"I never thought that / we'd ever go far / like all my friends who played guitar."
Alternative music doesn't exist. Shoegazer music has been dead since 1991. The only shoegaze music we ever did is maybe "The Zenith" from Silver—even that wasn't current when it came out. Now, I hear bands that are doing what I tried to do four years ago—stuff that wasn't current even at that time. Like the Bible says, "There is nothing new under the sun," especially in Christian music. I just want to be a decent songwriter, not a follower.
Starflyer 59 is an Alternative Rock "band" from Riverside, California. Jason Martin is the guitarist, vocalist, keyboardist, songwriter, producer, and only permanent member.Jason is a Christian; although faith doesn't come up often in his songs (on many albums, the only indication of his beliefs is a single-sentence dedication to "Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior" in the liner notes) he has no problem self-identifying as Christian Rock. He doesn't believe there's any real difference between "a Christian band" and "Christians in a band".Mister Martin's musical career began with his brother Ronnie's techno band (which performed under a variety of names, but ultimately recorded under the moniker Dance House Children). Wanting to do something different, something with guitars, Jason recorded some demos on his own and gave these to Brandon Ebel, who signed Jason to his fledgeling label, Tooth & Nail Records. Jason recruited bandmates from his circle of blue-collar, Southern-California-dwelling, Britpop-listening friends, and Starflyer 59 was born.(Ronnie Martin, meanwhile, went down his own path, and retooled Dance House Children into the one-man synth-pop band Joy Electric, and was every bit as prolific as his little brother.)The debut album, Silver, was reverb- and distortion-drenched pop-rock—either one of the final albums of Shoegazing's first wave, or one of the first post-Shoegazing albums. Sf59's subsequent albums leaned more towards lounge (Gold) and hard rock (Americana), but the shoegaze label stuck, despite Jason's reluctance.note See the page quote. Also, J. Edward Keyes has noted that Jason's default reaction to the unavoidable My Bloody Valentine comparisons was a dismissive, "We're not nearly as brilliant as they were." After those three albums (and some songs intended for a fourth album that were ultimately shelved), Jason decided that he'd finished saying everything he wanted to say with guitar distortion, so it was time to do something different.Under the influence of the producer and keyboardist Gene "Eugene" Andrusco, Starflyer made an abrupt Genre Shift to a lighter, New Wave-influenced sound with undistorted guitars and melodic keyboards. Fans and critics were surprisingly receptive to the New Sound AlbumThe Fashion Focus and its even lighter followup Everybody Makes Mistakes. Then, in 2000, Gene Eugene died.Jason Martin pressed on, recording a series of albums which all employed wall-of-sound production in different ways. 2001's Leave Here a Stranger evolved the prior albums' pop into a synth-orchestrated Baroque Pop tribute to Pet Sounds. 2003's Old was an energetic, effects-drenched mix of Space Rock and Dream Pop. 2004's I Am the Portuguese Blues was a weird throwback—the shelved post-Americana demos re-recorded as Up to Eleven blues-rock. 2005's Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice was a mellower follow-up to Old, backed by a live string trio.The production was finally dialed back to Gene Eugene-era levels for My Island, while the speed was cranked up. Subsequent albums Dial M and The Changing of the Guard continued in the same vein, while adding acoustic guitars and Synth Pop influences (simultaneously) to the mix.Beginning in 2005 or so, Jason's family ties made it increasingly difficult to go on tour. The last live show was played in 2008, and Starflyer is now a purely studio band. In an interview with a fan website, Jason Martin was asked about the future and replied that his plan was originally to put out 20 albums and then retire.In 2011, Starflyer 59 parted ways with Tooth & Nail Records. They continued making music, and released their 13th album (and first completely independent album), IAMACEO, in January 2013.
