discover on BandCamp in 2020.
Their most recent release, The Complete Recordings, boasts cover art that might suggest a new side project from doom metal icons Sleep. But within its ominous packaging exists the songs of Derek Phillips , whose penchant for penning graceful melodies finds him more a student of such fellow Portlandians as Elliott Smith and Scott McCaughey than The Melvins. And this stirring collection comes imbued with music whose DNA is rich with the spirit of old used copies of classic LPs by ELO and Wings brought to life by Phillips, Joel Roth, Nick Foltz and Kelly Simmons. These truly are the complete recordings of Daystar, 12 songs dating back to the mid-2010s revamped in a proper studio setting.
Daystar. (Art: Ron Hart)
One such highlight of The Complete Recordings is “Fade Away, Love,” whose heady, nostalgic video we are proud to premiere here at the RNR Globe following our brief chat with Mr. Phillips and guitarist Joel Roth. The Complete Recordings is available now on their BandCamp page.

The video for “Fade Away, Love” is beautiful. I’d love to hear more context about the parade footage you utilize for the video if you can kindly indulge me.

Derek Phillips: Yeah, it’s some old footage of Portland’s Rose Festival parade from the early 70s. I love the look of it and felt like it aligned nicely to a lot of the nostalgia people have for “old Portland.” It’s a city that’s growing fast and going through a lot of changes, which makes some people uncomfortable. The fact is that Portland is still a very unique and special place, but don’t tell anyone.

I’m a big fan of your band logo. How did you come into that font and what inspired it?

Lots and lots of looking. Picking a band name is hard enough, but then finding the right type treatment is something else! We wanted something a bit cosmic and a bit witchy. I think the curves of the letters fit that bill really nicely. It’s a little spooky.

Daystar The Complete Recordings

What was it about “Fade Away, Love” that inspired you to close the album with it?

As I recall it was Kelly’s idea. It was a song we’d played a bit as a full band with different arrangements but when it came to the recording it seemed like a really simple acoustic treatment with strings was just about perfect, especially following the crashing bombast of “Get Yourself Away.”

Your delivery reminds me a lot of Todd Rundgren or even Rockpile in its own way. Was that the era and sound you were aiming for? Either way, you nailed it!

Not necessarily those artists, but that era for sure. We wanted something that could get people moving! It’s another song where we went through a few different approaches and then Nick settled in on that beat and it all came together. It’s often what we open our set with, which gives us a little time to stretch it out and settle in and also lets the crowd know a bit of what to expect.

Another great highlight of The Complete Recordings for me is “Right At Home.” What do you remember about the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the impact the situation had on a local level that informed the lyrics?

HO boy…well, I watched a lot of the live streaming that dope David Fry had going. It was fascinating and enraging at the same time. They moved in there and started tearing apart this beautiful refuge that was for the public. When outsiders started showing up to lend their support I just lost it and wanted them to get out of Oregon. Go home and deal with your own issues. I understand there’s a balance ranchers and land managers have to strike and sometimes that balance gets knocked off, but having bozos like the Bundy crew show up is not helpful at all. I don’t even want to talk about the trial…

Who or what inspires the vocal harmonizing you guys do so well? The Jayhawks? The Everlys? Alice In Chains?

The Jayhawks and Everlys for sure, but also The Beatles, Teenage Fanclub, Stone Roses… Kelly is a really good harmony vocalist, which was something I absolutely wanted in this band. I don’t even think the songs work without harmonies. Good harmonies and a good rhythm section makes for the perfect band.

It’s pretty great to hear a younger band revel in pre-80s vintage audio equipment, which it sounds like you have done so well on The Complete Recordings. Was there any type of gear that was absolutely essential to the creation of this album for you?

Derek: Yes, Joel is a real gearhead and has a very specific set-up for this band we all call the cheeseburger.

Joel Roth, lead guitarist, interjects: For me the essential gear was some older vintage amps and guitars. In my opinion vintage equipment adds a warmth and richness that’s hard to get with modern equipment. It’s funny how all the best plug-ins that people use today are based on the vintage stuff. Why not use the real deal?

Most of the rhythm tracks were done with a late 1960’s ES 335 going through a 1962 Gibson Explorer amp. The Gibson is a little 10-12 watt amp. It’s a little bright but when you crank it up to the sweet spot it has a great midrange richness that cuts through. It pairs really well with the warmth of the 335.

Gibson 1969 SG Special. (Art: Ron Hart)

 A 1969 SG Special was used for all the lead tracks and riffs. These early SG Specials had pickups that were installed out of phase and when you play using both pickups it creates a midrange nasal honk that’s really unique. Peter Green had the same set up on his Les Paul. I just love that tone!! It’s played through a 1972 Fender Princeton and a 1962 Supro Supreme simultaneously. Both small wattage. The Fender provides the low end and the Supro brings in the growl. The band calls this pairing “the cheeseburger”.

When a 12 string was called for, we used a 1967 Fender XII.

Derek: I also played my 1966 Epiphone Texan acoustic on a number of tracks. It’s the same make and model McCartney used on “Yesterday” and “Blackbird” and still records with today. His is a ‘64. We can nerd out on this all day.

Additionally, what are your thoughts on this current approach to 80s audio equipment and how much it has been reimagined by the likes of Post Malone, Solange, The 1975, etc?

Derek: I might be in the minority among my bandmates but I am all for it. I really, really wanted to be Johnny Marr when I was a teenager so I have a soft spot for some of those tones and production of that era, including in some pop music of the time. I love Madonna’s early records, for instance. If you can create something cool and new, then I’m into it.

Joel: It’s interesting to hear these tones come back. The 80’s were so clean and sparkly, almost sterile.  The 1975 do a good job of bringing it back while making it their own. They have that Tears for Fears, Thompson Twins vibe with a more contemporary feel. It’s cool.

Your site references the likes of Badfinger and Wings, and as a big fan of Apple Records myself, I’d love to know if there is a kind of deep Apple Corps classic nobody really talks about that you love? For me, for instance, I have to go with the Modern Jazz Quartet album Space or Badfinger’s Straight Up. I’d love to hear what deep gems from the Apple catalog you guys dig….

Derek: Jackie Lomax and Billy Preston. In fact, I would argue that Billy Preston is the only person who could claim the role of The Fifth Beatle! They should have asked him to join in 1969. Can you imagine how that might have changed the band and given them some new life, not to mention the social statement it would have made at the time? I also love Emitt Rhodes, who wasn’t on Apple but would have fit really nicely in that catalog.

Joel: Funny, I just bought my third vinyl copy of Straight Up. I wore out the other two. Badfinger are my heroes.

What’s next for Daystar in 2020?

Derek: More live shows, including some cool bills we can’t announce yet! We’ve also started working on demos for the next record. I’m really looking forward to building on what we started on The Complete Recordings and blowing it out further. More harmonies, more big guitars…more Cheeseburger!


VIDEO: Daystar “Fade Away, Love”




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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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