Lloyd Dobler holding a boom box over his head blaring "In Your Eyes"
. Penny Lane leading the "Tiny Dancer" sing-along on
the tour bus in Almost Famous
. Cameron Crowe is a master at marrying perfect songs
to just the right moments in his films to make them unforgettable. L.A. trio Helen
Stellar is still kind of reeling that its song "io (This Time Around)"
is on the soundtrack for and featured in Crowe’s latest film, Elizabethtown.
"It’s like one of those things that you expect to be this big hoopla.
Maybe it will be, but right now it’s like we met Cameron and it was so disarming
that he’s a fan of our music. It’s like you fucking made Lloyd Dobler
and wrote Fast Times and here we are living on ramen noodles," exclaims drummer
The way the band came to be on the soundtrack is like a movie in itself. Vocalist/guitarist
Jim Evens recalls: "I work at Amoeba. This guy came in and bought CDs that
I like and asked me about them, and I thought what a good opportunity to give
him a flyer. So he came to a show and said, ‘I know Cameron Crowe, I’m
gonna tell him about you guys.’ But it’s L.A., you don’t think
twice about it." Sure enough, though, Crowe’s film company, Vinyl Films,
ordered all of the band’s CDs (The Newton EP, Below Radar EP and I’m
Naut What I Seem) and eventually asked if "io" could be used.
The trio, rounded out by Dustin Robles on bass, hails from Chicago. Robles joined
after moving to Los Angeles and replying to a help-wanted sign Evens had posted
at Amoeba. Clehouse and Evens met while working at a Chicago pizzeria. Clehouse
remembers: "I found out he played guitar and I was learning drums, so I convinced
him to come over and play with me. He was playing with these two other guys and
asked if I wanted to join. I just said yes without even meeting the other two.
I didn’t even know what music we would be playing. I just knew it would be
Jimmy music so I figured I would like it."
"Jimmy music" was a combination of Evens’ metal, prog rock and
shoegazer influences while Clehouse was into Wax Trax! artists like Ministry,
obsessed with Nirvana and played sax in his high school jazz band. Robles admits,
"I wasn’t the know-it-all kid in high school. I really didn’t get
too inspired until I lived in San Diego, seeing bands like Rocket from the Crypt
and Drive Like Jehu. Then moving up here all the bands at The Echo, seeing Mars
Volta at Spaceland. I am a huge Ray Charles fan, too."
Indeed, all three musicians are complete audiophiles, with a vast array of influences,
yet they are undeniably in sync when writing and performing. Evens explains: "We
just all really like music, not only that, but we like playing. A lot of bands
will act like, ‘Oh, that’s just what we do.’ We’re not like
that. We love what we do. We love the kind of music we make and we love hanging
out with each other."
The band’s chemistry is evident in the laughter that constantly emanates
from the trio when it is together and definitely comes across in its live shows.
Robles hopes crowds leave their shows with "a positive feeling. That they
leave happy, feel energized, and that it brightens up their day. Especially these
days, we all need that. I want the ’90s back! I want oral sex to be the national
topic again, that and pot."
When writing lyrics, Evens favors issues that are a bit more personal than political
or social issues, claiming that inspiration can hit him anywhere. "It can
happen while you’re watching TV or while you’re driving. It can happen
anywhere, there’s no rules, there’s no routine when it’s going
Basically, the band’s songs are like soundtracks to everyday life. "Each
song is written for a moment and is pretty much about four seconds of time,"
Evens explains. "A little thing will happen, we’ll get a moment and
take a mental note of it."
The trio is looking forward to Vinyl Films combining all three of its previous
CDs onto one vinyl LP. "We’re going to record a bonus track for it and
then we hope to get on the road and record an album just like what every band
wants to do," Evens says. But, Helen Stellar strives to be anything but your
average L.A. band. "There is so much good music in L.A.," Evens continues.
"It’s not really a matter of trying to fit in. It’s kind of the
opposite – it’s do your own thing and try to stand out a little bit."
The Elizabethtown soundtrack is currently available. For more information, visit
www.helenstellar.com and www.myspace.com/helenstellar.
Article posted on 9/27/2005
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