Analogue Music | Starsailor


By Matt Conner

If it's been a while since you've tuned in to Starsailor's activities, you're not alone.

The band member themselves took a four-plus year hiatus in recent years, the result of being around each other for far too long. Yet front man James Walsh says he always knew they'd come back together. He just needed the break.

A string of reunion gigs gave way to a greatest hits album and, finally, some new studio sessions resulting in 2017's brand new LP, All This Life. It was the first new studio release from Starsailor in nearly a decade and it signified a new chapter of sorts.

If you've not yet spun Starsailor's best album yet, you're missing a newfound musical confidence from the veteran performers. Maybe it's a result of the hiatus. Maybe it's experience. No matter what informs the shift, the changes here are brilliant. The soulful groove of "Caught in the Middle," the driving pulse of "Take A Little Time," the beautiful electronic backdrop of "Fuck It All"—they're all examples of the band's confident new direction. 

"Nothing's impossible when you say fuck it all," sings Walsh on the latter track, a musical missive that shows the band's new attitude. They've put in their time. They've even taken some off. Most importantly, they're all the better for it. 

Analogue: How has it been to return from a hiatus?

James: We took about four years away from each other, but we all still kept in contact as friends. We just weren't making music together. Our manager had called and asked us to play a lot of gigs that had come up and we all just met in a pub and said, "Yes, that's great. Let's do it." That led to the record company asking us if we wanted to do a greatest hits. So we got into the studio and recorded a couple new songs. It went really great and we were all playing really great, so as you say in America, it was a no-brainer.

Analogue: Did you ever question whether or not you'd come back together? 

James: I don't think it was in question. I think we just needed a break, to be honest. I mean, take myself and the drummer, we've been friends since we were five- or six-years-old. We were getting on each other's nerves there at the end. [Laughs] It was good to have a break to smooth it out. I think we were always going to get back together.

Analogue: Why did you need a break?

James: I think every band gets to it. You write your record for six months and then you do all the promo tours for it and then you tour it for 18 months and then you have two months ago. We felt like we were in a cycle just because we were in the cycle. It felt a bit forced for us, I think. 

Analogue: Did the break do what you hoped it would creatively speaking?

James: Yeah, definitely. I went out to write with different people and play with different people. I know it was good for me. It was good for all of us, I think. Re-energized is the word. I think you can tell on the new album how fresh things sound. 

Analogue: At what point did you know to come back together? Was it just those gigs you mentioned? Was there a feeeling that creeps in?

James: I have to give our manager credit, really, because he had those gigs for us. We had really good billings on some festivals. Then we made the greatest hits. Then later, he called me one day and said that we'd been offered a record deal and that it was a great deal. He said, "Are you interested?" I spoke to everyone else and they said it was cool. I know it sounds weird, but to be wanted feels nice. 

Analogue: There's such a pressure to stay in front of fans today via social media, which makes taking a break quite a risk. 

James: Yes, and we're the worst band in the world for social media. [Laughs] We just very rarely do it. We're not great at that at all. Our manager tells us all the time that we need to connect with fans, but we're all quite shit about it.

Analogue: Were you worried whether or not folks would be there on the other side?

James: Massively, especially with the internet now and Spotify. People have so much access to so much music so quickly. Fortunately we had a really strong fan base in the U.K. and Europe. 

Analogue: When did you know things would be okay?

James: I think when we came back and we played the Isle of Wight Festival. This was about three or four years ago now, but we had the biggest and best crowd of the day apart from the headliners. We thought then, "People are still interested." It was a great night. 

Analogue: I want to talk about the new album and specifically the song "Fuck It All". It's not a single or anything and yet it feels like a cornerstone of the album and maybe even who the band is today. Does that feel true for you?

All This Life
All This Life

James: Yeah, I think so. That's the kind of material that we'll be writing more of, I think. That and "Sunday Best" are the favorite tracks of mine on the record. They're the most personable definitely. That song is exactly where we're at as people as well. We've been playing it live and we get really great reaction to it. Not everyone at the gig has bought the record, so when they play that track, they think, "Fuck, I need to check this album out." We're really comfortable with that. 

Analogue: How'd you come to that point?

James: When you're younger and you're writing, there are definitely pressures to make the second and third records, and I think they suffered because of it. We suffered from those pressures at our age. I think there were so many expectatations put upon us by the record company and fans as well. We buckled under the pressure a bit.

Analogue: Now that you're back, is this something you'll keep doing or do you take it album by album?

James: Album to album.

Analogue: Do you write outside of the band at this point?

James: Yeah, we all do different things. We all write with different people. There's a lot that happens. We're all busy, even when we're not in Starsailor. We keep busy.