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Starover Blue Play Homecoming Show

In Music
PORTLAND STARGAZERS: After rents got oppressive in San Jose, the core duo behind Starover Blue moved to Oregon.

PORTLAND STARGAZERS: After rents got oppressive in San Jose, the core duo behind Starover Blue moved to Oregon.

Starover Blue know their music isn’t going to get bottles popping in the club, and that’s fine with them. The dreamy synth pop band got started in San Jose back in 2007, when singer and guitarist Kendall Sallay met keyboardist Dirk Molitz at SJSU. At the time, Kendall was studying opera and Dirk classical piano composition, both of which can be heard in the band’s sound.

“It’s not like fun party music,” Sallay says over the phone. “You have to be in the right mental space to want to get into that specific vibe with us. But making that difference with one person where you connect with them emotionally… if we can make one person feel something, then I think we’ve done our job.”

The band’s last release, 2016’s Spacegeist, is a darkly beautiful album that opens with “Lights of Tomorrow”—a meditative synth piece, which shows off Dirk’s classical training while setting the tone for the songs to come. The title track, one of the band’s strongest, is full of haunting melodies and cascading synth lines, and lands somewhere between Beach House and Julia Holter. In fact, Beach House is a somewhat consistent point of reference for the band, but at times the album recalls Julee Cruise, the frequent David Lynch collaborator (and one of the first performers at the Bang Bang Bar), with Sallay’s ethereal vocals floating over a wash of synths and guitars.

Sallay describes the concept album as “sci-fi” and “dystopian”

“A lot of focus on technology and people’s relationship with that and how it can really destroy things, and what that looks like for our future,” she adds, thinking back on the record. “I think that’s obviously a product of living in Silicon Valley for so long,”

Shortly after the album came out, Starover Blue found themselves on the receiving end of technology’s negative side. After calling San Jose home for almost a decade, Kendall and Dirk had to pick up stakes and move, cleaving the band in half as the rest of the original group stayed behind. Before leaving, the band posted a Dear John letter on their website, explaining the thought process.

“Why are we leaving San Jose?” the post asked. “Any band member who lives in San Jose already knows the answer. The grotesque rent. The lack of mid-sized indie venues and opportunities to support mid-level nationally touring bands. The tech culture that ensures art and music are perpetual side-notes. We couldn’t break through it.”

Though they (rightly) pointed out the lack of available venues in San Jose in their breakup letter, the band still has an abiding love for Art Boutiki, the venue and comic shop run by indie publisher SLG.

“Art Boutiki is one of my favorite venues of all time,” Kendall effuses. The problem, she sees, isn’t so much with what venues we do have, but those we don’t. “We have these two friggin fantastic places—Café Stritch and Art Boutiki—but once you’ve played those clubs, there wasn’t like a mid-sized club above that as a local band to have a chance to open up for a nationally touring indie act coming through.”

Now located in Portland, the band has carried on in the notably more music-friendly city, picking up a new drummer and bassist in their adoptive home. Rather than getting another guitarist, the band opted to rearrange their songs to be played as a four piece and have since been writing with the new members in mind.

“We reduced,” Kendall says. “We essentially took the fifth member’s parts and incorporated them into our own.”

This new version of the band comes to Art Boutiki this Saturday to play their first San Jose show in months. They come down the coast on a short tour with synth-pop group Headwaves, who are playing San Jose for their first time. The Seattle band also places heavy emphasis on synths, but the music skews more towards MGMT and Foster the People than ambient soundscapes, favoring pop hooks and danceable choruses over atmospherics. San Jose up-and-comers Lafayette and Chilindrina round out the bill.

Starover Blue
Jul 8, 8pm, $10
Art Boutiki, San Jose

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