On Stars’ new album “There is No Love in Flu- orescent Light,” singer Torquil Campbell belts out the chorus of “The Maze” loud enough to make microphones unnecessary. Seventeen years into the Montreal indie pop band’s history, he’s never let loose on a record quite like that — but Stars still find ways to tinker with its sound.
amNewYork caught up with Campbell to talk about Smiths-ian lyrics, idealism and the legacy of Gord Downie, the late lead singer of Tragically Hip, who died last month.
I’ve always associated Stars with a certain sort of idealism, but in these . . .
I don’t feel idealistic! I think our band has always been a dichotomy between Amy [Millan’s] positivity as a person and my negativity as a person; my sense that things are doomed and her sense that things will always be OK in the end. That very much is a part of what makes us work. I do have idealism about art’s potential to change things. And I do have an enormous amount of faith in the sense I get that if you start a band with your friends, and accept your weakness and accept your [expletive], and embrace it and celebrate it, that has an amazing transformative power. Art can change things.
On “We Called It Love,” you sing, “I don’t believe people ever change, but I’ve changed.” After almost 20 years of Stars, how have you changed?
Oh, I haven’t changed! At all! That’s what I like about the line: It’s one of those delusional things we say to ourselves when we’re driving in our car, crying because someone’s just hurt us or we feel like we haven’t gotten the love we deserve. Those are the best lines to write because you can feel the universality of them even as you write them. Of course it isn’t true: We all change and we all don’t . . . that to me is a very Smiths’ lyric. Morrissey’s always been very good at saying “the world is like this, but I am like this.” . . . We all think we’re special, and we all think we’ve got something solved that other people haven’t.
What is one thing that you and your band learned from Gord Downie?
So many things, man. What I took from Gord is play. Your job is to be a trickster. Your job is to show the audience in front of you the potential of play, the potential of weakness, and Gord took everything broken inside him and made it something beautiful. And he did it every day, with everyone he encountered.
If you go: Stars perform at Rough Trade Thursday-Saturday at 9 p.m., 64 N. Ninth St., Brooklyn, roughtradenyc.com, sold out.