Stephen Dail: bass (from My Island to present)
Trey Many: drums (My Island to present, with the exception of The Changing of the Guard)
Andrew Larson: bass (on Silver and Gold)
Ed Giles Benrock: drums (on Gold)
Wayne Everett: drums (from Gold to EMM)
Gene Eugene: keys, producer (from Gold to Everybody Makes Mistakes, though he was only listed as a band member on the latter)
Eric Campuzano: bass (on Americana)
Jeff Cloud: bass (from The Fashion Focus to I Am the Portuguese Blues)
Joey Esquibel: drums (on Leave Here a Stranger and Can't Stop Eating EP)
Josh Dooley: keys, guitar, bass (on Leave Here a Stranger, one track from The Last Laurel EP, My Island, and Ghosts of the Future)
Frank Lenz: drums (from Old to Talking Voice vs Singing Voice), string arrangements (on TVvSV)
Richard Swift: keys (on Can't Stop Eating and Old)
Eric Collins: bass (on Never Play Covers)
Dean Lorenz: guitar (on Never Play Covers)
Trevor Monks: drums (on My Island)
D. Brotherton: drums and percussion (on The Changing of the Guard)
Silver (1994; reissued with bonus tracks in 2005)
"The Drop" 7" single (1993)
She's the Queen EP (1994)
Gold (1995; reissued with bonus tracks in 2005)
"Goodbyes are Sad" 7" single (1995)
Le Vainqueur EP (1995)
Plugged Live EP (1996)
The Fashion Focus (1998)
Fell in Love at 22 EP (1999)
Everybody Makes Mistakes (1999)
Easy Come, Easy Go (2000) Greatest Hits Album, plus a second disc of b-sides, rarities, and live tracks.
Leave Here a Stranger (2001)
Live at the Paradox EP (2002)
Can't Stop Eating EP (2002)
Old Demos EP (2003)
I Am the Portuguese Blues (2004)
Portuguese Blues single-sided 12" EP (2004)
The Last Laurel EP (2004)
Never Play Covers (2005) Live album
Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice (2005)
I Win EP (2006)
My Island (2006)
Ghosts of the Future (2007-2008) A boxed set of ten 7" vinyls, featuring demo versions of songs from Dial M, plus cover songs, instrumental tracks, and remixes as b-sides.
Dial M (2008)
Minor Keys EP (2009) Download-only release.
Ghosts of the Past (2009) Collects all the non-redundant tracks from The Last Laurel, I Win, Ghosts of the Future, and Minor Keys.
The Changing of the Guard (2010)
IAMACEO Instrumentals cassette tape (2013)
Bon Voyage is almost but not quite Starflyer with female vocals; the Dream Pop yin to Starflyer's shoegaze yang. Then they switched to synth pop with their third album. Jason writes the songs and plays guitar, and his wife Julie sings.
"Issue I" 7" single (1995)
"Issue II" 7" single (1996)
Bon Voyage (1998)
The Right Amount (2002)
Pony Express was an indie-pop band headed by Jeff Cloud. Jason contributed, alongside Frank Lenz, Josh Dooley, and Richard Swift.
"Transparent with Blue Eyes" 7" single (1996)
"Under the Gun" 7" single (1996)
The Eastwood Drive (1997)
Monkey Hearts EP (1999)
Becoming What You Hate (2003)
"Living on Dimes" 7" (2003)
Fraud EP (2004)
The Brothers Martin saw Jason reunite with his brother Ronnie for the first time since the Dance House Children days. Both brothers' love for New Wave Music resulted in their collaborative album attempting to out-80's the 80's themselves. Now that Ronnie has relocated to Ohio, a follow-up album is very unlikely.
The Brothers Martin (2007)
Neon Horse is an Anonymous Band playing a mix of hard rock and synth-pop; fans were quick to speculate that it was a collaboration between Mark Salomon (lead singer of The Crucified and Stavesacre) and Jason Martin. Copyright records, and Neon Horse's sole live show, confirmed this to be true (and revealed that Steven Dail is the bassist).
Neon Horse (2007)
Haunted Horse: Songs of Love, Defiance, and Delusion (2009)
Less prolific side projects:
Starflyer 2000: Basically a precursor to Bon Voyage, with Jason's then-girlfriend Leigh Bingham handling vocals. They recorded one song ("Leigh and Me", for the 1995 compilation Art Core Volume One) before Jason and Leigh broke up.
The Starter Set: Terry Scott Taylor on vocals and Jason on guitar. They only recorded two songs, "Satellite Moon" and "Prayer Warrior", which appeared on Taylor's compilation Random Acts & Hodgepodge.
Enemy Ships aka The Emergency: A hard rock supergroup and sort of a precursor to Neon Horse. Jason played guitar and wrote a few of their songs. Around 2005 or 2006, they wrote an EP, signed to Atlantic Records, and expanded the EP to an album named The Emergency—which was inexplicably shelved. The unreleased album was leaked to the internet in mp3 form.
Broken Arm: A collaboration with Dave Bazan. They only recorded one song, which appeared on Ghosts of the Future with the title "Broken Arm", and (in heavily reworked form) on Bazan's album Curse Your Branches with the title "Lost My Shape".
Low & Behold: A Goth Rock / New Wave band, with Ryan Clark from Demon Hunter on vocals. They released a vinyl single, "Blood Red" b/w "Violent Sound", in 2011, but haven't been heard from since.
