Doing time with STRFKRIt’s been a month of some serious highs and lows for Portland-based indie-electro dance-rock group Starfucker (STRFKR). They kicked off a North American tour in support of their second full-length release, Reptilians. Then there was the headline-making arrest of guitarist Ryan Biornstad in Austin, Texas, during South By Southwest, forcing the cancellation of two shows. A day later, the tour van broke down en route to their next gig. Now, thanks to fan support and sold-out shows, they’ve extended their tour — which brings them to the Biltmore this Friday — and just announced their first stint of festival gigs, including Calgary’s Sled Island in June. Drummer Keil Corcoran checked in with WE from a tour stop in Boston, offering his uncensored thoughts on the police, STRFKR lead singer Joshua Hodges, and cute kitties.
WE: What’s your background?
Keil Corcoran: Musically I started playing punk rock as a kid and then moved on to playing, like, thrash grind metal stuff when I was late-teens, like Napalm Death and shit like that. I kinda got sick of that. It’s fun to play, but I didn’t really enjoy listening to it, so I started getting into electronic stuff. I did a lot of programming for a few years, you know, writing, like, shitty techno music. Then I started playing drums again. I actually stopped for three years and started again and here we are!
Where does shitty techno music get played?
I’m pretty sure the shitty techno music I was making wasn’t getting played anywhere. It was really awful.
What’s it like to come on board to something that started as a solo project?
It’s good. It pretty much still operates similarly to how it did in the beginning. Just Josh has to show us all the shit instead of just learning it himself. I mean, we write our own parts somewhat, but Josh always has direction for it and is the mastermind behind the project. It’s fun. I respect the hell out of what Josh does, so I was really excited to play with the band. I think he’s a brilliant dude.
How’d you guys meet?
I was playing with another band in Portland and we went on tour with Starfucker through Washington and we just kind of hit it off as homies and he liked the way I played drums because I’m really into playing with a click track, so he needed a drum machine man and I fit the bill.
The music sounds like it has some complicated minds behind it.
Yeah, well, I wouldn’t say the music is complicated, it’s just executing all that shit on the record live is pretty complicated just because there’s so much of it and we have to figure out who plays what and what instrument should be used to play that. There’s just a lot of technical shit that I hate, because I usually end up helping with the technical aspect.
Is it Josh coming up with everything or are you guys contributing to the sound?
Live, definitely we all contribute, but on the record it’s for the most part Josh. Although, for the newest one, we all had a little bit of input, which is awesome.
How has that transition to a more collaborative process worked?
It’s been really good actually. I feel like the new record’s probably the best sounding record that we have. And, on that one, I helped Josh a little bit with structuring the songs, wrote a couple keyboard parts here and there, and Ryan recorded a bunch of stuff and so did Sean, everybody had a hand in it, and we also had a producer work on that one, which is a first. He was amazing and it helped a lot for sure.
You’ve had plenty of back and forth with the band’s name...I like the way STRFKR sounds.
Yeah, we’ve grown into it. I don’t hate it anymore, which I did initially. When I started playing with them, my girlfriend was like, ‘Are they all douchebags or something?’ and I’m like, ‘No, they’re really fucking cool guys.’
I’ve read that part of the inspiration for this album was the passing of Josh’s grandmother.
There’s a song pretty much about that, but more specifically I think it’s pretty much about death or whatever. Oh, wait, there’s a kitty out here and I’m trying to let it inside the house. I don’t even know if it’s the people’s we’re staying with but it looks really cute. All right, it’s walking away now. Never mind. Okay, so yeah, Josh is just kind of obsessed with death and dying, he’s kind of like a hypochondriac, he always thinks he has cancer and shit like that. (Sighs) So, yeah, all the songs are pretty much him obsessing over death and dying. Yeah, he’s a weirdo. (Laughs)
What happened at South By with Ryan’s arrest?
He has a court date now. Yeah, we really only managed to get him out of jail because Josh’s friend was dating a lawyer that lives in Austin and he knew the judge in charge of the case, so we got Ryan out about 10 hours after he got arrested, but we still missed two shows. It was really bizarre. Ryan was just standing in the street and a cop pulled up and told him to get out of the street and so he did and he put a piece of equipment down on the sidewalk and the cop’s like, ‘Okay, I’m giving you a ticket.’ And Ryan pulls his ID out and as soon as he does, another cop comes up and is like, ‘You’re fucking getting arrested!’ And he just puts him in cuffs and like, without reading him his rights, throws him in the fucking cop car. Like, all within the space of 30 seconds or so, maybe a minute.
Yeah, it was the worst, weird, fucking fascist display I’ve ever seen in my life.
What happens now? He has to go back to Austin for the court date?
Yeah, we’re thinking that — well, the lawyer guy was saying there’s a pretty good possibility that he can get it thrown out... And then the next day, our fucking van broke down. And we got towed to our show. It’s been an interesting tour so far. Actually, after that it’s been good. Ryan fixed the van himself, like went and bought a new computer and had it programmed and put it in the van himself, and the van’s been working perfect ever since.
Does this make you feel more politically charged?
I’ve always hated the fucking police. Fuck those assholes. (Laughs) I think they’re all a bunch of fucking macho dickheads and they suck. Every kid I’ve ever grown up with who turned into a cop was initially a fucking a dick.
Starfucker plays Friday, Apr. 22 at the Biltmore (395 Kingsway) 8pm. $13 from Zulu Records, Red Cat Records, Highlife and TicketWeb.ca.