Joshua Hodges, mastermind of the Portland, Ore., synth-rock band Starfucker, is leading the band on a tour to promote its fourth full-length album, Miracle Mile. He spoke with us a few days before the band's appearance at FYF Fest in Los Angeles last weekend.
Miracle Mile sounds like the least electronic album you've done. Was that a conscious decision?
Half of it was recorded at this beach in Oregon, where I had this idea of making this really sloppy, drunk-sounding album that was mostly guitar. Half the album is from that phase, and the other half is some electronic stuff, which is good because that translates well to our live show.
How did you find yourself recording on this beach? Can you describe this place?
It's a town called Astoria, where they filmed The Goonies. That's one of its claims to fame. I have this family friend who has this house there, and she let me go down there for three months in the off-season, when they are never there. It's this weird, cool, sleepy little town that feels haunted and probably is. It's a really dangerous area for ships, traditionally. There are hundreds of sunken ships there. It's where the Columbia River meets the ocean. There's all this Victorian architecture overlooking [the] hills. It feels like a weird Norwegian village or something. It was a great place to get away from everything and be more like a cat or something that can just enjoy life without needing to be busy all the time: just sit in the window and look at the world and enjoy the simple things about life, which are great. I could walk and talk and look at things and listen to things and that's enough, but I forget that's enough and feel like I [need] more. So I could go there and remember that shit, you know?
What was it that tired you out?
It was touring all the time. You don't get a lot of alone time on tour. I never talked to my good friends, because I am bad about keeping in contact when I am on the road. It's difficult for me to do all [the] things I need to do to stay sane on tour: some kind of exercise, spending time with good friends that understand me. I love the guys in my band — we're all good friends — but it's not the same thing as it is with people I've known my whole life and [who] understand me. And eating healthy, sleeping enough! It's just really simple shit. It is fun to tour, but you have to reset sometimes.
Speaking of phases and changes, your band changed its name to "Pyramidd" for a while. What was up with that?
No, no. For a while, we had this really bad manager. We knew we shouldn't have hired her but we did. We drank some Kool-Aid we shouldn't have. She was attached to some really cool labels. She said, "They really like you guys, but they want you to change your name." At that point we really wanted to keep doing this, so if that's what it takes, why not? So we went to Europe and played three shows under that name, which was so weird.
Does having such an explicit name hold you back in other ways?
Of course. That was kind of the point. When I named it that, I was in New York and was part of this band I really wasn't into and was recording this other stuff [on the side]. People were pushing me to put it out. It felt so weird at the time to be this hired gun for this other band and be putting out this music I really wasn't interested in. I was around all these people who were kind of douchey, the kind of people I would never hang out with, and one of them bragged about being a "starfucker." I thought, "Who are these people? What is this world?" That's why I chose the name: because it represented all I didn't want to be a part of, all I didn't want to do. So it does hold us back, but that was the point, originally. This was the music I was making in my basement to stay sane, and it's funny that it's what I do, what I tour behind. I never thought it'd be a real band.
One of your songs was licensed for a Target spot and for a TV show. How does that fit into your ambivalence about success? Do you worry about being known as the guy who had the song in the Target commercial?
I don't care, man. I grew up so poor. I'm just so happy to be able to do what I love for money rather than selling coffee or whatever. I think that is just the weird world we live in right now. We don't sell enough records to make a living off that. We wouldn't be able to do what we do if we didn't have some of that happen early on, if we didn't have that to support us touring. Touring is expensive and at first you just break even. We were on food stamps for the first tour, and getting licensed helped so much. I am sure if I wasn't me and I was looking in on it, I would be judgmental. But that's because I wouldn't know what it's like to make that transition to doing what I love for a living.