Notes from the Underground: Being in a Brooklyn Band – Starlight Girls Edition

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*Today’s Musician’s Journal comes from lead singer Christina B of Brooklyn-based genre-undefining hyper weirdos that are making music to swim dangerously to. While drawing from eclectic influences that reflect the varied musical background of the five members, the band is always playing the perfect soundtrack for surfer spies who like to rock out. Starlight Girls are releasing their debut full length album “Fantasm” October 13th. 

Notes from the Underground: Being in a Brooklyn Band

by Christina B

Most of a Brooklyn band’s creative energy goes not into making music, but to making miracles. At least that’s how it is for my band, Starlight Girls. How many Google calendars does it take to get six erratically employed musicians into a windowless 10×10 room twice a week to rehearse? And what if that room is shared with six other musicians? How do you pay for rent, gas, gear, insurance, web sites, and all those parking tickets when the masses aren’t buying what you’re selling? How do you make albums and music videos without savings, investors, or a record label? 

The answer is that most of us work all day, then we work some more. Musicians are sensitive creatures, and the manic energy of the city envelops us. We absorb the ambition of everyone we encounter in the world’s most notoriously ambitious city. We learn hustle from the entrepreneurs we bartend for, from the executives at our temp jobs, and from the weed dealers in our buildings. We stay up late, ignore our physical needs, and are only really happy when we’re working on something. Attempts at a typical social life leave us feeling disappointed and alienated. Our closest friends and allies are the ones who make time to collaborate with us.

After twelve years of living in the city and having myriad zany New York experiences (living in a railroad apartment with a work-at-home prostitute! Living in a haunted loft on 42nd Street! Having my first band break up due to an art world sex scandal!), my life is now mostly centered on a loftspace hub in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood with a cute nickname I’d rather not say lest I help drive up the rent. Artists flow in and out of what seems to be the last affordable live-work space in the borough. We collaborate in rooms filled with musical instruments, lumber, art supplies, tech prototypes, and mice.

As per the Don Henley song, things change fast in New York, and the guys who live at our coveted hangout hold on tooth and nail as every other surrounding building becomes home to an overpriced restaurant or boutique thrift shop.  Just a few years ago, the building’s first floor was the media headquarters for Occupy Wall Street (before it was dubiously vacated by the police). Recently, the side of the entire building was painted over with an ad for Coach handbags.

Fresh-faced kids seem to be piped into the neighborhood from private colleges in towns unknown, and somehow they can all afford to live and play here. In many cases now, Manhattan is cheaper than Brooklyn. As transplants ourselves, we’re privileged, but we still struggle. My bandmates take all the work they can to get by. Nannying, mannying, bouncing, teaching, gigging, and temping–no one feels right about saying no to any opportunity. I get by doing remote freelance work, but for my bandmates, going on tour means risking any stability they’ve achieved, and even our best tours have barely broken even.

Whenever I slow down, I realize years of overwork have taken a physical toll. As we release our first full-length (our third release in all), I’m trying to learn to rest. I’ve just started bouncing between living in nature upstate (where I suddenly enjoy things like “peace” and “having a personal life”) and couch surfing in Brooklyn, where the concrete and crowds don’t interest me anymore, and the biggest pleasure comes from pushing towards the next song, the next album, the next show, the next tour.

Making it work here as a band is challenging, but I can’t seem to call it quits. Every time I’ve stepped away,  I’ve come back twice as hungry. Maybe it’s because I know that nothing else I could be doing with my life is perfect, either.  Or maybe it’s because I get a warm feeling when my bandmates are all in the same room. Because I love producing music and hearing the finished product. Because peaking onstage is a religious experience. Because sometimes it’s all really, really fun.

– Christina B (Starlight Girls)

Check out the 1st two singles from the Starlight Girls debut album Fantasm, due out October 13th:

Starlight Girls links:

Website: http://www.starlightgirls.net/

Facebook: @starlightgirls

Twitter: @starlightgirls

Instagram: @starlightgirls

* Musician’s Journal: This is a new series we will be publishing from different young musicians as they work through the exciting times of a young, up and coming band trying to make it, whether it’s going on a big tour, trying to put out a record, etc. This is from the musicians mouth to you. It’s meant to give an inside, behind the scenes look at the good, the bad, the struggles, the exhilarating happenings of being a musician in today’s world and the hard work that it takes to “make it.”

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Mike Gerry

Head music fiend at OpenEars Music

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