DRONE, post-classical, ambient… Adam Wiltzie has heard all the descriptors for Stars of the Lid, his two- decades-plus collaboration with Brian McBride. Fashions come and go but Stars of the Lid are happy to keep doing what they do and let others worry about the details.
He recalls how when the duo first emerged from Texas in 1993, they became part of the firmament anointed by celebrated music journalist Simon Reynolds known as ‘post-rock’, a loose collection of bands whose only connection was their shared unwillingness to create music in the conventional rock verse-chorus-verse idiom. Instead, they created music that was more freeform in structure and embraced other genres such as jazz, dub, and krautrock.
“Suddenly we were post-rock and everyone thought we lived in this big house together and all made music together,” says Wiltzie with a weary shrug. “And now I guess we’re neo classical? I don’t know. It’s fine. I’ve never been very good about classifying what I do. I just make art.”
While grunge and alt rock was exploding around them, Wiltzie and McBride bonded over a shared love of 20th century French composer Erik Satie and godfather of ambient music Brian Eno.
“We’re both music lovers. We like all kinds of music. I don’t think we were particularly trying to do one type of music. Minimalist drone music was a big influence on us.
“Minimalism was there because, let’s be honest, we just weren’t very good at what we did. Learning to craft compositions takes time and we didn’t study, so it took maybe a little bit longer time,” says Wiltzie, who adds that they arrived at their sound as a result of not really knowing what they were doing.
“But there is also something that can be beautiful about that when you’re just sort of discovering how to find your voice inside you. So there was sentiments, these feelings we were sort of searching, but I think some of the early records there was little more of a happy accident.”
Stars of the Lid released an album a year from 1995 to 1999, but the 21st century has seen a marked decrease in productivity. Nevertheless, there is more than enough music contained within 2001’s The Tired Sounds of Stars of The Lid and 2007’s Stars Of The Lid And Their Refinement Of The Decline.
This current tour is their first major one since 2007, but while the duo continue to write material, both have become engrossed in their own separate projects. For Wiltzie that has meant working with composer Dustin O’Halloran on his A Winged Victory For The Sullen project, as well as entering into the world of composing for film, which includes work on a forthcoming Jennifer Aniston and Toni Collette Iraq war feature, The Yellow Birds.
“I like working on films but it’s another beast altogether,” he reflects. “They’re commissioned pieces, so you have to please other people. Well, you definitely have to leave your ego at the door because get ready to be micromanaged. But the pay is good and, c’mon, it’s fun. And when it works, when you have those moments of music and image come together, it’s really special.”
The challenge, says Wiltzie, is finding the time to be selfish towards Stars of the Lid, but the earliest his diary will allow that is in 12 months. And first is the small matter of heading out on tour as part of Johann Johannsson’s band as the Icelandic composer tours his forthcoming album.
“It’s in no way have we broken up or we don’t care about the project,” he reassures fans. “Everything’s always moved at a glacial pace with us. One day we will finish this record. I promise. I promise.”