Starcrawler—Greetings from Los Angeles

While out on the road supporting The Distillers this past May, somewhere in the heart of the Motor City, Starcrawler’s lead vocalist Arrow de Wilde is crouched up in a ball at the edge of the stage, purring into the microphone: 

“C’mon Detroit… I thought you were dangerous,” which is perhaps the best example of audience goading that one could possibly witness. 

At this particular gig, Starcrawler receives the typical reaction from fans that most opening acts know well: the crowd is standing around still, simply indifferent to what’s happening on stage. Plus, here in Detroit, the audience is a little confused, after just watching de Wilde crawl onto the stage on her hands and knees and erecting herself upward like a zombie at her microphone stand. Not to mention the fact that they’re not sure what to make of the odd combination of guitarist Henri Cash’s babyface and his grown-ass-man satin suit, one that looks like it was stolen by Jack White from Gram Parson’s closet, and then somehow landed in Cash’s possession. But little did the crowd in Detroit know, less than 6 months, Starcrawler would be taking the rock ‘n’ roll world by storm with the release of their second LP—the outstanding, smart, and hard-rocking Devour You (Rough Trade Records).

The origins of Starcrawler begin where all rock ‘n’ roll dreams first come to fruition: high school. “The band started with Arrow and Austin (Smith, drummer),” says Cash in a conversation via phone while he’s setting up shop at the band’s Los Angeles rehearsal space. “Arrow wanted to be in a band, and so she was trying to find people to play with. She found Austin on Facebook, because he had a picture of himself playing drums, and she had [already] met him through mutual friends…. She was looking for a guitar player but couldn’t seem to find anybody” 

Cash and de Wilde attended the same school but hadn’t talked much and we were in different grades. “One day after school, she came up to me, because she saw that I had a tuba case, and she assumed that if I play tuba, I must play guitar, naturally,” he deadpans. “She asked me if I wanted to jam with them, and I did, and that’s sort of where it all started.” 

Soon the trio started jamming, playing Ramones and Runaways songs, though eventually Starcrawler began writing original songs together. “When we first started writing songs, it was me bringing in song ideas,” says Cash. “But with every song it’s different. A song like (Devour You’s) ‘No More Pennies,’ I pretty much brought the whole thing to the table, and as a band we decided we needed a bridge for it. But songs like ‘Bet My Brains’ (also from Devour You), we all put in an equal share and built the song together at rehearsal. It all depends on the song, really.”

Six months after forming, Starcrawler—still a trio at this point—went into the studio to record their debut single “Ants,” backed up by another original song entitled, “Used to Know.” The sessions were produced and recorded by Steven MacDonald, bassist for Redd Kross, OFF!, and the Melvins. MacDonald actually played bass on the tracks. Cash jokingly remarks, “He was technically our first bass player!”

The recording caught the attention of Rough Trade Records, who signed the group and released their self-titled debut LP in 2018. From there, Starcrawler was off to the races, opening for the likes of the Foo Fighters, Beck, the MC50, and Spoon. They also gained some pretty high-profile fans along the way in the likes of Sir Elton John and Shirley Manson of Garbage. The band spent nearly two years touring in support of their debut before returning back home to their native Los Angeles—and realizing very quickly that Starcrawler was not only the talk of the down, but also in very high demand.

“With (Devour You),” says Cash, “we didn’t have a lot of time, because we were on the road for two years for our last record. Then we got back, and everybody said we needed to make another record. So, I was just at home trying to come up with riffs. I came up with about 20 ideas, and I sent them to the group, and it was pretty much [a] process of elimination—what is cool and what is not cool, you know? Picking out what sounds best for Starcrawler and then building it to make it our own kind of thing.”

Make no mistake, Starcrawler wear their inspirations on their sleeve. On one hand, they are the children (or grandchildren, perhaps) of X’s John Doe and Exene Cervenka. Arrow’s performances evoke a Karen O-meets-Alice Cooper vibe, and the music meshes the swing of Sabbath with the slackerisms of Dinosaur Jr. But in the process, they may well have just saved rock ‘n’ roll from spiraling downward into boredom.