Photo by Becky DiGiglio
In the spirit of Providence, Rhode Island’s penchant for odd musical offspring, Made up of members of Arab on Radar, Athletic Automation, Mahi Mahi and Six Finger Satellite, Providence, Rhode Island’s The Chinese Stars were Eric Paul, Craig Kureck, V. Von Ricci (who took over for Richard Pelletier), and Paul Vieira. The band took their music in an upbeat, dancepunk-centered direction with the formation of The Chinese Stars, lasting long enough to produce four albums full of unbridled energy and dark humor. Though the band is no longer creating new music, three of the four members went on to form Doomsday Student, who recently released their third LP, A Self-Help Tragedy.
Inspired by a European Doomsday Student tour earlier this year, The Chinese Stars’ fourth LP, Heaven on Speed Dial, was rereleased by Three One G Records digitally on May 19. The fourth and final album from The Chinese Stars, was a departure from the intensely spastic, discordant sound of a predecessor like Arab on Radar or what would later become Doomsday Student, all of which have the common thread of vocalist Eric Paul and drummer Craig Kureck. This music had a deceptively straightforward, upbeat sound– funky, dance-inspiring and catchy in comparison. This in no way suggests that it didn’t also have bite, though– the tracklist should be enough to evidence this by way of a title like “No Car No Blowjob”. Listen carefully and quickly realize that it is as catchy as it is confrontational. There is a perverse playfulness to it all, which is what makes the band’s music so memorable years later.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Paul to discuss the band’s tour with The Blood Brothers, calling it quits, the move to other projects, and their legacy.
What was it that inspired Chinese Stars to take up the weirdo flag in the first place?
Arab On Radar had just dissolved and playing in a band was all Craig and I ever knew — we’d been doing it most of our lives –so we approached two musicians in town that we admired (Rick Pelletier and Paul Vieira) and asked them about forming a new band.
The band was both catchy and confrontational. Is that a spirit that you lauded yourselves on?
The catchiness was a more or less a challenge that we had set for ourselves. After the cacophony of Arab On Radar we were looking to stay within a similar aesthetic but at the same time explore aspects of songwriting and sounds that we were unfamiliar with. The confrontational aspects of Chinese Stars were inherent, in the same way that it exists in everything I’ve been part of.
What were your proudest accomplishments with the group?
Some of my best memories with the band were from our tour with The Blood Brothers. I felt Chinese Stars was in good form and because The Blood Brothers were so popular we were able to play in front of huge crowds in some exciting venues. On top of it, we really connected with them as people and we’ve remained great friends ever since. And I’m really proud of the song “The Drowning.”
When and why did Chinese Stars call it quits?
We stopped playing shortly after Heaven on Speed Dial came out but we never “broke up.” Craig and I went on to do some reunion shows with Arab On Radar and then Doomsday Student started up. We never returned to writing with Chinese Stars. We are all still great friends — I guess with a few rehearsals we could always play a show or two?
Three of the four of you moved on to Doomsday Student right? And you’ll be touring this Summer?
Yes. I’m actually writing you from Austria — we play Vienna tonight as part of a tour. Then we are doing a handful of one-offs when we get home including shows with Lydia Lunch’s Retrovirus and Lightning Bolt.
Is the Heaven on Speed Dial LP out-of-print?
The LP is out of print.
Did the DS tour have anything to do with now being the right time for the re-release?
Sort of. Doomsday was about to embark on a bunch of shows to support the new album, A Self-Help Tragedy, so we thought it would be the best time for a reissue.
What are you hoping that people who hear it for the first time now take away from it?
When I get into conversations with people about the bands I’ve been in –most people make a point of telling me which band they like the best. I enjoy this. I prefer people to view what I’ve done as more of a strange journey than just as a person in a specific band. A lot of the same people continue to go the shows and buy the albums but they just have their personal favorites. So, I’d love for people to look at Chinese Stars as a phase or a point of a career where I was exploring a slightly different aspects aspects of the music I’m part of. Whether you like one era better than another that’s great — I just feel grateful that anyone supported any of it and I am able to still do it.
What are you hoping the lasting legacy of the band is?
More or less what I was saying in the previous answer — I’d love for people to judge it against the background of all the bands, albums, and songs I’ve worked on.
(Purchase the LP here: http://threeoneg.com/archive/digital-only/heaven-on-speed-dial.)