Onstage, with a coltish appeal and arms akimbo, Starcrawler singer Arrow De Wilde exudes a punk power akin to a mutant offspring of Debby Harry, Michael Monroe and Iggy Pop. At 23, she’s the real deal, an old soul whose actual lineage and creative family is just as cool as any imagined DNA from rock ‘n’ roll icons.
Starcrawler’s third album, the 10-song collection She Said, sees a maturation and fuller rock vibe compared to the raw power of earlier tracks like “I Love L.A.” or the L7-esque “Pussy Tower.” Starcrawler inspires Gram Parsons’ comparisons for the country/rock/alt lilt of the shimmering “Broken Angels.” While “Midnight,” explains De Wilde, was inspired by dark desert driving scenes from David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. The speedy spurt of the album’s first cut, “Roadkill,” took “huge inspiration from those opening scenes of the Jackass movies,” the singer relates. (Getting chief Jackass Steve-O for a cameo in the tune’s video was next level for the quintet.)
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Loaded with layered and thoughtful songs that don’t sacrifice the band’s colorful crazy energy and creativity, She Said is the band’s most fully realized release to date. (And they’ve also fully committed to the pink color scheme in everything from guitars to cars.)
As for the family affair: The album cover photo was taken by De Wilde’s mother, photographer/ filmmaker Autumn De Wilde. (She’s shot album covers for the White Stripes and Fiona Apple, and made her directorial feature film debut with 2020’s Emma.) Arrow’s romantic partner, Gilbert Trejo, the actor/director son of actor Danny, has directed a half-dozen videos for Starcrawler, including “Roadkill.” Guitarist Henri Cash has been in the band since its inception; younger brother Bill Cash, who began guitar-teching for Starcrawler when he was 14, joined Starcrawler on guitar and pedal steel prior to She Said. The band is rounded out by new drummer Seth Carolina and longtime bassist Tim Franco.
Over Zoom on her iPhone, De Wilde, her blonde hair in messy pigtails, speaks with the young L.A. affectation of “like,” doesn’t make a ton of eye contact, and radiates a creative nervous energy. By contrast, Cash, clad in a yellow B-52’s T-shirt, exudes a more laid-back vibe. The two met at Grand Arts High School in downtown L.A., at 16 and 15, respectively, and formed Starcrawler.
She Said producer Tyler Bates is a newer family member. The prolific film composer and former Marilyn Manson band member met Starcrawler when he produced their song “Goodtime Girl” for DC’s Dark Nights: Death Metal soundtrack.
“We were super-stoked on that production and thought it sounded super-cinematic, and like, massive. So it only seemed right,” says De Wilde of enlisting Bates. “It almost felt like family. We wanted to be in that same comfortable environment. He did a good job of making us feel comfortable; he even made us grilled cheese sandwiches.”
Though writing and recording took place in 2020 and 2021, Starcrawler didn’t want the pandemic to be the album’s overarching theme. But, it did play a role in it coming together.
“I think it definitely impacted our headspace,” Cash says. “The moods we were in, the energy between us was definitely heavily affected by the time. The title track was the first song written in person. Before that, we were tossing a mic through [Arrow’s] back window and recording demos while I was outside getting eaten up by mosquitoes.”
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By 2017, with only a couple of singles to their credit, Starcrawler were already scoring major gigs, including the UK’s Electric Fields and the Drumlanrig Castle Festival. They’re toured around the world and shared stages with My Chemical Romance, Porno for Pyros, Jack White, and Japanese Breakfast. They’ve been interviewed by Dave Grohl for his What Drives Us documentary, were asked to do (and did) a Ramones cover for a film — Pet Semetary — and Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx recently gave them a social media endorsement.
Conversely, De Wilde’s journey with the band has been without its painful incidents: she was publicly body shamed and the target of sexual misconduct instigated by tour mates the Growlers during their 2019 tour.
De Wilde posted a statement on Instagram that detailed how the Growlers locked her in a room with a male stripper and videotaped the forced encounter. Her feelings following the very uncomfortable minutes with the aggressive and naked stripper were initially chaotic: “Up until that incident, [Starcrawler] had gotten close with the band. After that, it was confusing, because it was a terrible experience. So it was just like, weird. I didn’t know that they had ever been shitty in the past, either,” she wrote at the time.
When she saw accusations against the Growlers surface, De Wilde told SPIN, “I felt like people weren’t really listening. I really wanted those other girls to be heard, because I felt not a lot of people cared.” De Wilde shared her story in detail on Instagram “because I wanted to back [the accusers] up, and let people know that it’s not okay. I wanted to stand with the others and come forward and share my experience because it felt important to do so.”
Starcrawler are standing up for fans as well. Having a musician dad (drummer Aaron Sperske who played with Beachwood Sparks and Father John Misty), meant De Wilde grew up going to a lot of gigs. As did Cash. “I grew up waiting for my favorite bands to come through L.A. and going to see shows,” he recalls. “So I feel for kids in these cities that aren’t as populated by as many bands. And then a lot of those lineups play 21-and-over clubs.”
“It’s so difficult to book all-ages venues,” De Wilde says. “We tried so hard, and we still couldn’t get [all-ages bookings in] Portland, Seattle for some reason.” But Starcrawler aims to compensate by doing in-stores and finding other ways to perform for younger fans.
De Wilde is glad to “be an example of that there are other freaks out there. Not even just for girls, but other kids, or people that they feel like they’re alone,”
As for the rest of 2022 and the reception of She Said, Cash’s hopes for the record are modest.
“We’d be really cool if we could just be playing some bigger venues and have people really connect with this record. Also, we never get to see our own show. So we’re kind of taking everybody’s word for it that it’s good, but we don’t really know. So when people like Jack White – and we recently played with Nick Cave — are seeing what we’re doing and think it’s cool, maybe we’re not crazy,” Cash says. “Just a little or at least a little less [crazy].”
Which begs the question, will She Said be the LP to shoot Starcrawler to the next level, joining other worshipped L.A.-bred bands across the decades, from the Doors to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Guns N’ Roses? The lineup is proud to be part of a long legacy of bands from the City of Angels.
“We’re influenced by a lot of L.A. bands like X, and even stuff like 45 Grave or Jane’s Addiction, Redd Kross,” De Wilde says. “There’s so much, and it’s kind of a dying breed too. So I like to really rep the Angelenos.”
”We all grew up here and on the streets there’s so much going on,” says Cash. “I don’t think we couldn’t have made the same music if we’d come from anywhere else.”