St. Louis-Based Band Starwolf

 In Culture, Feature

There are bands that take retro synths to extremes, and there are bands that take them to new heights. And then there’s Starwolf. The St. Louis-based trio takes it’s cues from the nostalgia-laden synth soundtracks of the 1980s. But theirs is a new evolution of space-dance, brought to life through vintage analogue keyboards and groove-inspired bass lines, chill wave beats and modular changes that extend dancing ecstasy well into the night, tripping the speed of light. After working with the producer of Washed Out and Band of Horses, plus preparing a new EP for release next year, Starwolf will take the stage at St. Louis’ LouFest Music Festival, where their vibes will be heard far and wide in the middle of America.

We sat down with bassist Chris Rhein, who talks playing covers, falling in love with bass guitar, and the band’s hypersonic climb from two infectious singles to a main-stage spot at one of the biggest music festivals in the Midwest.

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Starwolf really goes the extra mile with retro synths. How have you and the band cultivated that magnetic sound?
We’ve been diving into the keyboard world for quite a few years now. Max (Sauer) takes the reins on the keys and guitar, and Tim (Moore) works hard on drums and the recording process, but our songwriting is really collaborative. We have our own home studio and we send demos back and forth online to each other. Then we work on the music together, fleshing out melodies and finishing up the whole process.

Do you think that kind of songwriting happens more often these days?
I think just the way that technology is, and having our own home studio, makes sending ideas back and forth really easy. Most of the finished song is done when we’re together and everything becomes more concise. When we have the songs written and recorded, we can then focus on arranging the live set. It’s really fun to bring everything to life.

How did the band get its start? Where are you roots?
We started out playing ’80s cover sets around St. Louis and the Metro East bar scene. We were just playing what we wanted to play—it was fun, but never as gratifying as we wanted it to be. We never found a crowd that was really into that kind of thing, so we decided to start writing our own stuff.

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What were you called then?
We didn’t really have a name, but we were loosely going by Peter Jennings and the Evening News [laughs].

Whoa—and now you’re playing right before Huey Lewis and the News?
Yeah. They’re heroes of ours, so it’s a pretty amazing coincidence.

Your music seems to dive deep into audio from 30 or 40 years ago. What are some of the influences you’ve cultivated from that time frame?
We listen to a lot of Bill Withers, Talking Heads, Tears for Fears—all the stuff we grew up with that our parents were listening to. We’re really trying to capture that kind of vibe.

What’s the reaction when people hear you for the first time?
It’s been good so far, even though we’ve only played a couple shows. I still feel like St. Louis doesn’t really know us too well, but the goal has been to build our digital presence first and let the music speak for itself, building on the two tracks we’ve released. We’ve been submitting songs to blogs and Spotify playlists, that kind of thing, but we feel like our sound goes well in the festival circuit. We’re stoked to be playing LouFest. This is our opportunity to stake our name in town, and try to reach people.

The two singles you’ve released so far really do seem to speak for themselves.
We recorded those in Atlanta with Jason Kingsland, who also produced it. He was working on a lot of awesome records that we were into, so he was our first choice when we reached out to working with producers. He got back to us right away, and it was just an amazing experience to work with him. He gave us a ton of insight into the analogue keyboard world and helped us really find that sound we’ve been after.

The hard work seems like it’s paid off. What has gone into the band’s creative process?
It’s kind of all over the place—there’s not a set recipe. As far as the creative goes, I think it comes from being in a studio and just feeling the music right then and there in the moment, where we can come up with the best melodies. It just seems like magic happens. Our whole set at Loufest will have a similar vibe to the two singles, but some songs are more set out to enhance the baby-making experience.

Ah. Do you anticipate a population boom in St. Louis after your set at Loufest?
I mean—we’re gonna make love to the entire city of St Louis.

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