Starfucker: From Doug Firs To Desert

Vortex Music Magazine

STRFKR's Josh Hodges has been looking forward to a year off since moving to L.A. Unfortunately, 2014 wasn't that year—but it did see the much-loved PDX dance makers play both Coachella and Red Rocks while trying to find downtime in the desert at their home away from home in Joshua Tree. Lead photo by Benjamin Wu

Josh Hodges of Starfucker at Bumbershoot in 2011. Photo by Chris YoungJosh Hodges of Starfucker at Bumbershoot in 2011. Photo by Chris Young“Mostly, it’s just being here that’s inspiring to me,” Josh Hodges says on the phone from Joshua Tree, SoCal’s Seussified desert national park filled with the namesake spiky trees, imaginative rock formations and skies of brilliant azure above.

Over the course of the last year or so, the founding member of Starfucker eventually followed the “slow trickle” as bandmates Keil Corcoran and Shawn Glassford made their way south to the City of Angels.

When it comes to calling Portland home, Hodges has “deep roots” (his entire family—parents, aunts, uncles, cousins) and plenty of friends, but in reality, he was physically homeless. “We were touring so much for a while that I just stopped having a place to live. I gave up my room in the house I was living in, and when were weren’t on tour, I’d just stay with friends,” he explains.

Stealing away from his new home in Northeast Los Angeles, Hodges headed out to Joshua Tree before the other guys, hanging out “for a few days by myself writing, just trying to get some stuff done before we go on tour,” he says.

Both practice space and peaceful retreat, the band rent their own house because “it’s cheaper to rent a whole house out in Joshua Tree than to get a practice space in L.A. And it doubles as a nice place to just be,” Hodges laughs. “There’s no distractions and all of our equipment’s out here—it’s conducive to getting work done.”

At least, that was the plan for this year. “This was supposed to be an off year to write and record and not tour at all,” Hodges says.

But really, how could they not tour? You don’t turn down invites to play back-to-back weekends at Coachella; or head out on the road with Portugal. The Man and Grouplove, especially when the tour includes a stop at the legendary Red Rocks; and you definitely don’t deny the opportunity that they’re currently prepping for—the Mad Decent Block Party alongside the likes of Diplo and Fatboy Slim.

STRFKR at Red Rocks: Photo by Wes EisenhauerSTRFKR at Red Rocks: Photo by Wes EisenhauerSo the year didn’t go as planned and the band didn’t find much time to collectively capitalize on the inspiration Hodges feels. Yet, outside of touring, they’ve all been active. Glassford’s been gigging with The Rentals playing bass, Corcoran’s been learning engineering by interning at a studio, and Hodges is continuously writing.

“I’ve met with different songwriters to see if any of us mesh really well together,” Hodges explains. And while “nothing’s really come of most of it,” the experience nonetheless has been energizing—simply being surrounded by “motivated, creative people” who are “trying hard to do their thing.”

Hodges encountered a similar situation immediately following high school when he moved to New York instead of going to college. “I just wanted to go be broke and have my little bohemian daydream living” in the big city, he explains. And although he was trained to hate L.A.—by New Yorkers and Portlanders alike—Hodges frequently spent time in the city during the incessant touring of the past five or six years. “I thought, ‘Actually, there seems like a pretty high quality of life here.’ It’s close enough that I can visit Portland easy. It’s a real city with different cultures that I wouldn’t be exposed to in Portland.”

But for as much as he adores Portland, Hodges acknowledges that it can be an insular, complacency-inducing environment where even passionate, enterprising people can be lulled into passivity. The big cities, with their magnified costs of living, make people hungrier, more determined to eke out a living or make a career of their creative pursuits. Tangible success is required to survive.

Hodges also recognizes that a metropolis is no place for the uninitiated or insecure. “If you’re just starting out, at least in a band, Portland is the perfect place for it,” he says. “It was cheap when I lived there. You could get a house with a basement so you could practice. It’s really hard to find a practice space in L.A. and New York. It’s not a place I would move to if I was just trying to start out.”

Celebrating the sixth birthday of the band’s debut in September, they’ve been touring almost constantly throughout those years. “This year was just supposed to be an off year so that I could write another album,” Hodges mentions again. But it’s not that he hasn’t been writing—he says he’s been writing all the time.

“I have lots of unfinished songs that I’m not really sure what to do with and I just keep making more,” he says. The problem is, many of them don’t seem like they’d work for Starfucker, so “I might do an album under my own name or something,” he reveals.

And even though he has plans to spend more time in the near future writing, he still matter-of-factly admits that he has no idea when the next Starfucker record is coming.

In the meantime, he surrounds himself with experiences and inspiration and looks for the cracks where the band can create together, like a day off in Kansas City when they took a field trip to their sound guy’s studio.

“We actually just tracked our whole set live in-studio and recorded it to tape, which is cool because we’ve never really done that and I feel like we actually sound better that way than when I record everything on my own,” Hodges laughs. “Maybe we’ll release a live from-the-studio album someday.”

As daytime brings warmth to the dusty, dry desert while sparkling stars fill crisp nights, “I wish I could spend more time out here,” Hodges says of Joshua Tree.

The feeling genuinely applies to the whole of his newly adopted home. Without taking a breath, Hodges immediately knows his favorite thing about L.A.: “I love the nature, which is not what people think of. But I can be completely surrounded by nature and hiking on the mountain with a 10-minute drive from my house.” It takes just 40 minutes to drive to the coast while the Angeles National Forest is even closer. “I just think that stuff is amazing: You can be in one of the biggest cities in the country and then completely feel like you’re not anywhere near a city even though you’re right there.”

But with just as little hesitation, he can tell you what he hates: “The cops—they’re scary in L.A. It feels like a police state. Getting pulled over is scary and I’m a fucking white guy. I’ve had jaywalking tickets… they’re really intense.”

And while he prefers In-N-Out to Burgerville, you can feel his ambivalence in the declaration. But, there’s one critical thing that’ll always be steadfast: Hodges is still a Trail Blazers fan through and through.

“I tried to make the Clippers my second team but I fucking hate them. I just can’t do it.”

But two local basketball teams are a blessing because he has twice the opportunity to see the Blazers when they come to town. “I’m lucky in that way.”

Astronauts at the 2013 Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco: Photo by Autumn AndelAstronauts at the 2013 Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco: Photo by Autumn Andel

STRFKR On The Flaming Lips-esque Live Extravaganza

If you’ve seen the band live in the last few years, you’ve likely noticed an evolution: Graduating from dressing like ladies, you can now witness crowd-surfing sumos, pyramid flag-bearing astronauts braving Class V crowd rapids in an inflatable raft, and aliens, Easter bunnies, panda bears or luchadores right before a nude blow-up doll slaps you in the face.

“We just wanted to try and help cultivate the weirdo, do-whatever-you-want vibe with all of the antics and costumes. I’m not sure how much we’ve spent on all that shit. It’s all pretty cheap when you buy in bulk, plus our dolls aren’t exactly top of the line.”

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