The LA band's debut album is a fun ode to their musical legacy of their hometown
Arrow de Wilde wasn’t always a fake blood-spitting, wild-eyed performer. Believe it or not, the Starcrawler singer actually used to be pretty shy. “I still am in some ways,” she says sat in an Austin parking lot filled with food trucks, devouring a plate of lasagne. “Unless I was super comfortable with people I wouldn’t go all out.”
The change, she says, came in high school. She grew tired and bored of the shy girl she was and turned herself into someone who could get up on stage, stare out a room full of strangers, and then fling herself at them with total abandon. “I forced myself to be more out there,” she shrugs, as if it was that easy.
The Los Angeles band – completed by guitarist Henri Cash, drummer Austin Smith, and bassist Tim Franco – have gained plenty of recognition for their live show of late, which usually confuses and delights their audiences in almost equal measure. Just before we meet, they do pretty much that at the tiny Blackheart, despite this being one of their more restrained shows. Closer ‘Ants’ sees Henri finish the song from the bar where Arrow meets him, ripping out the lead from his guitar and barging through a huddle of enthralled spectators, elbows-first. “I guess we just haven’t seen [rock star performances] in a long time,” she says quietly.
“A lot of people are mostly just shocked, but in a way where they’re not doing anything cos they’re like, ‘I don’t even know what I’m seeing right now,'” says Austin. “Most bands we play with in Los Angeles are shoegaze and more soppy, softer rock. When a band are so in your face, people are just like…” He pulls a face that conveys total bewilderment.
The four-piece’s nature has led them to antagonise some people along the way. Even just from SXSW, they have plenty of stories of near-fights. The night before, Henri had to jump into the crowd to avoid being punched by a sound guy after he put his feet on a monitor. Arrow also was nearly hit during their first show at the festival when someone took a dislike to how she pushed past him. “They’re all grown-ass men,” the 18-year-old singer says with an eye-roll. “Tough men.” The fact that they have a safe word “in case anything goes wrong” probably says a lot.
Starcrawler are just as exhilarating on record as they are on stage. Their self-titled debut album, produced by Ryan Adams, was released this past January. It was completed long before it saw the light of day, so the band have already moved on to working on its follow-up (“It’ll probably take a while,” Arrow warns), but, for those not intrinsically involved in its creation, its well worth spending some more time with yet. ‘Pussy Tower’ features the uninhibited declaration, “Head, I want it every day”, while the murkier ‘Tears’ shows a softer, grungier side to the band – like one of Hole’s more fragile cuts.
The record is also an ode to the LA glam and punk that’s in their blood. All born and raised there, they say they wouldn’t be the same band without the city. “We wouldn’t have a song,” jokes Austin of one of the album’s highlights, the infectious stomp of ‘I Love LA’. “The history of LA and all the people you’re constantly surrounded by inspire you,” adds Henri. “There’s a band called The Plugs, and X, and all these great bands. Our parents are from LA so you’re kind of born into it.”
They joke about all the things they want to achieve with Starcrawler – “big buses, champagne, Hollywood mansions” – but one thing they would seriously love is to go down as a band of importance to someone, like the bands that inspired them. “That would be awesome. I definitely have high goals for the band,” Arrow says before slipping back into joke mode. “Triple platinum or bust!”