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Starover Blue Bring ‘Ordinary Magic’ to Art Boutiki

In Music
BLUE SKIES: Starover Blue return to play for the hometown behind their latest effort, ‘Ordinary Magic.’

BLUE SKIES: Starover Blue return to play for the hometown behind their latest effort, ‘Ordinary Magic.’

For Kendall Sallay and Dirk Milotz, the two core members of Portland-based experimental dream-pop group Starover Blue, home will always be San Jose.

“We’re very loyal to San Jose. That was our band’s home for eight years, and I can’t really imagine not coming back,” says Sallay, the lead vocalist and guitarist in the band. Alongside co-founder and longtime partner Dirk Milotz, who plays synthesizers and sings, the pair have been working together for more than a decade. The two met as music students at San Jose State University in 2007, where they laid the musical foundations for the band’s signature synth-driven waviness.

This summer, their homecoming is particularly special. To celebrate the upcoming release of their second LP, Ordinary Magic, Starover Blue is going on tour across the Midwest and the West Coast, eventually making their way back home for a show in the 408.

Much like Spacegeist, their debut 2016 album, Ordinary Magic is a synth-saturated opus that draws inspiration from classical music, pop and country as well as sci-fi and dystopian speculative fiction. Despite the diverse mix of aesthetic influences, the resulting potpourri of stylistic cues flows effortlessly. Milotz, a classically trained keyboardist and composition major, shows a flair for romanticism with emotionally compelling harmonic colors on tunes like “Ruby (Interlude).” On “Parlor Trick”, Sallay’s moody lyrics are grounded by earthy guitar strumming that highlights their roots in indie-folk.

There’s an airy effervescence to Ordinary Magic, which is at once cerebral and deeply personal. Ethereal vocals whisper over lush synth pads and acoustic guitar riffs, evoking an atmosphere of hazy mystery, but also one of comfortable intimacy. At the core of Starover Blue’s sound—beyond the Stranger Things-esque synth lines and drumming that drives the polyphonic soundscape to loftier energy levels—are heavy undertones of melancholy and longing.

The couple’s songwriting touches on themes of tribulation and alienation, but there’s always a strong focus on growth and perseverance. “Mother” and “Chameleon,” for example, frame difficult narratives about estranged relatives and friends, while others, like “Janeway”—titled after the first female Starfleet captain in Star Trek: Voyager—speak of the duo’s determination to follow their musical dreams.

It’s this determination that brought Sallay and Milotz to Portland in search of better opportunities and a more accessible music scene. San Jose’s dearth of all-ages, midsize venues makes it difficult for any local band to maintain anything other than a tenuous foothold in the music scene. They left San Jose in search of greener—and more affordable—pastures in 2016.

“It was really difficult at first, accepting that we were starting from the ground up again. It was just the two of us,” Sallay says about their early days in Portland. “I remember we were in our new practice space—it was just me and Dirk—and we kind of looked around the room and at each other, and we were just like, ‘Oh my God, what have we done!’”

Despite the initial wave of loneliness, they quickly hired new band members and started making their way around town within their first few months in Portland.

“Up here, you can go see live music at, like, 15 different venues any given night of the week, and chances are they’ll be great,” Sallay says, comparing Portland’s music scene to San Jose’s. “It’s a totally different world up here.” She references the abundance of musicians, bands and venues supporting live music, but also the stronger sense of competition within the scene.

It sounds like they’re making a name for themselves in the City of Roses. Sallay mentions that Starover Blue will be headlining Portland’s famed Doug Fir Lounge for their album release show. This will be the last gig of their tour this summer, which will also bring them home for a show at Art Boutiki on Aug. 30.

“In San Jose, we have a lot of friends from college, co-workers over the years, a lot of different people who have been really supportive of our music  Honestly, that’s the show we’re looking forward to the most on our tour.”

Starover Blue
Aug 30, 7:30pm, $10
Art Boutiki, San Jose

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