Provides examples of:
Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: Back in the 90's, Jason took fashion tips from 50's greasers. For example, see the "Housewife Love Song" music video.
Book Ends: The liner notes of Silver (Sf59's first album with Tooth & Nail Records) include a black-and-white photo of an unidentified neighborhood, from a hilltop. The liner notes of The Changing of the Guard (their last album with Tooth & Nail) feature a similar black-and-white photo from a similar angle. It could very well be the same neighborhood in both photos, but it's unknown if this is true.
Breakup Song: Nearly all the lyrics from Gold were lamenting the messy ends of relationships. Jason has insisted that the relationships in question were friendships, not romance.
The Church's "Under the Milky Way", on Minor Keys EP.
Creator Recovery: Their album Gold was written and recorded while Martin was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, due to the messy ends of several friendships and the stress of recording the album practically by himself. For the followup album, Americana, he had a full band playing with him and producer Gene Eugene to help with the duties of recording, so it was a much more "fun" rock album. It's probably not a coincidence that Martin switched to playing New Wave music and almost entirely abandoned guitar distortion shortly afterwards.
Doing It for the Art: Jason has a day job; he's in this because he loves the music, not because he needs cash.
Ear Rape: The shrieking guitar feedback on "Dual Overhead Cam".
Epic Rocking: "Traffic Jam", "Messed Up Over You", "Le Vainqueur", "Too Much Fun", "I Like Your Photographs".
Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: invoked Touched on in the final verse of "M23", where a fan finds a deep meaning in song lyrics which wasn't remotely intended by the songwriter:
"Hey man, did you write it for me? It seems like it, that really spoke to me." "You made it up, you made it up, you made it up, you just make it up."
"Too Much Fun" and "Days of Lamech" on The Fashion Focus.
"I Like Your Photographs" and "...Moves On" off Leave Here a Stranger.
Gosh Dangit To Heck / Unusual Euphemism: Sf59's lyrics eschew harsh language, except for "hell" in two songs (as in "You know we had one hell of a dad" in the song "No New Kinda Story"). Outside the music, Jason would say "shin" and "eff" in place of actual obscenities.
Guest Star Party Member: Dave Bazan (of Pedro the Lion) co-wrote and sings lead vocals on "Broken Arm". This is, in fact, the only Sf59 song to date where someone besides Jason sings the lead.
Idiosyncratic Cover Art: The Ghosts of the Future vinyl sleeves form a single large image when laid in the proper order.
The Invisible Band: At Jason's own request, he hasn't appeared in any Starflyer video since "A Housewife Love Song". The video for "I Win" goes so far as to substitute photogenic teens for the entire band.
"The Fashion Focus" is a quiet ballad—but the track includes the very first shrieking, feedback-heavy note of the song on the following track, "Too Much Fun". It's unknown whether this was intentional or a CD mastering error.
"First Heart Attack" is rather ominous throughout, but the outro cranks it up to 11: it's just a drum imitating a heartbeat over an audio recording of a surgery.
Looped Lyrics: "Gangs of Riverside"—the title is also the song's only lyrics.
Lyrical Shoehorn / Word Salad Lyrics: Whether the lyrics of a given song have any meaning is a toss-up; Jason always writes the music first and lyrics second. Even the songs that do mean something are frequently padded with lyrics that were penned solely to sound good. In J. Edward Keyes' bio of the band, he notes several examples of songs that sound profound but, by Jason's own admission, have completely banal explanations: "We Want It Bad" was inspired by a tube compressor. The first line from "All the Time" came from a Mastercard commercial. The lyric "express the world on time" from "Card Games and Old Friends" was taken from the Federal Express slogan.
That album by the side project Enemy Ships was never released, outside of being leaked to the internet.
"Jim", an instrumental song laid down during the Old recording sessions (and mentioned several times in Jeff Cloud's online recording journal). The band cut it from the album, intending to release it on an EP later. Then the hard drive containing the only recording of the song was damaged, and Jason forgot how the song went. So "Jim" is lost forever.
One Degree of Separation: Go re-read Starflyer's past and current roster. With possibly one or two exceptions all of those musicians have had respectable careers in other bands and/or as solo musicians. And then most of the people in those bands have also played in other bands, and that's not event getting into the album producers... Southern California indie Christian rock rivals shoegazing for the title of "The Scene That Celebrates Itself".
Only Known by Initials: First on The Fashion Focus, then on Leave Here a Stranger and every album since, the band members are only credited by their first initial and last name. Also results in unintentional Theme Naming on Leave Here a Stranger: the band is credited as J. Martin, J. Cloud, J. Esquibel, and J. Dooley.
