Chicago’s Kerosene Stars is composed of Scott Schaafsma (bass, vocals), Andy Seagram (guitar, backing vocals), Jim Adair (drums), and Tom Sorich (percussion).The band released its debut EP in 2011, a self-titled album in 2014, and a series of EPs, 2015-2017.
“Don’t Pass Me By” is the second single in a series of eleven that Kerosene Stars have released with more music in the pipeline for the next year and a half. It follows “Where Have You Been?,” which Big Stir Records released last week (“Don’t Pass Me By” is the digital “B-side”)
Sweet Sweet Music spoke with Scott Schaafsma about what’s good and what’s not, what’s overdone or too cliché, but especially about how the music of Kerosene Stars is created.
When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?
I’ve always wanted input from bandmates on what’s good and what’s not, what’s overdone or too cliché, etc. Even though I generally present the songs core structure as mostly completed to the group, I try to be mindful not to micromanage what parts someone plays and allow for each individual’s artistic contribution to come through in the song rather than forcing an unnatural reproduction of a part to be performed precisely as I envisioned it or like another band member may have done previously.
This way of working gives the overall feeling of ownership to each performer, creates a more positive experience, and allows us to play the same songs in varying ways, making our live sets less routine and machine-like and a bit more fun.
How great is the urge to stay creative, to keep writing songs and lyrics?
Since I was a child, I’ve been writing lyrics and creating songs, even if only in my head. The need to continue to create earworms to share with the world has only become more important to me as I get older.
As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?
It’s always nerve-racking to reveal your creative soul to the world, no matter the size of the stage. If you aren’t feeling a bit of anxiety before each performance, then you’re probably doing it wrong. Sometimes the most anxiety-inducing shows are the ones where you know the audience is actually paying attention.
When was the last time you thought, ‘I just wrote a hit!’?
Sunday, August 25th, 2019. 2:45 pm. The result is the latest single, “Where Have You Been?” and it took me about 40 minutes to write, start to finish. Another single called “Stay Low” will be released in the coming months and was written the same day, sort of simultaneously with this one.
Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?
“Brecon Beacons”- Supergrass.
“Fools Gold” – Stone Roses.
“Watching the Detectives” – Elvis Costello.
“Stagger Lee” – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.
“Reptile” – The Church.
“Jonathon Fisk” – Spoon.
“Big Exit” – PJ Harvey… wait, did you say 5?
Recording music. What’s all the fun about?
Creating an eternal aural sculpture with your friends; there’s an awful amount of work that goes into the process, but once it’s completed and out there, it will live on and be heard somewhere, someday, by someone whether the band is still on earth or not. It gives me chills to think that 50 years from now, Kerosene Stars songs could still be heard and appreciated.
Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?
When there is a crowd, and the crowd is interested in what you are presenting to them.
You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?
Kerosene Stars strives to create high-quality recordings both sonically and artistically. The vision we lean towards is best described as “if Elvis Costello were making ‘This Years Model’ in the modern era.” The writing isn’t from the 70s, but most of the instruments and gear are, so we naturally get that quality, but with technology, we can achieve the presence and aural colors in a way that puts our unique spin on things. I want to hear a particular sonic quality, a hard to describe energy and feeling from the vocals and band mix so that maybe in the future, it’d be hard to know precisely what time period these songs were recorded.
Enjoy Talk Talk, which was released in 2016. You can buy the Burn the Evidence ep here.