Saturday, August 12, 2006
Stars: MAGNET Jan/Feb 2006
A common misconception about Stars’ Torquil Campbell is that he hails from Canada. Normally, this wouldn’t matter much, but it means a lot when you’re critical of the United States government.
“I’ve read things where people say, ‘Torquil Campbell should shut the fuck up and get back on a bus to Canada,’ he says. “I happen to be American, which they don’t know, so I reject that argument. I come from generations of Americans. My ancestor was the first governor of Massachusetts, so I’m the Declaration of Independence.”
Bold words from the soft-spoken co-vocalist/songwriter of the Montreal-based band, but that’s nothing new for Campbell. Set Yourself On Fire (Arts & Craft), Stars’ third and most polished pop symphony, concerns politics, romance and the politics of romance sung in sweet, almost angelic voices. (Guitarist Amy Millan trades melodic punches with Campbell throughout the album.)
The song most scrutinized is “He Lied About Death,” a screeching track with elegant brushes of keyboard and horns over a glitchy, militant beat. But it’s the lyrics that people tend to hear. Campbell and Millan sing in unison, “What gives you the right to fuck with our lives?… I hope your drunken daughters are gay.”
“I guess it’s about George Bush,” says Campbell, pausing. “But for me, it’s about Osama bin Laden or any number of people. 99.999 percent of the universe, they just wanna live, be loved, have a baby, have sex every once in a while and be happy. And these guys, for whatever reason—I don’t know if their mothers didn’t love them or whether they’re just possessed by the Devil—they want more.”
Although Set Yourself On Fire hit Canada in October of 2004, reached the U.S. the following March and just debuted overseas, its message is more relevant than ever. Stars recently returned from a European tour, the end of which coincided with Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast.
“The people in Europe, they didn’t see the symbolism as heavily as I imagined most people saw it over here,” he says. “It was so obvious that New Orleans was a slave city that was built so all the poor black people had shit and water running into their neighborhoods and all the rich people lived on high ground. Even Bush had to own up to that.”
Yet Campbell doesn’t consider Fire a political record. Love and politics go hand in hand—or lie side by side in bed.
“It’s just as hard to love the person sitting next to you who you’re sleeping in bed with as it is to love the world,” says Campbell. “It’s no simpler to find peace in your own bed than it is to find peace in the Middle East. It’s the same problems, it’s the same human instincts. And we’re all struggling with it.”
VIDEO: Stars - Your Ex-Lover Is Dead