British rockers Starsailor are wrapping up work on their third album, due for release this fall. Written in Wigan, England, and recorded in Los Angeles with producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith), the follow-up to 2004’s Silence Is Easy is the young band’s first politically charged work.
“Getting married and having a kid was a huge influence on [Silence],” says singer/guitarist James Walsh. “[The new record] is more outward-looking, more influenced by what’s going on in the world.”
The album’s dozen tracks touch on war victims in the Middle East, the true account of a Jewish boy who died mysteriously after crossing paths with a neo-Nazi organization, and the ongoing Protestant-Catholic conflict in Walsh’s adopted home of Belfast, Northern Ireland. This last clash comes to life on the lyrical song “Get Out While You Can,” which tells of a family member’s experience being bullied because of her religious persuasion.
“I’m very aware of the fact that there are people who’ve been living here a lot longer than me and have a much better grip on the situation,” Walsh says. “But there was one [instance] where my sister-in-law came back shaken up because she’d been verbally abused while waiting for a train for being on the ‘wrong’ side of Christianity. It was just fascinating, coming here and your political stance and religion becoming so important to people.”
Sonically, Walsh, keyboardist Barry Westhead, bassist James Stelfox and drummer Ben Byrne sought, are returning to the big choruses and raw emotions of their 2002 debut, Love Is Here. For Walsh, that meant taking inspiration from a host of critically acclaimed contemporaries. “You go into the vocal booth and think that this has got to be as pure and pristine as Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Buckley — but with the aggression and rock & roll attitude of [Oasis frontman] Liam Gallagher,” he says. “Trying to find that balance can be like trying to achieve the impossible, but you’ve got to go for it.”
Having just turned twenty-five, Walsh says the new album represents a more mature Starsailor, no longer burdened by being labeled the “next big thing” in the U.K. press four years ago. “It’s really bizarre to be so well-established [in Britain],” he says. “At times you feel that you’re not allowed to progress, but now we feel confident that we’re up there with the best of them.”