Interview + MP3: Star & Micey, Playing at Cicero's and MoKaBe's This Week!
Star & Micey are not a duo; they're not even Star and Micey. The young trio of Joshua Crosby (24), Geoff Smith (25) and Nick Redmond (26) took their name from a random encounter with a homeless man who inspired Crosby to get his shit together, form a band and turn his talent into more than just fodder for Memphis open mic nights. The group's self-titled debut is an earnest and folky (but lively) Southern-soul revision of emo, as if Conor Oberst had stopped taking the universe so seriously and dialed up Luther Dickinson and Jody Stephens to heal that never ending heartbreak. Lead singer and songwriter Josh Crosby spoke to the RFT about the origin of the band and the making of the album. Catch Star and Micey at MoKaBe's on December 29 and at Cicero's on December 30.
Roy Kasten: Your bio is a great read, as fiction goes.
Josh Crosby: That's what we get for having a storyteller in our group. But it's all true. I swear on my mom's love. She doesn't love me anymore if I'm lying.
Can you tell the story in a less literary fashion?
This is about the band name. I was going home late one night on Madison, sort of a shady area where I live. I hear a man yell out, "Sir! Sir! Sir!" I've got my guitar and I just want to get into my house, and right when I'm about to unlock the door, the guy is almost behind me, and he says, "Sir, I don't mean any harm." I have a soft spot for talking to people. He was homeless, and he explained where he was from. I thought he would try to sell me something. He asks if I'm a musician, and asks me to play a song. I pull my guitar out, it's drizzling a bit, but who cares.
I lean against the car and play my best song at the time, "Late at Night," which made it on the album. It's a song about heartbreak and all the bullshit that goes with it. He grabbed his chest and said, "Man, I've been there." He sang me a song he wrote about heartbreak, except the last half was a Prince song he tagged on. We shared our stories. He said his name was Star and the song was about a girl he used to go with called Micey. We needed a band name at the time, and it clicked. I asked him if we could use Star and Micey for the band name. He flipped out. "You're going to write a song about me?!?" No, man, I want to name my band after you! He gave me a big hug, never asked me for money and we went our separate ways. I see him every now and then. He encourages me. He's a spiritual advisor if you know what I mean.
How did the record come about?
Nick [Redmond] was someone I met at an open mic. I prejudged him as an asshole, and he prejudged me as a weirdo. We did that whole sit-on-the-porch and become-friends-and-sing-songs thing. He said, "Man, do you just want to sing these songs as a hobby? Or do you want to sell them? They're too good to just let them die." I didn't want to sell them. I wrote them, so I felt I was the one who had to deliver them. Nick said, "All right, you want to sing these songs, fine." We went into the studio, made the demos and met Curry Weber, who wound up recording and producing the record. He pitched it to Ardent, one thing let to another and I was sitting behind the desk with John Fry, who started Ardent 40 years ago, recorded Big Star. Ardent had been a Christian label and they'd just started up a secular label again. We were the second band they signed. So here we are.
How would you describe Ardent Studios in Memphis?
Friendly and comfortable. Hugs. Everybody gets hugs. It's the studio where I take off my shoes and socks and run around barefoot. On a weekly basis I go up and steal their free coffee. It's very family, down to earth. The people on staff, like Curry, are what keep the company going.
The sound of the record is very loose but not a mess. It's loose, thoughtful and playful at once.
You're right about that. It's not by the numbers. It was, "What do you want to do next?" Grab a fire [extinguisher] and a drumstick and bang on that. Let's have this guy yell. Let Dave Cousar play lead guitar on "Salvation Army Clothes." He's kind of a Tom Waits character and he grunts when he plays. We just left his grunting on the end of the song.
What's the current Memphis musical community like? Do people have their own camps or are there connections?
Just like anything, you've got your own kind of groups. It's kind of an age group thing, but not really. Dave Cousar is like 59 and he opened for us on the road. I'd say about Memphis that everybody doesn't mind hanging out with everybody and meeting and helping. If you ask someone to come in they won't say no because they're too cool. And nine times out of ten nobody charges. I've just started to get a feel for it. Maybe I haven't met the ones who are assholes. I've met humble and friendly people. That's the way Memphis is.
So I could just call up Jody Stephens and have him play on my album?
Don't quote me on that.
Although a lot of your lyrics go into, how should I say, emo territory, it's still a very optimistic record.
You know what, things are gonna be all right. It kinda sucks now, but I was raised by parents who said, "God will make a way. It's gonna be all right." No matter how bad it got. There was no, "Well, that fuckin' sucks, and that's it." Even if they were losing their shit they always held it together, and that's ingrained in me. I think that comes through in the songwriting.
I like the soul influence, but also the country blues sounds.
It's so weird. I think the pop and the soul comes from being a kid and listening to Michael Jackson and Boyz II Men. That's where I learned to sing. Then I got into Hank Williams Sr. I don't care about Jr. Hank Sr. really spoke to me. My uncle and grandfather were basically cowboys and wanted to be just like him. Hell, it's DNA. Weird things work their way down the line.
Are you coming to town as a trio?
Yeah, a trio. What you'll hear at the show is different than what you hear on the record. We all use pieces of drum kits as we play. I play a kick, Jeff plays a tambourine with a pedal and Nick plays a cymbal with a pedal. We play a bunch of different instruments than on the album. I dig it. We lost our drummer and just got creative rather than letting that stop us.