"We are a midwest electric company representing all things melodic, baroque, psychedelicate, and true. We are proud purveyors of both pomp and pop. You can even sing along. You can even remember our songs the next day..." - from the Manifesto of Starling Electric
Ann Arbor’s Starling Electric will be releasing their debut album Clouded Staircase, nationally via veteran independent label Bar/ None August 19. The album was originally available locally and drew considerable acclaim from hometown media which helped the band quickly build a loyal fan base in lower Michigan.
Recorded entirely at their own White Lodge studio, its 18 original tracks represent no less than a mission statement - or maybe a call to arms for anyone still interested in melodies, harmonies, and the power of a good pop song. Starling Electric soon caught the attention of Robert Pollard (of Guided By Voices), who invited them to open for him on an east coast tour swing. Soon after, the group was championed by Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow (Posies/Big Star) on BBC-6 Radio and their respective websites.
Starling Electric was originally a solo project by singer/songwriter Caleb Dillon that has grown into the dynamic four-piece that exists today. With Caleb on lead vocals and keyboards, SE is rounded out by producer extraordinaire Jason DeCamillis on lead guitar John Fossum on drums and Christian Blackmore Anderson on whatever else might be needed (rhythm guitar, keyboards, percussion). Everybody sings.
Described as "...startling and arch orchestral pop music of the best kind", the group is a melting pot of 60s and 70s influences - the melodic harmonies of the Beach Boys, Zombies, and Byrds; the prog and art-rock exploration of Yes, 10cc, Genesis, and Elton John; the baroque craftsmanship of the Left Banke and Love; and the pomposity and swagger of The Who, Queen, and ELO. In their first two years playing together, they shared bills with Robert Pollard, The Hidden Cameras, Evan Dando, Saturday Looks Good To Me, The Sights, Canada, Chris Bathgate, Great Lakes Myth Society, The Satin Peaches, and many others.
They’ve headlined every major city in their home state of Michigan, including two years at the Metro Times Blowout in Detroit. Starling Electric has been featured in magazines such as the Detroit Metro Times, Real Detroit Weekly, Lansing City Pulse, The East Lansing State News, and the Northern Michigan Express, as well as a cover story and interview in the Ann Arbor Paper and a cover feature in Lansing's Noise Magazine. They were featured and interviewed for a WDET Radio Benefit and have received an impressive amount of airplay on college radio in Detroit, Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Traverse City. SE were voted "Best Rock Artist" by the readers of the Ann Arbor Current and the song "Camp-Fire" was showcased in an episode of the UPN television series, "Veronica Mars".
"The LP-format track listing and Kodachrome photos certainly set up the retro vibe on Starling Electric's Bar None debut, Clouded Staircase (not to mention the Blossom Toes font on the cover). If you happen to know what a "Blossom Toes font" is, and you are still reading this, don't stop now, because this record is probably your cup of tea. The CD's look certainly befits the content, with its heady vibe of Zombies-inspired vocal acrobatics, Brian Wilson arrangement know-how, and patchwork bell bottom-pantedness. Clouded Staircase is most decidedly retro all around, but pulling from so many different period sources that the music can be described more precisely as retro-informed, rather than retro for retro's sake. These gentlemen have record collections -- big, sprawling, eclectic ones. The kind that any serious '60s-'70s pop aficionado would have accumulated over the course of a lifetime (Brian Wilson, Left Banke, ELO, the Beatles, Love, Gilbert O'Sullivan, solo McCartney, pre-disco Bee Gees) with the added spice of some kitsch favorites, as well as the work of more modern pop purveyors (Jason Falkner, Eggstone, Matthew Sweet, the Posies). A pretty standard lineup for fans of this stuff, though you might also notice that there's a huge stack of Guided by Voices 7"s next to the turntable. Make a note of that, because what Starling Electric has, over every other '70s pop-kissed revival band out there, is guts. Among the pretty and the flowery lurks an element of sexy danger -- a real "rock" danger, bordering on punk -- that manifests itself in the lyrics as well as the frequent fearless guitar outfreakages. Not a twee note to be found here, no sir. Dewy, yes -- but never overtly precious. Just listen to the glorious and garagey din the fellows whip up on "The St. Valentines Day Massacre" and "Black Ghost/Black Girl," two bona fide rockers that manage to deliver the goods in the "pretty" department as well. That's a tough trick to pull off without sounding like a schizophrenic train wreck, and the Starlings make a habit of pulling it off, with aplomb, throughout Clouded Staircase's 18 tracks." - J. Scott McClintock/AllMusic