Chicago’s Star Tropics release their new album ‘Lost World’ through Shelflife Records this week. Delighting us all with their heady blend of perfectly crafted jangle pop and lovelorn boy/girl melodies supplied by guitarist Nikki and bassist Loren, are imbued with a fond nostalgia thus their sound takes us back to days of yore when summers were longer, life was simpler and love was still exciting.
Star Tropics have been playing shows since 2012, including a performance at the 2013 NYC Popfest. Their previously released singles “By My Side” (b/w “Tempest”) and “Summer Rain” (b/w “Swept Away”) offered a peek of what was to come with ‘Lost World’ an album that’s Imbued with a sense of homage to the artists of the Sarah Records records label, rustling with memories of early 90s British guitar pop with hints of the bittersweet glory of early Pains of Being Pure at Heart. This is heartfelt indie-pop of a superior kind. They have kindly sent us a track by track run down of their debut long player alongside the album premiere, for your reading and listening pleasure.
Like many of our songs, “Windfall” started out as a jam between Scott, Nikki, and Loren. We had never written an instrumental before, nor had we even thought about it as an option, but the natural progression of the writing process took us down that path. We felt that Scott’s lead guitar part had such a strong voice that putting vocals on top would just smother the whole thing. Thus “Windfall” became our first instrumental. We felt that the vibe of this song was very carefree and upbeat, so we decided to place it right at the beginning of the album to serve as an introduction to the record.
“Lost World” was actually written a few years ago and we held on to it for the album because we felt it was one of our strongest songs. It was tentatively titled “Riff Song” for about 6 months because of how much we loved the guitar riff from the intro. We had originally intended it to be a composition that relied mostly on lead guitar (i.e. “Waterfall” by the Stone Roses) but the song blossomed in a different direction. Loren eventually gave it the name “Lost World” after binge watching old episodes of The Twilight Zone. One of his favorite science fiction tropes that often appears in that show is when a character is isolated, and thus lost, in a world they don’t understand. Another interesting part of the writing process – Scott wrote the guitar solo for this song in one shot, on the first time we jammed it as a band(!) Nikki and Loren were completely floored when that happened, it was both bizarre and exciting to watch that happen so quickly. We have been playing this song at just about every live show since, so we are glad to finally share a studio version with our long time fans.
Another Sunny Day
Let’s just get this out of the way – yes, the song title “Another Sunny Day” is an homage to the Sarah Records band. We love the band Another Sunny Day, and they were even one of the first bands that Scott and Loren bonded over. Back when Scott and Loren first started playing together, they even tried playing a cover of “Horseriding” live a few times. ‘Tried’ being the key word, as Loren was so nervous at their first show that he sang the first verse twice! But anyway, “Another Sunny Day” was the last song we wrote for the record and it probably came together the quickest. Normally our sound is more delicate, but this song seemed to be more fuzzy and loud than normal, which is probably why we love playing it live so much. After the song came together we unanimously decided to make it the first single for the album because we just loved playing it so much. We filmed a video for it with our friend Matthew Elliott Allen last fall in and around the Ukrainian Village neighborhood. We got to film in his artist friend’s loft, which had a gorgeous view of the city.
All the Way to Heaven
“All The Way To Heaven” is a song from Loren and Scott’s original band before Star Tropics. Loren wrote this song originally about a reoccurring dream he was having after reading a short story about two young lovers that run away in the middle of the night so that they could be together. They had this romantic idea of escaping their repressive world and taking refuge in the afterlife, but they never stopped to wonder if the afterlife would provide a place for them as well, or if they would even end up in the same place as each other. The original chorus lyrics were “I hope we both go all the way to heaven” but it was shorted to how it exists now to leave it a bit more open ended.
“Sparrow” was composed almost completely by Nikki and we were excited to play it as soon as we heard the first demo. This song really shows our 80’s goth influence with the cold 12-string riffs and the thumping drum machine loop. We always liked the composition of this song because no chords are used, just layers of different guitar/bass melodies with a reverby vocal on top.
“Wildfire” was the first song collaboration by Scott, Nikki, and Loren back when Nikki first joined the band in 2012. The demo of this song was the first piece of music we ever released, which was on leap day of 2012. For a while we closed every set we played with this song because we love how the song comes together at the end with the fuzzy guitars and scott’s minimalist solo. The ending would always bring out the full force of the band, so it was a great way to cap off the night.
“Chapel Hill” came together pretty quickly while Scott and Loren were jamming to a bassline that Loren had been working on. We were originally unsure how the song would start out, but randomly their old bandmate Sean had just purchased a beautiful guitar on craigslist that was making some very strange feedback due to some questionable wiring. The feedback would only happen randomly, but we loved the sound of it, so we recorded it to make the song’s intro loop. That guitar is long gone at this point, possibly still floating around on craigslist somewhere. Loren got the idea to use that feedback as an element of the composition after reading about Billy Corgan doing something similar when recording the Smashing Pumpkins song “Mayonaise”.
“Summer Rain” was a big song for us, we released it in 2015 as a digital single and it is probably one of our most requested songs to play live. Loren often sites the opening line as his proudest lyrical moment thus far (“In my head I know it’s over, but in my heart it never began”). After writing so many songs with guitar solos, we decided to try something new to us and write a synth solo instead. None of us are fluent on piano by the way, so there is usually a lot of googling when we need to figure out how to play piano chords. Loren originally wrote that solo melody as a bridge for Nikki to sing, but we ultimately decided that the synth-flute really fit the mood of the song best.
“Gemini” started out as just a vocal melody and the bulk of the instrumentation really took shape after Scott and Loren jammed it out a few times. The song writing process can start from many different places, but Loren usually prefers to start out with a vocal melody and work outwards from there. This song shows a strong New Order influence, which is a band that we honestly can’t get enough of. Peter Hook’s melodic bass playing has had a huge impact on Loren, and it probably shows most on this track. Our lyrics are not usually autobiographical, but this song feels like the most personal out of everything on the album. We actually changed the lyrics at one point because they felt too personal. When mixing this song we needed a reference for how much reverb we wanted to soak the snare drum in, so we humorously gave Dan Silver (mixer of the album) the song “Is This Love” by Whitesnake as our reference choice for the drum sound. Those familiar with that song will probably shudder at the pure 80’s cheese, but hey, influences can come from unlikely sources!
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