Exciting things are happening in Brooklyn music these days. For one thing, we’re quickly approaching South By Southwest, that mecca of music that happens in one of the cooler parts of Texas (because there are cool parts of Texas). One of the bands serving as our Brooklyn music ambassadors at SXSW this year is Greenpoint’s own Dead Stars, whose new album, Bright Colors, came out Friday via Old Flame Records.
Bright Colors is the trio’s second album since they formed in 2011, but their sound hearkens back to that most magical time for scuzzy guitars and flannel: the 90s. They’ve been compared to Pavement, Dinosaur Jr. and especially early Weezer (before they started playing cruise ships). All three members of the band have names beginning with “J”— Jeff, Jaye and John — but much to my dismay, not a single one of them is named Jonas.
Dead Stars has been together four about five years, but drummer Jaye Moore is singer/guitarist Jeff Moore’s cousin, so they’ve been playing together for essentially forever since starting in Jacksonville, Fla. After relocating to Brooklyn several years ago, the two wanted to start something new and add a third member, so they started asking around for a bass player. They met bassist John Watterberg through a mutual friend. Here’s a thing we’ve learned from the way people tend to meet their bandmates: Friends are important, especially when you need a bass player.
I asked Moore if he thought this 90s band comparison was accurate, because they seem to get it a lot.
“If that’s what everyone is saying, I guess it must be true,” he said. “We are definitely influenced by that sound. I think we get that a lot because today, when you have distorted or fuzzy guitars, it gets lumped into that 90s thing. But in the 90s, that kind of stuff was compared to music from the the 70s.”
Would Dead Stars consider playing their own cruise, a la Weezer?
“I would play the Weezer cruise,” Moore said. “As for our own, I think it would have to be on a crappy barge in the middle of the East River. I don’t think we could afford a cruise ship. Plus, you hear all those stories about stuff going awry on cruise ships — like one person gets sick and so does everyone else. I think a smallish party barge would be the way to go.”
If only there was some sort of local, low budget Brooklyn publication that could sponsor a knock off musical boat cruise. (cough BROKELYN cough).
And what about the comparisons to Weezer specifically?
“I can see that. Those first two Weezer records are super awesome, so that’s a huge compliment,” Moore said. “Plus, we essentially write pop songs that have loud, heavy guitars — that’s basically what Weezer does, too.”
Apparently, Watterberg is better at adding depth to Dead Star’s scuzzy, distorted pop sound than he is at arranging tour lodging. Since they are about to leave for tour en route to SXSW, I asked Moore if he had a favorite SXSW memory.
“We first went down there in 2011. We only played two shows, but we were down there for a while. John was in charge of finding a place for us to stay, and he had a friend who said we could stay in this little cheap apartment behind a house. So he takes us around the back to this ‘apartment,’ which has a makeshift door with no lock. It was this terrible, ratty building with a dirty mattress in the corner, bugs and rats and stuff scurrying all over the place. I guess we could have stayed there if we were totally desperate, but we could definitely not leave our gear safely inside, due to the lock situation. For some reason, John hands over the money immediately. Even though we didn’t stay there, the dude kept money. Basically we ended up as homeless vagabonds on the streets of Austin for a few days, but we eventually found a couch to sleep on.”
Let’s hope that Watterberg has gotten better at finding lodging this time around. Or that they got someone else to do it. When I asked Jeff what he’d miss most about Brooklyn while they’re on the road, he just said, “Being home. And my dog. My dog’s pretty great.”
Dead Stars just held their album release at Rough Trade in Williamsburg; I asked Moore what the last record he bought was. He didn’t buy it at Rough Trade, but Moore said the last record he bought was, naturally, iconic 90s band Nirvana’s Nevermind, on audiophile, “nerd-quality” 180-gram vinyl.
I can’t promise anything about a Dead Stars East River barge cruise, but I can promise that Dead Stars’ sets at SXSW will be awesome. If you can’t go this year, you can follow them on Facebook for local shows.
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To pitch a Brooklyn band for New Music Tuesday, email Lilly: Lilly@brokelyn.com.