Five Minutes With: Vancouver Indie-Rock Band The Starling Effect

True musical chemistry is elusive. It’s that almost magical balance of discipline and freedom that lets you walk out onto a limb, sonically speaking, with full confidence that someone will be there to catch you if and when the bough breaks. It’s a precious thing, and it explains why certain musicians choose to work with each other time and again. Take the Starling Effect as an example. Three of the Vancouver rock quartet’s members—singer-guitarist John Lucas, drummer Michael Nathanson, and multi-instrumentalist Greg Williams—also played together in a previous band, Stride Elementary. All three were also in the long-running space-rock combo Windows ’78 (although never all at the same time), and before that John and Greg were members of noted dream-pop act Hinterland.

As Greg observes, “Playing in a band is all about trust. After having worked together for more than 15 years, Michael, John, and I have confidence in each other’s abilities to deliver within the scope of our role. I implicitly trust them to come up with excellent parts to help inspire my own playing. This creates a confident band that can focus on maximizing the potential of their creative synergies.”

The Starling Effect’s bassist, Alex Reed, is a newcomer to this tight-knit musical family, relatively speaking, but he fits in so well that you’d never know it.

“At first I struggled to find my niche within the band as I had a very different playing style than my predecessor,” Alex says. “Recording an EP within the first few months of joining the band gave me the motivation to fully step into the role, and I found that I could weave some nice melodic bass lines underneath the pre-existing song structures.”

In 2016, John first had the idea to start a project based on his own songwriting and rooted in wiry postpunk and gauzy shoegaze aesthetics. As so often happens, things evolved once the Starling Effect began to take shape.

“Rather than being a glorified solo project, it became a real band, with all the writing fully collaborative,” John recalls. “The style also drifted closer to straight-up indie rock and ’90s-style alternative, while still retaining some elements of the genres that were the initial inspiration.”

Indeed, Allan MacInnis of the Georgia Straight described the Starling Effect’s first EP (released in those pre-pandemic days of 2019) as “shoegazey” and “psychedelic”, observing that “the guitars on the album move in a dreamlike, narcotized swirl that would make them worthy of a Gregg Araki soundtrack” and that “it all rocks out a bit more when the band plays live”.

That last observation was certainly true, but the band’s intention upon entering Little Red Sounds this past January was to capture the full range of its sound, from the dreamy synth swirls and sky-gazing guitar lines to the propulsive drive of a locked-in rhythm section. Working with the studio’s owner and resident recording wizard, Felix Fung, the Starling Effect emerged with a pair of new songs. “A Strange Habit of Disappearing” is a crunchy rocker bristling with hooks, while “Blueskiesgrey” is a slowly unfurling scroll of stately dream-pop.

“From the moment Felix arrived at our rehearsal space to listen to our pre-production sessions, it was clear this recording experience was going to provide the rare combination of enjoyment and intention,” Michael recalls. “I have worked with other experienced producers, of course, yet none with his calmness and ability to divine both the spirit and objective of the song. His trust in me was so important; inestimable, really. For example, he appreciated our desire and my ability to play with a click yet Felix in no way wanted feel to be eclipsed by precision. This was so refreshing. It was about the song, not convenience. Alex and I laid down the beds in only a few hours and in most cases, the first or second takes proved superior. To me, that’s evidence of a great engineer and a relaxed, comfortable recording environment.”

The Starling Effect
Photo by: Tony Lee

Name:

Greg Williams, keyboardist/guitarist with The Starling Effect

Genre:

Crunchy but dreamy indie rock

Founded:

2016

# of Albums:

1 EP, 2 Singles

Latest Album:

“A Strange Habit of Disappearing” single b/w “Blueskiesgrey”

Latest Single:

“A Strange Habit of Disappearing”

Favourite musician growing up:

Oscar Peterson

Favourite musician now:

John Paul Jones

Guilty pleasure song:

“Welcome To New York” by Taylor Swift

Live show ritual:

Play it like you mean it

Favourite local musician:

ACTORS

EP or LP?

EP

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl

Road or studio?

Studio

Any shows or albums coming up?

“A Strange Habit of Disappearing” and “Blueskiesgrey”, already available on Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and other streaming services.

Where can we follow you?

Instagram | Facebook

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Rapid Fire Local Questions:

What is your favourite local restaurant?

The now-extinct Capilano Heights Chinese

What is your favourite street in your city and why?

Capilano Road: access to mountain and canyon

What is your favourite park in your city and why?

Stanley Park: the ocean and the woods

What is your favourite music venue in your city?

The Commodore Ballroom

What is your favourite music store in your city?

Nightlife Electronics

 

About Demian Vernieri 507 Articles
Demian is an Argentinian retired musician, avid gamer and editor for the Montréal Guardian, Toronto Guardian, Calgary Guardian and Vancouver Guardian websites.