Starbenders Shine A Light On The Children Of The Night
Over the last 60+ years, rock bands have occupied an incredibly influential spot in our culture. They wield the power to convince the masses to accept ridiculous fashion trends, do copious amounts of drugs, and willingly damage their hearing. But they can also raise millions of dollars for noble causes, like Live Aid in 1985, and occasionally use their influence to raise awareness of issues gnawing away at helpless victims in the darkest corners of the world.
I sat down with Aaron Lecesne & Emily Moon, the bassist and drummer, respectively, of one of Atlanta’s biggest local bands - Starbenders - late on a Thursday evening to chat a little about the group, some cool things they’ve done lately, and their upcoming benefit tour supporting Children of the Night, which kicks off at The Masquerade in Atlanta on Saturday, July 14th, and continues across the country to The Echo in Los Angeles. Children of the Night is a non-profit organization that fights child sex trafficking, rescues victims, and provides victims who find themselves targeted by law enforcement with invaluable legal resources. Starbenders’ goal is to raise both money and awareness for the cause, using their superhero-like rock band powers for good.
How long have Starbenders been together?
Aaron: We’ve been a band for about four years. We just hit the four year mark.
Emily: Happy Bandiversary to us!
How would you describe the band’s message and vibe for people who don’t already know?
Aaron: We’ve always said that we do rock ‘n’ roll, nothing more, nothing less. There’s nothing complicated about it. I’ve noticed, as we’ve progressed as a band - we’re actually writing new music now - we’ve gradually stopped giving a fuck about any rules, especially stylistically or anything like that. It’s become this thing like anything goes; whatever sounds good.
Do you feel like you’ve reached your own sound, where you don’t have to pull from other influences? Like you know what Starbenders music would sound like?
Aaron: I don’t know what our sound is. I don’t know what we’re going to come up with next.
Emily: It’s always evolving. It’s fun. It’s an open book.
What would you say are the band’s goals in the future?
Emily: I want to play the world!
Aaron: This year’s been really exciting for us. As far as things that are on the horizon, we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing, which is writing a lot, touring a lot, growing as musicians and as people... We’ll keep doing what we’re doing and do more of it.
Last time we talked, you were building a mailing list for promoting your upcoming record at the time - the Julian EP - and you were previewing it song by song. How do you feel about bands releasing singles instead of albums? Do you think albums are becoming a thing of the past?
Emily: I think you have to keep people involved, and that’s why singles are awesome. Everyone’s attention span is super short nowadays. One single comes out and then it’s gone. Constantly putting stuff out is necessary.
Just a constant stream to keep peoples’ attention?
Aaron: That’s definitely the band’s position. We want to give people something to latch onto. At the same time, we like records, because there’s something purposeful - especially with vinyl - and deliberate about saying, “I’m going to put this vinyl on.” You have to do a little work, and you have to go through a process before you drop the needle on it.
Emily: There’s a whole story involved.
Aaron: It’s not something that’s just background noise. I mean, if that’s what someone wants out of our music, we’re glad to give them that. It’s okay if you want to listen to our stuff in the car, while you shop, or whatever. But if you want something to immerse yourself in, then you have that option. With our albums you can do that.
You recently filmed a studio session with Audiotree. I’ve always wanted to do one of those. What was that like?
Emily: It was great. A dream come true.
Aaron: It definitely felt like checking one off the bucket list.
Emily: I’ve been watching those sessions for so many years. It was so cool.
What do you think the benefits are for bands releasing that kind of content, where it’s essentially a live show minus the audience?
Aaron: I don’t know if this applies to every band, but it’s true for us...our live performances are very chaotic. There’s a lot of energy. There’s a lot of sweat. It’s a very physical performance. Then there’s also the crowd energy too. Doing it in a studio like Audiotree kind of takes that hurricane and delivers it so people can focus on a fill that the drummer does, or they can appreciate a harmony, or a guitar line, or see what the bassist is doing. .
You just released Julian, but you also mentioned you’ve been recording. Are you guys tackling it like singles, like a record? Where’s the new stuff going?
Aaron: It depends. We write constantly, and we try to track things as often as we can, so who knows what these will wind up being?
Your upcoming gig on Saturday, July 14th at the Masquerade is a charity event supporting Children of the Night. Tell me a little about them.
Aaron: They make efforts to not only help, but reintegrate victims of child sex trafficking. They help them out with social workers, lawyers, and help them reintegrate into society so they have a home and can recover. A weird thing that people don’t consider about sex trafficking is that even if the victim is unwilling, they can still be criminally prosecuted because it’s effectively prostitution. That’s a terrible thing, so Children of the Night also makes sure the victims have access to professional lawyers and social workers. They’re also lobbying for different legislation to prevent the criminalization of children who are obviously victims.
How does that purpose align with the band’s message? It’s clearly a good thing, but do you have a personal attachment?
Aaron: We were all kind of struck by how pervasive the problem was, but it doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention because it’s an awkward and uncomfortable subject for a lot of people. If it’s not awkward and uncomfortable, then it’s heartbreaking. It’s hard to talk about. It’s hard to think about. I’ve noticed that for as big a deal as this is, as big a problem as this is, it doesn’t quite get the attention that it should, so we're doing what we can to fix the problem. We’re doing this to raise awareness. It seems like the kids in these situations are often runaways. They have abusive home lives. They might come from the foster care system...
They’re refugees of a broken system.
Aaron: Right. They’re overlooked, and we think there’s something unjust about that. We’ve done this before with different organizations.
How would a band get involved with a charity organization to set up shows like this?
Aaron: All it really takes is reaching out. Most are happy to have their cause put on display. Most are happy for anybody to volunteer, donate, or otherwise champion their cause. I would say to musicians who are wanting to do something like this, don’t be timid. Don’t be afraid to reach out because most charities are very responsive.
Children of the Night has rescued 10,000 children since their formation in 1979. Their 24/7 toll-free hotline number is (800) 551-1300.
Tickets for the Children of the Night Tour kickoff show can be purchased in-person at the Masquerade box office, or online at this link.
Full Children of the Night Tour schedule:
July 14 - Atlanta, GA - Masquerade
July 16 - New Orleans, LA - Gasa Gasa
July 19 - Dallas, TX - Three Links
July 20 - Austin, TX - Electric Church
July 25 - Los Angeles, CA - The Echo
Starbenders will also be joining Alice In Chains on the road for the following dates this Fall:
Aug 22 - Vancouver, BC - Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Aug 25 - Seattle, WA - White River Amptheatr
Aug 26 - Portland (Ridgefield, WA) - Sunlight Supply Amphitheatre
Aug 28 - Paso Robles, CA - Vino Robles Amphitheatre
Aug 29 - Los Angeles, CA - Hollywood Palladium
Aug 31 - Riverside, CA - Riverside Municipal Auditorium
Sep 01 - Las Vegas, NV - The Pearl
Sep 03 - Tucson, AZ - Tucson Music Hall
Sep 04 - El Paso, TX - Abraham Chavez Theatre
Sep 06 - Austin, TX - ACL Live
Sep 07 - Houston, TX - Revention Music Center
Sep 08 - Dallas, TX - Pavilion @ Toyota Music Factory
Sep 10 - Tulsa, OK - Brady Theatre
Sep 11 - Kansas City, MO - Midland Theatre
Sep 13 - Denver, CO - Fillmore
Sep 15 - Phoenix, AZ - Comerica Theatre
Photo credit: Vegas Giovanni.