Star Spangles Interview
Cambridge Corn Exchange,
December 14th 2002

From R*E*P*E*A*T Issue 20

Like a breath of fresh air breathed into a stable made stinky by the twin turpitudes of Sum 41 and The Strokes, we bring you The Star Spangles. Four first cousins from cultural hotbed Central Islip, New York-birthplace of Willie Nelson, Marvin Gaye and Captain Lou Albano – the Star Spangles take their name from the poem "My Wild Irish Arse" by Beat icon Gregory Corso: "Yonder, a star! Its twinkle spangles my fundament, babe!"


* The Star Spangles - who, what and why?
- Well I'm Nick and I'm the bass player, our singer's Ian, our guitarists Johnny and our drummer's Joey Valentine. And we're a rock'n'roll band from New York City, we're from Manhattan. And why? Because we all completely love music and we love playing music, it's that simple. We don't really have a plan or anything like that. The band's been together for about four and a half years, I've been in the band for about two years, the newest member. This is the first time we've been over to Britain, we got very lucky to get on a tour like this with Idlewild. It's because we're on the same label as them, we signed to Parlophone a few months ago, and for a first band that goes on just after the doors open we've been getting a good reception. No one's thrown anything at us and quite a lot of people have been watching us, we've met a lot of nice young kids and made some new fans. It's been a good way to launch our single "Which One of the Two Of Us Is Going to Burn This House Down" which came out on Monday. They only pressed a thousand of them so it's more of a taster, a way of getting people to hear about us, to get our name known. We don't really have singles in America!

* One thousand is the same amount we press on our label! If you could invite any bands from the past to a Christmas party who would you ask?
- The Ramones and The Replacements, that's it!

* The piece in this week's NME makes a lot of your attitude being important, is that right?
- Yeah that's right, though there are some things in there that they made come out nastier than I would have liked, but we do our own thing and we are very opinionated people, particularly our singer and guitar player. We've been around New York for a long time and we've seen the changes that have come through. We don't like things that are mediocre or inoffensive, you've got to have a love-hate relationship with the best music. [The Ramones come on the sound system, "Judy is a Punk"]
* It seems to me that in American guitar music on one side you have garagey-art bands like The Strokes and on the other cartoon punk bands like Sum 41, are you trying to do something different from both?
- I don't know much about Sum 41, I'm sure they've been around for a while …
* They have!!!
- The same with The Strokes, we want to make our own thing, we're just a rock'n'roll band and we're into punk music like this Ramones track playing now and The Dictators and Television, Husker Du, stuff like that. The time is right for guitar bands now, it's better than listening to DJs or pop…
* … or the sort of guitar bands that are massive in Britain at the moment like Coldplay and Travis which are sensible and mature and very popular …
- … and boring!
* I agree, that's R*E*P*E*A*T's position. One of the bands on our label, The Virgin Suicides, who are all about 17 years old, what tips do you have for them?
- Play as much as possible, play for eight people or eight hundred, play with bands even if you've never heard of them, just go out and have fun and play as much as possible. Even if you're not really tight, fuck it, just go and play, you'll get tight!
One show is worth ten practices! Then record your music and put it out if you're happy with it, there's no reason to wait, just do it!!!! There's more important things about being in a band than being musical; anyone can write a song, anyone can write a good song without being able to play more than three chords, it's not just about musicianship - it's about writing a good song.

* What about your stage "act", or whatever, is that important to you?
- We just go out there and play, we don't really have an act! It's a bit harder playing big shows as audiences are so far away from you and we're not used to that, we're more used to playing to two to three hundred people in New York.
* Are you doing any headlining shows while you're here?
- Yes, we just did The Metro in London and we did one in a little place in Brighton in a little place called The Free Butt [that is little - Ed] and we're doing another one in London before we fly back home. I like playing the small clubs, this size of gig is very new to us, it can be harder to get in to it on a big stage so we just do our own thing and try to make it work.

* As I said, The Virgin Suicides are all around 17 while The Manic Street Preachers, who originally inspired R*E*P*E*A*T, are around my age. Do you think that age, or the lack of age, is important in rock'n'roll?
No I don't think it's important, though of course it is to record companies! We played with The Soft Boys a while ago in New York and that was pretty cool and they're older guys and they rocked still!
* The Soft Boys? Years ago they played at The Portland Arms in Cambridge where we put on gigs nowadays, I believe you can get a bootleg of it!

* Have you ever listened to The Manics?
- They're not very big in the States, all they know is that they had a guy who disappeared, I really don't know anything else about them. But I should do! What should I get, what should I listen to? The first album?
* Yeah, or the third album; 'Generation Terrorists' or 'The Holy Bible', which is more introverted and screwed up, Richey's album, it sold the least of all their albums but it's a huge cult record. Whereas 'Generation Terrorists' is more angry with the world.

* Your guitar player is called Tommy Volume, apparently, and of course there's Nicky Wire of The Manics. What other false names are you fond of?
- The best were probably all of The Ramones, I always thought that was great, it was very original. Apart from that, I don't know.
* It might not translate to American, but my favourite is probably "Tory Crimes" (real name Terry Chimes, now a respected doctor), The Clash's original drummer.
- No, it doesn't translate!

* What do you listen to while hoovering?
- I don't vacuum!! But at home I've been listening to Big Star, Cheap Trick…
* Cheap Trick, that's interesting. Thinking about the title of your single, whose house would you burn down if you had a chance?
- Mayor Blomberg, the Mayor of New York. He tried to ban smoking so it would be quite appropriate to burn his house down with a lit cigarette!
* And what would you rescue first if your house was burning down?
- My record collection. That's it. I don't own anything else apart from records!
* Do you own a record player? Would you like a copy of our last release, the Neo / Virgin Suicides split single?
- Yes I do have a record player and yes I'd love a single! I'll play it when I get home and put it in my collection.
* It's very limited edition numbered red vinyl and everything, let us know what you think of it!
- That's great, I will.

* Is there anything else you think I should have asked?
- No I don't think so, I think you've pretty much hit the nail on the head.
* So the most important question is, what's best, chips or cream buns? It doesn't translate to American either!
- I don't know what cream buns are! I'd rather have chips, I'd go with the savoury!
* That's the right answer actually. Do you mind signing this promo copy of the single for a web site competition? And can you think of a question that's fairly easy?
- What about what member of blondie was once in The Ramones?
* That's not easy!!! You'd better tell me the answer! Thanks very much.
- Thanks, and thanks again for the fanzine and the record!

Thanks to Nick for his time and to Mike at Infected PR for setting up the interview. I can't tell you the answer to the question as the competition is still running; mail me your answers to