Packaged As Other Medium: The liner notes of Gold (the original version, not the 2005 Extended Edition) feature fake vinyl labels for every song, as if the songs were all 45rpm singles released by a variety of fictitious record companies.
She's the Queen has a "Joy Electric Dub Mix" of "Blue Collar Love".
Everybody Makes Mistakes's hidden track has a guest saxophonist riffing over the rhythm track from "The Party".
Ghosts of the Future has a remix of "Pearl of Great Price" by Daniel Brigham.
Bon Voyage's "Bad Dream" is their song "Monster" chopped into fragments and pieced back together as something different.
Revisiting The Roots: The album I Am the Portuguese Blues was a deliberate throwback to their first three albums: lots of guitar distortion and no keyboards, in contrast with the Synth Pop-influenced sound they had evolved into since then. (In fact, most of the tracks were unreleased demos from that era, re-recorded for this album.) Its cover art (a solid color, with no text at all) was also a reference to those first three albums.
Rockstar Song: Very common, ever since Everybody Makes Mistakes. For the most part, they boil down to the fact that Jason sees rock music as a career built on frustration and futility.
Self-Deprecation: Songs like "When I Learn to Sing" ("It's not the same when I try / it's just a bad lullaby") and "Ideas for the Talented" ("My ideas, they outweigh all the talent I own").
So, we play Kick the Can It'll make us young, like Serling says.
Song Style Shift: "Who Says It's Easy" (specifically the version from Dial M) starts off as a faster, relatively upbeat song. After the second chorus, the tempo slows down, and the song goes space rock-y.
Jasonís initial reaction to the completed record was one of disgust. ... The ashen aura of doom hovering over the record grew several shades darker when it was finally released. Fans of Silverís triple-tremolo-assault retaliated viciously when they heard the muted mope of its follow-up, often vocalizing their distaste to Jason in person. ... People walked up to Jason at concerts and asked, point blank, ďWhy does your new album sound so bad?Ē ... And thatís when a strange thing started happening. People started liking Gold. No one quite knows when it happened or how, but suddenly sales of the record began jumping, and fan defense of the songs became more ardent, more impassioned. Jasonís cryptic lyrics began resonating with disaffected teenagers, and the mammoth, almost supernatural guitar sounds started seeming more calculated, the shrieking solos more tortured, more precise. Gold went on to nearly triple the sales numbers of its predecessor, and take solid root not as a failed follow-up, but as a triumphant return.
Soprano and Gravel: Jason is the gravel, and any backing singers are almost invariably rather high-pitched.
"Who Said It's Easy?" appears to be a rebuttal to any armchair critics who haven't tried writing a song themselves: "So don't try, you'll lose your control. / It's never easy to be me. / ... / So am I fragile about my vision? / I never asked for your opinion."
"Automatic" seems to be particularly sarcastic response to some common complaints. Reviewers accused him of forcing religion on the listeners, so Jason sings here, "I'm a messenger like Kissenger." Reviewers accused his prior albums of sounding too much alike, so Jason sings here "With a monotone monotony / call it what you want, it's automatic." (And Jason deliberately makes the song repetitive and monotonous—ironically, producing a song that sounds like nothing else in his discography.) And the song has no guitar at whatsoever (until the final chorus), which could be seen as a big middle finger to everyone who complained about Jason not writing more shoegazer songs.
The song "Mr. Martin" started off as an electric guitar-heavy demo on the Ghosts of the Future boxed set, with a softer version on piano and acoustic guitar recorded as a B-side. Then when it came time to re-record the demos for the album Dial M, the band decided they liked the B-side better, so the unplugged version became the official version.
The very next release, the Minor Keys EP, featured unplugged versions of two more songs from that album: "The Brightest of the Head" and "I Love You Like the Little Bird". It also had a cover version of The Church's "Under the Milky Way", in the same style.
The vinyl version of The Changing of the Guard came with two bonus tracks, one of them being an allegedly acoustic version of "Coconut Trees". Allegedly acoustic, because this version still has an electric guitar playing the instrumental hook.
Your Cheating Heart: Jason has said that Old was partially inspired by friends who wrecked their marriages by committing adultery. Hence the song lyrics like "To find that party / you break all your family ties," (from "New Wife, New Life") and "You know I'm gonna leave her, / I've always been a cheater. / It's a nice try, / you never get your loved one back," (from "The Lights On").
"All praise and glory to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. This has been a Blue Collar Production."