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Music: LA Underground [Helen Stellar]

Helen Stellar: Naut Your Average Band

By Yuri Shimoda
Helen Stellar





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Lloyd Dobler holding a boom box over his head blaring "In Your Eyes" in Say Anything. 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 Clif Clehouse.

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 to happen."

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
This article has been viewed 2397 times.


 
 
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