In the past two years, I’ve interviewed my fair share of bands. Whether they’re a pop diva or punk rocker, all interviewees get the same treatment and the same question: “What does your music mean to you?”
“I think it’s a treatise on the geopolitical state of the world,” answered guitarist Jason Bell. Bell, along with Kevin Calaba (vocals/guitar) and Daniel Orvik (drums) compose the indie-rock band Stars of Track and Field. Their newest album, Centuries Before Love and War, addresses neither politics nor geography but deals with love, pain and loss (among other subjects).
SOTAF have gained tremendous recognition through their constant touring, word of mouth and MySpace over the past year. In March of this year, SOTAF were named by a South by Southwest music festival blogger as one of the top bands to watch out for in 2006. Since then, the band has set out on a few nationwide tours with Jeff Klein, Jeremy Enigk (of Sunny Day Real Estate) and the Twilight Singers. On Nov. 1, the band was named SPIN.com’s Artist of the Day.
Before their whirlwind year of 2006, SOTAF had a tumultuous time finding a stable line-up and definitive sound. Bell joined up with Calaba about eight years ago forming various bands with revolving line-ups. When they split from their band four years ago, Orvik and their former bassist were the perfect pieces to the puzzle to form SOTAF. Shortly after, their bassist left and the band decided to continue without the fourth member.
Instead, the band chose to utilize programming and sequencing of bass instruments in recording their latest album as well as on stage. Bell described this technique as unique to the Northwest music scene (the band is from Portland).
Bell and Calaba write the lyrics and the music while Orvik picks apart the music and rearranges based on his drumming style. They don’t use set story lines, templates, or inspiration from life for their songs. Bell says he doesn’t want to know where his inspiration comes from and they rely on imagery and focus to write their lyrics instead. This formula seems to work for the trio.
“There’s only three of us and there’s a shitload of music coming out of [the speakers],” Bell said. Though not technical, a shitload might just be the right term to describe the amount of sound heard on “Centuries.”
The 10-track disc is 38 minutes of a wave of rock and electronica with stylings matching the breadth of bands like the Postal Service, Coldplay and Architecture in Helsinki.
Earlier this year, independent label Wind-Up picked up SOTAF’s contract from SideCho records. The move has created much more buzz and gotten them supporting slots on larger tours. Unfortunately for the band, the deal also postponed the release of “Centuries.” Finished nearly 18 months ago, “Centuries” will finally be released in stores in January.
The band is currently on vacation and working on lining up another tour to support the release of “Centuries.” They’ll be recording their next album in between breaks and tours.