Jason Martin of Starflyer 59 Talks New Album 'Slow' and Return to Tooth & Nail Records [Q&A]
After over two decades in music, Starflyer 59 returns next month with their new album, Slow. As we previously reported on our sister site Classicalite, the somber indie rockers' 14th full-length is their first with iconic Seattle label Tooth & Nail Records since 2010's The Changing of the Guard and follows the band's self-released 2013 effort, IAMACEO.
A reflective mélange of their considerable catalog, Slow evokes Starflyer's signature textural touchstones within the modern framework of their quality-consistent, unassuming sound. The first song previewed from the record, "Wrongtime," displays a familiarly solemn yet sweeping take on the band's beloved blue-collar blues.
The shoegazing Southern California soul-searchers have run the gamut from alt-rock to dream pop since 1993. Here the group's frontman, guitarist and producer, Jason Martin, talks with Music Times contributor Philip Trapp about his music career thus far, what to expect from the new album and future plans for the venerable band.
Music Times: Is there a particular meaning behind your new album's title, Slow?
Jason Martin: The title is about looking back at my life and how fast time goes by. Sometimes I wish it was slow.
Starflyer fans are glad to see you back with Tooth & Nail. Did [label head] Brandon Ebel reach out to you in releasing Slow, or how did you end up back on the label?
We are happy about it as well. Brandon asked to hear the record when I was done recording it; he really liked it and asked if they could put it out. I was more than happy to not have to deal with the other end of that process and be back on the label. On the last record, it was a lot of work making it and then having to handle manufacturing, promotion, etc. I enjoy making the records -- I don't want to have to try and sell them when we are done.
The first song released from Slow, "Wrongtime," certainly imparts that distinctive Starflyer mood while still sounding exciting and fresh. Is this track indicative of the rest of the album?
Thanks, glad you like the tune. There are a couple songs in that mode, but I wouldn't say it sounds like the whole record. The album is my take on the history of the band from every era of recording that we have done, a timeline of sorts.
The new album contains only eight songs, but it has a running time equal to that of past efforts. Was there a conscious decision made to create longer songs this time around?
Not really. I wasn't trying to have longer songs on this record, it just seemed to work out that way.
As you mentioned, you released the last Starflyer record on your own imprint, South Co. Records. Would you have done the same with Slow if not for Tooth & Nail's involvement? Was there a reason that IAMACEO wasn't on Tooth & Nail?
Probably. It would have come out in some way or another. After The Changing of the Guard, I didn't think we would do any more records, but then we decided to make another one. Our contract was up with Tooth & Nail and we just thought we would try something different and put it out ourselves.
This is Starflyer's 14th album. Are you satisfied with your discography to date? Do you have a favorite album that you've recorded?
That's a lot of records... I think there are moments from each record that I like, but I don't think any band finishes a record and thinks it's perfect. I've always done the best I could with what I could do, some records just worked out better than others. In my opinion, the record I am most happy with, listening back through all the years, would have to be Dial M.
What have you been listening to lately? Were there any specific influences you had in mind while recording the new record?
My music tastes haven't changed that much over the years, I still like the usual suspects I've always liked. I've been on a real Howlin' Wolf kick but I doubt there's much influence of it on the new record.
A few years ago, there was talk of remixing your 2001 album, Leave Here a Stranger, from the original master tapes. May I ask if any progress was made on that?
No progress on that, and not sure if that would be such a good idea. Every album, for better or worse, is just supposed to capture a moment in time. That record has a certain thing to it. It was our last record done on two-inch tape, and at this point I just would rather leave the past in the past. But, you know, never say never.
It's my understanding that Tooth & Nail's [pre-2013] back catalog is now owned by Capitol CMG. Will this affect future reissues of earlier Starflyer albums?
I don't really know the answer to that. We have never been platinum sellers, so I don't think there would be many obstacles to getting something like that done. We, eventually, in the next couple of years here, would like to start reissuing all of the albums on 180-gram vinyl. Hopefully that is something we can get done.
Can we expect further Starflyer releases on Tooth & Nail? Do you plan to continue making records for the foreseeable future?
I hope so. I am currently working on new material. Hopefully it will not be as long of a break between records as the last time.
You've participated in quite a few side projects. Last year, photos surfaced on social media of you and Starflyer contributors Trey Many and TW Walsh working with singer-songwriter David Bazan. Was this for a certain project? Will these recordings see the light of day?
I enjoy working on side projects with friends; the process of making the music is the part I most enjoy. The band you mention with Bazan, TW Walsh, Trey and myself -- we would like to have a full-length album done this year. We are recording five songs actually this coming weekend, and we have other songs finished from last year. Hopefully these will see the light of day.
You've mentioned in past interviews -- I may be paraphrasing -- that you hope to eventually write a perfect song. What song of yours do you think comes closest to that goal?
That was a younger me. [Laughs.] I don't even know what that is anymore. I just do what I do and hopefully people will like some of the songs.