EVOLV­ING SOUND

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - MUSIC - By Bob Mehr

“We’ve had a whole six-year ca­reer that’s ba­si­cally all ex­isted in our heads,” says Star & Micey’s Nick Red­mond.

Red­mond and band­mate Josh Cosby are sit­ting in a Mid­town café, pon­der­ing the long gap be­tween the Mem­phis folk-rock­ers’ 2009 selfti­tled de­but and their just-re­leased lat­est ef­fort, “Get ’Em Next Time.”

They re­mained ac­tive in that time — writ­ing more than 100 songs, sel­f­re­leas­ing a hand­ful of dig­i­tal sin­gles and EPS, and tour­ing on their own, play­ing any­where that would have them (“street cor­ners, pizza par­lors, bars and the­aters” as the band’s of­fi­cial bio notes.) But the group’s ca­reer was in some­thing of a hold­ing pat­tern as they waited for la­bel and man­age­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties to present them­selves. That moment fi­nally came in 2014 fol­low­ing a per­for­mance at the In­ter­na­tional Folk Al­liance Con­fer­ence in Toronto, where they met and signed a deal with ris­ing Nashville en­ter­tain­ment pow­er­house Thirty Tigers. “Not sure if they knew they were sign­ing a rock and roll band or not,” says Red­mond, “but that’s what they got.”

Fresh off a month­long run of dates, fol­low­ing the re­lease of “Get ’Em Next Time,” Star & Micey will play a free show this evening out­side of Shangri-la Records.

Near­ing a decade of mak­ing music to­gether, Star & Micey was formed in 2007 by Cosby and Ge­off Smith; Red­mond joined in 2008. For sev­eral years, a re­volv­ing cast of no­table Mem­phis mu­si­cians — in­clud­ing Jack Obli­vian, Adam Woodard and Jessie Mun­son — passed through the band’s ranks, be­fore the lineup was so­lid­i­fied with the ar­rival of Jeremy Stan­fill.

Af­ter sign­ing to Thirty Tigers in 2014, the group be­gan work on their al­bum late that year. Through long­time Sun Stu­dio en­gi­neer Matt Ross-spang, the band hooked up with Grammy-win­ning pro­ducer/en­gi­neer Mark Neill (The Black Keys, Old 97’s, etc.) and recorded at his throw­back Ge­or­gia en­clave, Soil of the South Stu­dios. “You walk in, and you are in­stantly trans­ported to 1955,” says Cosby. “Ev­ery mi­cro­phone, ev­ery piece of equip­ment, from the cof­fee cups down to the ro­tary tele­phones, even Mark him­self, is vin­tage.”

Neill man­ages to con­trib­ute sig­nif­i­cantly to the record, muss­ing up the music and adding an edge to the band’s ju­bi­lant pop songs. “All of the pro­duc­ers we’ve worked with — from Mark to Den­nis Her­ring to John Hamp­ton — were very clear in their vi­sion,” says Cosby. “That’s what you’re hir­ing that per­son for, and hope­fully that’s what you hear on the record. It was good to have him come in and add his per­spec­tive to the music.”

“I was told a long time ago that a song that is able to re­late to the world is both sad and happy at the same time,” adds Red­mond. “That can go two dif­fer­ent ways: You can make happy music with a sad lyric, or sad music with an op­ti­mistic lyric. We’re al­ways try­ing to find that com­bi­na­tion.”

Be­yond the pro­duc­tion, the sound of Star & Micey in 2016 is very much about the vo­cal in­ter­play and evo­lu­tion of the band’s two lead singers, Red­mond and Cosby. “That’s the one thing that’s changed more over time — how we sing to­gether, switch­ing parts back and forth,” says Red­mond. “That was the big­gest change in how we sound that has ac­tu­ally stuck.”

Much of the ma­te­rial on “Get ’Em” also ex­plores the widen­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive di­men­sions of the band. “It used to be Josh and me on the pi­ano, build­ing the songs that way,” says Red­mond, “but now there’s four dif­fer­ent peo­ple in the room who make the song.”

“Jeremy’s on drums, and he’ll be like, ‘What if you cut that part out and do a beat like this?’” adds Cosby. “The songs come to­gether a lot faster, I tell you.”

So far, the new al­bum (and the band’s new pro­fes­sional brain trust) have helped yield a spate of high-pro­file op­por­tu­ni­ties. In ad­di­tion to a re­cent ap­pear­ance on West Vir­ginia pub­lic tele­vi­sion’s “Moun­tain Stage” pro­gram, Star & Micey will be ap­pear­ing in an up­com­ing na­tional com­mer­cial for the State of Ten­nessee’s De­part­ment of Tourist Devel­op­ment. The group al­ready scored a big suc­cess in 2014 when the Mem­phis Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Bu­reau used their song “I Can’t Wait” in its TV ads. “Man, that com­mer­cial did more for us than six years of tour­ing did, and we didn’t have to leave the couch,” says Red­mond. “So we’re ea­ger to see what this one does.”

Although they’ve al­ready done a head­lin­ing tour, the band ex­pects the rest of their road work for the year will come in the form of open­ing shows for big­ger acts. Warm­ing up and win­ning over crowds is some­thing Star & Micey have proved quite adept at. “It seems that when we get a chance to play in front of a lot of peo­ple, we con­nect with them,” says Cosby. “So we’re gonna try and get in front of some big­ger au­di­ences and do that.”

Says Red­mond: “We’ve done the thing for six years of play­ing and shak­ing hands of all 10 peo­ple at the gigs, and then prob­a­bly stay­ing at their houses, too,” says Red­mond. “You can only do that for so long. We did, and we didn’t break up — and we’re com­ing up on 10 years to­gether.”

That re­lent­lessly pos­i­tive per­sonal and mu­si­cal vi­sion is what con­tin­ues to sus­tain Star & Micey. “We’ve al­ways called what we do ‘Rock and Roll Re­cov­ery,’” says Red­mond, chuck­ling. “We’ve al­ways wanted to help as many peo­ple as we can. How else can we do that other than through our music? Well, we can paint your house. If the music doesn’t work, we can al­ways paint your house.”

Mem­phis folk-pop combo Star & Micey will cel­e­brate the re­lease of a new al­bum with an in-store per­for­mance at Shangri-la Records at 1916 Madi­son Ave., on Fri­day evening at 6:30.

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