The Memphis-based trio got a few of their own on their new EP.
Superstorm Sandy almost cost Star & Micey a van door. "If it had been our old touring van, it would have blown away," Joshua Cosby says. The Memphis-based folk pop band had the misfortune of touring the Northeast while Sandy was at its peak, and they felt its effects as far from the coast as Michigan. They lost a date in Cleveland due to a power outage, and even though they'd been assured that their New York City date was solid ("Our electricity's on; it's game on," they were told), it ended up being cancelled. Tonight, the tour brings them to The Circle Bar.
The Memphis-based band - Cosby, Geoff Smith and Nick Redmond - are traveling in support of their new four-song EP (with a downloadable fifth song for those who buy the CD), I Can't Wait. It's pure folk-based pop that opens with an acoustic guitar and harmonizing vocals. Within four lines, Smith evokes The Beatles, an obvious touchstone in terms of their musical sensibility, though producer Dennis Herring sets the voices in a deep echo, as if the trio are harmonizing in the middle of a warehouse. The song, "No Pets Allowed," is one of a hundred or so that the group gave Herring in demo form. He cut the list down to 12, then a final four, surprising the band in the process.
"When Josh and I first met, I remember standing on his front porch and he said, 'Play me your best song,'" Smith says. "I played him 'No Pets Allowed,' which ended up as the first song on the EP. I don't really like playing it. It ended up on a demo from the support of people around me, not me."
Cosby was equally surprised by Herring's choice of "Soul Stormin'" for the EP. It was a track he put down on Garageband and largely forgot about. " I never thought about it ever again," he says. "It was just an acoustic guitar and me, real quiet and nothing. I don't know how he heard what he heard." Whatever Herring heard led to a charmingly offhanded description of a good day framed by a series of wordless Beach Boys-like harmonies.
Star & Micey are pop classists, and they come by honestly. Smith remembers hearing "Oh Donna" at his grandparents' house, and it made enough of an impression on him that the first time he wrote a song, he realized he'd re-written the Ritchie Valens classic. Cosby's first formative musical experience wasn't a song but the night his brother taught him to sing. He remembers his brother instructing him that "You've got to do it like this like you're walking down steps," singing his way down a scale with each word. From there, he detoured, first to R&B - Michael Jackson, Boyz II Men - then metal bands such as Slipknot and Korn.
"The edge and energy came when I started listening to Metallica," he says. " When all that washed away, I met the right people and they introduced me to The Beatles." How does he feel about metal now? "I can see how that was awesome, but I don't pop it in anymore."
Cosby and Smith knew each other in grade school but became good friends during high school, when Cosby started writing songs. " My sister walks by and says that [Smith] needs to start playing bass because bass players are hot," Cosby says . "He went out and got a bass that week." The two bonded over songwriting and took music about as seriously as they could, but it remained essentially a hobby until a girlfriend encouraged Cosby to take his music more seriously. He went to a songwriters' night where he met drummer Nick Redmond, and Star & Micey had a lineup.
They're sufficiently prolific songwriters that only one song from their self-titled 2009 album is still in their set, but one thing that remains is a general positivity - not always expressed as giddily as "Love" on I Can't Wait, but there are no 3 a.m.-of-the-Soul moments in their music, and Star & Micey are fine with that.
"We knew that we didn't want to be taken too seriously," Smith says.
"I was raised on, 'It's going to be okay,'" Cosby says. "Maybe that attitude's crossed over to this."