Music with Bite: Phebe Starr

March 21st 2011

Phebe Starr is one part jazzy songstress, two parts J-pop junkie, a dash of unapologetic joy and best served straight up with a hefty side of whimsy. So I was pretty stoked when Starr (yep, that’s her real name) battled a dodgy phone connection and pesky construction workers to shed a little light on her music, her vision and the brilliance of dinosaur noises.

Combining a string of wonderfully upbeat songs written over the past year, Starr’s first EP (cheerfully titled Pink Lemonade) launches at Oxford Art Factory this Friday. The title itself is meant to tap into Starr’s ‘it’s all good’ state of mind. “I usually write really dark songs,” reveals the muso, “but it had come to a point where everything was just very dandy … I think it’s harder to write from that place. It’s easier to write emotions but to express just peace is hard. Pink Lemonade is an item that brings you joy, it’s just a simple thing like when a kid has an ice cream and they just smile, it’s meant to represent that simply joy in life.”

You’d think that a fantastically upbeat album like this would be intensely person but Starr believes there’s still plenty of room for interpretation. “Each song is special and they have all come from a place that means something particular. I could tell you a personal story behind all of them but I think what is special is that other people can get their own stories out of them.”

Free OAF launches and up-front titles aside, one of Starr’s most charming traits is her mild dinosaur obsession. Naming the feather-covered Raptor as her favourite prehistoric being (after validating my own appreciation of the Pterodactyl), Starr finds it fascinating that scientists spend years in laboratories imaging what these creatures may have sounded like. In her eyes these scientists are just like musicians – making up noise that they simply forget to copyright. Understandably, we can expect a few of these roars and screeches to make an appearance in Friday’s free gig.

Coming form a family who play for nothing but melodic love, music has always been in Starr’s blood. “My mother used to joke that when I could talk I was writing music against the classical radio station.” And it’s this natural talent, rather than a desire to show off her extensive (albeit unconventional) musical training, that makes Starr’s style so refreshing. “I used to play jazz music in a resort and one of the resident musicians taught me a bit there … and I have been studding at the Australian Institute of Music but I don’t really look at my art and have that training as my focus. I’m just trying to get the best out of each instrument to make it a peaceful thing.”

After unleashing three solo tracks upon the world during 2010 Starr released Pink Lemonade in New Zealand back in January. She is joined for the Sydney launch by her lovely band members on synths, beats and guitar who help give her genre mash of intelligent pop, electro and jazz extra rhythmic life. And in exchange for her idiosyncratic soundscapes Starr is asking future audience members to send any dinosaur pictures or sounds through to for her to post on her website. You just know she’s going to put them to good use.


Friday 25 March
Oxford Art Factory



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