On Friday, October 16, the three piece pop-funk band released their new EP Astro Lobo and COLLiDE got the chance to chat with bandmembers, Max Sauer and Chris Rhein, about it!
Tell me a little bit about St. Louis and the impact that it had on Starwolf and your music!
Chris: I’ve lived in St. Louis my whole life and we’ve always played around town. There’s a really cool scene as far as some really great rooms like the super historic Chuck Berry’s Duck Room which is pretty much our home base when we headline shows. It’s always cool to play in a room with so much history. It’s unique for us because St. Louis has a lot of singer-songwriter, Americana, blues type music deeply rooted here, and we don’t sound anything like that. So, for us it feels like we stand out here. There’s just so much culture here and it’s definitely had an impact on us as a band, although I will admit that It’s kind of tough for us sometimes because we don’t have too many bands near us that we’re best buds with.
So you’re getting ready to release the EP Astro Lobo on October 16th. Can you tell us a little more about the EP and what it’s about?
Chris: Lyrically speaking it’s all over the place… all three of us are pretty much songwriters as far as contributing to lyrics, so our music is a representation of all three of us. The EP speaks to everything that we were going through when we were writing it over the past couple of years — getting older and what that means to us as musicians, and as people who have been in bands our whole lives. There are pretty straightforward love songs and songs about loss, plus some trippy paranoia stuff.
Max: I think we were heavily influenced by a lot of obscure funk bands from the 80s — a lot of which didn’t really get the recognition they deserved. I guess I would have to thank Spotify for introducing us to a lot of those different bands. You look at little elements they did and you just think “wow, that was really ahead of its time” and it inspires us when we’re writing. The whole process for this was pretty bizarre because of all the quarantine stuff going on. When we worked with our producer we’d send a lot of ideas back and forth with him and at first we were all a little nervous about working remotely like that but we had no choice, and it ended up being a really positive experience.
When you say you worked remotely, what did that process actually look like?
Max: We would discuss issues where we weren’t quite excited about a part in a song or a song in general. For one song, we decided to rework it and said, “alright, let’s turn this into more of a slow ballad” and our producer bounced a lot of ideas with us and we went back and forth until we felt good about it.
Chris: As far as doing this during Covid, it was obviously super difficult because we couldn’t perform in person during these sessions, but there were some positive things that happened from it. Working with our producer, Jason, and co producer, Zach, was great because we’ve worked with them before so we were able to trust them with doing it remotely. Also, Jason was able to hit up his buddy Tim Lefebvre who’s a world renowned bass player and since he wasn’t on the road and had more time to do projects for bands like us, he was able to sit in and play bass on one of the songs. So, I would say we had a pretty positive experience with making a record during Covid, even though it certainly had its ups and downs.
Can you tell us a little about “Bad Feeling” and what it was like working with Tim Lefebvre
Chris: That song was off and on again, we were working on it for a long time before we brought it to Jason. Finally, we landed on the vocals and such, and we sent it to Jason and he was super into the song… he didn’t even tell us beforehand but he had just sent the track to Tim because he thought that Tim could really bring it to life. I remember the first time I heard it when he sent us the new version I was just blown away… I couldn’t stop smiling! That was a pretty awesome experience because Max and I are guitar players and we think of the bass as an incredible instrument but don’t have quite as much experience with it, so to have such an amazing, fluent bass player on that song was crazy.
Is there any process that you can cite when it comes to making music?
Chris: When we’re writing a song, it usually stems from some sort of groove, whether it’s a riff on the bass or literally just a drum beat, we’ll just write off of that until something sticks. We can go through a thousand different versions of a song until we figure something out that fits. So, our stuff usually stems from a simple musical or melodic idea but lyrics are usually the last piece of the puzzle. Sometimes we’ll land on a melody and throw some goofy, funny lyrics on it just to get the syllables right.
Max: Usually we start with one simple part and loop it. After that, we’ll try to figure out how to grow from there. Usually the vocals or lyrics are last, which I know isn’t usually a common route for artists but it seems to work for us. But yeah, the nice thing about looping the parts is we try a million different directions for the song and we figure out which one we like the most and take that path. Because we try so many different directions, we have multiple versions of every song now which is pretty cool.
Where do you feel you most often find inspiration?
Max: Most of our inspiration comes from a positive place. If I’m sad or having a bad day, I don’t think our songs necessarily reflect that. They usually have an upbeat vibe.
Chris: I think it definitely is reflective of what we’re listening to but I think there’s also a lot to be said about our headspace when we’re writing something. If we’re super stoked about a song or an idea, we can vibe off of that and it’ll put us in a good writing mood. We could have a super shitty session but then at the end of a session someone could come up with a sick riff and then it’s like “oh okay, here we are!” and we’ll go off of that. We try to create a way to get the sparks going, but it really is work and the inspiration doesn’t always just come to us. We have to just keep going until something sticks.
Max: Usually we just stumble onto our ideas!
Can you name some other artists that you are currently listening to?
Max: Sure! One problem is, I don’t know how to pronounce most of the names. They’re really obscure. One band I can pronounce is an American band from the 70s and 80s called Kleeer. I think that they were way ahead of their time and they should have been way bigger.. I would love to meet them in person and just thank them for the inspiration.
What project or single are you most proud of and why?
Chris: I think “Bad Feeling” is the one that I’m most proud of just because of how it came together. It’s one of my favorite choruses that we have, but it was also kind of painful because we were sitting on the demo for a long time. To think back to where it started and what it became is really satisfying. I will also say, we have a really fun title track, “Astro Lobo.” We had always talked about creating a space funk odyssey that we wanted to take the listener on, and take ourselves on too when writing it. So, that happened and it felt pretty spot on.
Max: I completely agree with Chris’s choices. The theme that I’ve noticed is often the song that we’re lukewarm about ends up being the one that surprises us the most, and I think that was pretty accurate for “Bad Feeling.” When we were making a bunch of demos, it just sat on the sidelines and we thought it was okay, but then when we finally put all the pieces together, it ended up being the one we were the most proud of and excited about. That along with, like Chris said, “Astro Lobo.”
Chris: In our previous EP, we produced, recorded, and wrote everything ourselves and we were kind of dipping our foot in the water of the funk realm. Most of our songs are synth-pop-esque with some funk elements, but what really grabbed us and what we loved so much was that element of funk and soul that always existed, but existed subtly in the background. So, on this EP we went headfirst into that realm. We still do gravitate towards pop music in general but we definitely wanted to put our own unique blend on those sounds and on everything that we love to listen to ourselves.
Anything else you want to talk about?
Chris: I feel like I’m a different person than I was before we started mixing this album. I can cook now, I exercise all the time, I go to the park twice a day!
Max: I’ve been trying to convince the other guys that we need to make a band cookbook. That used to be a thing, let’s bring it back. That’s definitely gonna happen one of these days.
Chris: We’ve got some fun videos in the works for one of our songs, “Real Love,” which came out earlier this year. It was a single we put out before we actually announced the EP. The video was filmed in front of a green screen and it’s gonna be totally goofed. We’re really excited to put that out there. We’re also going to be doing some pre recorded live videos of the album and just trying to put those out too.
It’s really tough to be in a band this year, but I’d say we’re doing a pretty good job.
Check out the music video for “Bad Feeling” here:
And check out the full EP here: