ACL Interviews: Stars

Amy Millan is a quite the busy lady. She sings for major Canadian bands Stars & Broken Social Scene, tours with both acts, and somehow found the time to put out a solo record. The Canadian songstress, currently on tour with Stars, answered a few questions for us before her band’s performance at last weekends ACL festival. Amy and I discuss why she won’t be doing a BSS Presents album, how Stars can win a Juno award and why MP3s are just as good as vinyl. Read about these topics and many more after the jump.

ATH: Some of your songs about relationships are really graphic. Are any of them based on true stories?

Amy: Most of them aren’t, but the real stories are based on people in Toronto that I see at bars trying to find love and don’t know how to do it.

ATH: Will we ever see a Broken Social Scene Presents album from you like your band mates Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning or will you stick with your own name like you have in the past?

Amy: I think those will be the only two that are BSS Presents because they are the grand daddies of Broken. Brendan and Kevin started that band so I don’t really see anyone else doing it. I already put out a record so I’ll keep that going with my own stuff. I’m also going back into the studio in December so the record should be out next year sometime.

ATH: Are you planning on doing any touring or work with Broken Social Scene?

Amy: I just toured with them the whole summer and I’m busy with Stars till the end of January so I’ll probably take some time off after that. I think the next thing that will happen with Broken is that I’ll more than likely go into the studio with them to help record the next album. I’ll be doing lots of recording next year rather than touring.

ATH: What prompted the new Stars Digital EP as opposed to a physical release?

Amy: We do have it on physical, but you can only buy it through our store. We may get it distributed eventually, but really it was about time. We wanted to have something to bring on this last tour that we went on for In Our Bedroom, After the War. A lot of fans came to see us a year ago on the same record and we wanted to have something to give them a little fresh seasoning. With it taking 3 months to send an album to press and get it manufactured, we never would’ve had the time to do it that way. We had this digital EP written, recorded, mastered, mixed, manufactured and out within a month. That’s the way you have to do it if you want it guerilla style. It was really about our fans and not worrying about creating huge amounts of criticism around it.

ATH: How do you feel about that direction in music? Do you like this new digital movement or do you prefer the old style?

Amy: I try not to judge it, because if you start judging it, then you close yourself in to possibilities and possibilities are always exciting. I think if you judge it and you have an old school dinosaur view of it, you’ll lose a lot of opportunities in that. Really it’s about people hearing music. Without the internet and the digital world, a lot of bands would still be in the basement. It’s something that’s really helped bands who weren’t being supported by majors to become really accessible to the entire planet. I actually had the good luck of meeting Nigel Godrich and I was talking about MP3s and iTunes and how it doesn’t really sound like it does on vinyl. He just told me that it doesn’t really matter because the song is still there and it still sounds great. He’s got pretty good advice on musicians sounds so I took his advice on that one.

ATH: What does the title of the EP mean (Sad Robot)?

Amy: It was actually inspired by our drummer Patty Mcgee. He’s this machine who has to get up, keep an even beat, and hit things for a living. They are the guys in the back, not in the front, and they aren’t being seen by every person in the audience. He’s just this really inspiring person to us and even if he’s feeling that things are getting him down, he still maintains this demeanor of strength. It doesn’t exactly seem robotic, but sort of like a machine or someone who can’t let the outside world affect him. He told us he felt like a sad robot one day and we thought that was a beautiful title for an album.

ATH: You guys seem to keep getting nominated for Juno awards, but never winning. What can Stars do to finally get over the hump? I mean Bryan Adams has one tons of ‘em…..

Amy: I don’t really know, but I don’t think we’re the type of band that wins things. Bryan Adams has sold millions of records which I think is how you win one of those awards. I always picture us as the kind of band that will never win anything and by our 15th record we’ll win some sort of lifetime achievement award. We don’t really care too much about winning but is fun to get free stuff when you’re nominated.

ATH: What’s the best thing you’ve ever gotten at one of those award shows?

Amy: The Junos have quite outstanding shwag I must say. You know one of the best things I’ve ever gotten, as far as free stuff, is a haircut at Lollapalooza. They had this very upper class salon come in and give haircuts to people. I really had just come out from being in the bush for a week and I was supposed to be touring with Broken and I looked like a mess. Those guys hooked me up with what was probably a free $100 haircut so that was pretty awesome.

ATH: What are some of the pros and cons of playing a festival?

Amy: Well you get to see a lot of people that you met along the road. I see my friends Tegan & Sara over there for example and that’s pretty great. I know the Okkervil River boys, who we met in Australia, and I think we’re actually going to go for a swim and have some hot dogs at their house later. Also Neko Case and Gillian Welch are playing who I am huge fans of. It’s incredible to be at these kinds of festivals. I don’t really know too many cons to it and it’s pretty great. You only play for an hour, it’s the middle of the day, your jobs kind of done by 5:00, there’s free stuff everywhere and good times with good lookin’ people.

ATH: When you guys come through Austin, do you have anything you must do?

Amy: I really like this French restaurant called Shay Nu that’s off of 6th. They have a special where you can get everything from the starter to dessert and it’s really reasonably priced. It’s run by a guy who lived in France and moved to Austin. It’s really beautiful food and I love going there. We also like swimming in Barton Springs.

ATH: If you could participate in voting, who would you vote for?

Amy: I think it’s pretty obvious. If we give John McCain a lot of shit at one of our shows and everybody claps… wow, surprise we have a very democratic audience. I think most artists, except for maybe Clint Eastwood or Toby Keith will all be voting for the same person. Put down the bong and vote for Obama.

Thanks again Amy for letting us chat with you during your busy day at ACL. Keep making beautiful music.

The cover photo was used with permission from Eric Uhlir. Check him out on Flickr.

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