123 AGENCY PRESENTS
Phebe Starr (Miami Shark Bar) Tickets
8:00pm, Sat 8 July, 2017
Miami Tavern, QLD
You may have heard the name, you might recognise one of her songs on the radio, but to fully experience the captivating indie-pop stylings of Phebe Starr, you have to understand the volume of her voice and velocity of her will.
Driven by her passion for emotional and meaningful pop music, and her need to create an identity separate from the culture surrounding her, Starr beamed herself into civilisation from the middle of nowhere, Dorrigo, NSW (population: 1000). She grew up with little money, no Internet, and was isolated on a farm. And yet, she says, "From an early age, I thought about creating. I had this instinct: to believe in the impossible. Is that clich ?" Undeterred by the fact that she didn't play any instruments, the pre-tween taught herself both piano and guitar by ear. "Growing up, everyone tried to tell me how impractical and idealistic I was," Starr says.
Her first stride towards global recognition came three years ago, when she dropped 'Zero', her debut EP. On the strength of her stunning, echoing elegy "Alone With You", everyone from Vogue Magazine to Perez Hilton remarked on her talent, earning her synchs on TV shows, movies, named Glamour Magazine's "14 Badass women of SXSW", millions of streams on Spotify, and even a Samsung commercial. This surprise success galvanised Starreven more, urging her creative drive to write intelligent and emotional pop music, with storytelling.
On March 31st, Starr will drop her anticipated follow-up, Chronicles, which she also co-produced with an array of collaborators. A richly autobiographical EP, it retraces the fantastic journey of how she arrived to where she is now, how she came to understand whom she wanted to be.
At heart, Chronicles is the vibrant sound of her creative floodgates opening. The harp on "Feel My Love" originated from, Starr says, "randomly meeting this girl who plays harp." And the soaring woodwind on the otherwise throbbing "Lavender Scars" comes from a friend in Bali, who plays flute in an orchestra. "I was like, 'Can you just like send me something on your phone?'" Starr explains. "The way I do music now, I'm going to sample stuff and keep it on file to use later. All of these people I meet, I take a little bit of their art and put it into mine." There is no reward, she has learned, without risk.
Meanwhile, the shimmering incantation "They Keep Telling Me" confronts the expectations she's shrugged off. Amid a constellation of female pop artists who too often fall into the trappings of cool-girl or coquettish affectations, Starr is a uniquely, emotionally authentic antidote. "As an artist," she says, "I think it's really important to tell the truth."
"I wrote this track after the worst co-write I've had in my life. Two sexist jerks told me to sit in a room and shut up while they wrote a hit for me. It was humiliating and demoralised the purpose of creativity and the hard work I've put in to creating a life filled with it. It's horrible to have been treated as a stereotype or having to live up to one to be accepted. I wrote this song about my quiet rebellion from those expectations which seem to chase me through life." (Phebe Starr, on 'They Keep Telling Me')
"Wonder," the electro-hymnal closer, sets the overall theme of willful surrender: "My purpose became exploring the mystery of life. There's something incredibly beautiful about that mystery."
"During, the process of this EP, I was wondering if I was taking on more than I could handle, if I was going to be poor forever. Chronicles is me figuring out where I was going artistically. It was a journey of discovery."
And now? "I judge success by how far I've moved forward."