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Been Stellar: "I hope that people are able to get a little bit lost in our music"

10 May, 2024

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On Saturday, May 18, 2024, we will be welcoming the New York indie rock band Been Stellar to our stage during London Calling Festival. We sit down with band members Nico, Skyler, Sam, Nando and Laila, who recently wrapped up a tour with The 1975, delving into new experiences and challenges along the way. When speaking about their upcoming debut album 'Scream from New York, NY', we're offered a glimpse into a rather surprising mix of influencial elements, going from Wittgenstein to primal noises, and 'carving back layers of bullshit' on the road to self discovery.

"Going back to what we know and love"

You’ve recently finished touring with The 1975, what was that like for you?
Sam
: We’ve never done a tour like that before, and supporting them was definitely a big learning experience, when it comes to touring at that level and stages that big. It was also one of the longer tours we’ve done, so we’ve seen parts of the world we’ve never seen before, so there was definitely a lot of new going on.
Nando
: For me personally it’s been the longest I’ve ever been away from home. It was really a long time.

Did such a large-scale tour require a lot of adjusting compared to your usual touring experience?

Sam
: I think we managed it really well. We’ve gone on a few tours over the past couple of years, so we’ve gotten pretty familiar with how it needs to run and certain things that make it work. Typically when we tour it’s not luxurious whatsoever: sleeping on floors or couches, and of course there would also be hostels, but they were definitely a little ‘rougher’, so in the past, little things like that could pile up, making it pretty difficult to maintain a good vibe. This tour was on another level though, we were lucky that their crew helped us out with things like carrying our gear and we also had catering every night for dinner, which was an entirely different world for us, so I think that also made it a lot easier. That will not be the norm though, when we go back on the road for our own headline tour.
Nando
: Back to cramming all our gear into small hostels.
Sam
: Going back to what we know and love.

Been Stellar

Been Stellar

All In One

On Wittgenstein, primal noises and carving back layers of bullshit

Your debut album 'Scream From New York, NY' is set to come out in June, can you tell us a little bit about the existential themes throughout the album and how they came about?
Sam
: Skyler is a philosophy major and I studied writing a bit. We’re all pretty open minded people, and we like to have discussions with each other about things like that. When we were working on the song ‘All in One’, Skyler was brought to this idea by a James Joyce quote, ‘In the particular is contained the universal’. We really don’t talk like that all the time -most of the time we’re saying really stupid stuff to each other- but we were having kind of a philosophical moment and that was an interesting idea to us. In our lives, the most simple, mundane moments are actually settings that tether everything together, and it’s something we’ve been trying to say for years now, I think.

Is incorporating elements of literature and philosophy into your music a deliberate goal for you?

Sam
: To be honest about it, we’ve been trying to concern ourselves less with these ‘big brained ideas’. If I had a list of my ten favourite songs, I don’t know if any of them have to do with solipsism, or existential ideas. I do think it’s a cool element to our music and it’s not something that we’re trying to lose -I don’t even think we could, because it’s just a part of us- but we want to look at more real world ideas and practical things that happen to us, through less of a critical lens, if you know what I mean. A lot of those elements pop up throughout the album, but there’s other stuff going on too.

What’s the other stuff about?

Skyler
: The main character for this record is obviously New York and the idea that this city kind of forces you to speak without talking. The whole concept of the screams is a big thing. You constantly hear screams in New York: whether they’re happy screams or bad screams, the nature of the city kind of forces people to let out these ‘primal noises’. I think that really interested us, and how when you get used to it, it becomes like white noise. When we came up with it I was reading a lot of Wittgenstein and became interested in his idea that we’re using contaminated tools to convey contaminated ideas. He says that the reason why the process of philosophy and the process of literature is still this ongoing thing, is because language doesn’t allow us to get to any of these answers. It’s an inadequate way of really conveying the human experience and that the moments where you do feel true understanding, are moments that words are not required. Some of the most important realisations you’ll have in your life, are shown to you rather than said to you. So we wanted to explore those screams and the blur of city noise from that angle.

Can you name an example for you personally where you felt great ideas or feelings were being conveyed without words?

Skyler
: Making this record, for one, is exactly that. You stumble upon something that really means a lot to you and you’re able to decipher something about yourself that you didn’t know before. When you really allow yourself to let go and make music, that is who you are without all the layers of bullshit that you’ve personally cultivated for yourself. I think that’s what it is: you’re just slowly carving back layers of bullshit.

Been Stellar

Been Stellar

Sweet

New found energy, new songs and a new definition to sanctuary

You’ll soon be visiting Amsterdam for your show at Paradiso and it won’t be the first time. How did you like the city?
Sam
: We’re excited to go back, it was really good. Though we did stay at this hostel that’s in a business park and it really sucks.
Nando
: It’s like the cheapest option available.
Sam
: However they do charge you €8,- for a towel, so our first room smelled like complete garbage, because no one showers. But once we’re inside Amsterdam, we love it. Actually there’s a great sandwich place called Cora, it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. So definitely going back there. We’re also going to do a radio session at 3voor12.

What can we expect from your show at London Calling Festival?

Sam
: We’ll be playing a lot more new songs than last time, when we were playing in Amsterdam, especially when we were opening for The 1975, so that will be very exciting. I think after this past tour, being away for a month, we’ve grown as a live band, way more than I would have expected. This tour definitely had a pretty heavy impact on us, so I’m excited to take that energy into our own shows and into the new songs.

What would you like for the audience to experience during your show?

Sam
: I hope that people are able to get a little bit lost in our music. I think the best shows I’ve been to, whether it was like a super loud and energetic show, or a very intimate and acoustic set, the real sign of a good show, is walking away with that feeling that you forgot time was passing. If we can create that feeling for people, it’s a job well done, I guess. That’s the goal.
Skyler
: To quote the great Dan Carey: shock them into focus with the clarity of intent. I want people to be able to see what we believe in and that it’s really clear what we’re trying to do. So, if we can do that, then as Sam says, it’s a job well done.

Not staying at the same hostel, I hope?

Sam
: We are actually. It’s such a lame hostel. Do you know The Big Lebowski movie? The whole thing is like The Dude themed, so everywhere you look there are signs that are like ‘Hey dude’.
Skyler
: To me, it kind of feels like purgatory.

It does seem fitting you'll be playing in an old church building.

Sam
: That’s definitely bringing new definition to sanctuary.

Text: Yvonne den Outer