STRFKR blurs the divide between dance and pop rock

Conceding to song licensing and playing the name game is all part of the trajectory of success for zany popsters STRFKR (clockwise from top: Josh Hodges, Patrick Morris, Shawn Glassford, Keil Corcoran). Conceding to song licensing and playing the name game is all part of the trajectory of success for zany popsters STRFKR (clockwise from top: Josh Hodges, Patrick Morris, Shawn Glassford, Keil Corcoran).

Josh Hodges was a deejay who didn’t like phonies. So when an obnoxious musician started bragging about his sexual conquests out on tour in 2007, Hodges thought of a way to put him in his place.

“I wasn’t even trying to start a band,” he said. “The name Starfucker was intended to make fun of that whole value system.”

Hodges, who had been spinning records under the name Sexton Blake and had two marginally successful mixtapes to his credit, said the “band” was mainly assembled to give him an opportunity to mess around with his drumming. But along with Shawn Glassford and Ryan Bjornstad, Hodges and Starfucker went on tour in 2008 and established themselves as a solid group of multi-
instrumentalists doing electro-pop over the backdrop of an outlandish stage act.

Hodges writes the majority of the band’s songs and plays guitar and keyboard in addition to doing his share of the drumming, but early on he knew the act had a glaring problem—its drummers just weren’t good enough. The band picked up a “real drummer” in the form of Keil Corcoran in 2009 and went on a second tour with a part time fill-in, Ian Luxton. Still, Hodges said the mix wasn’t right.

“Things were not working out with Ryan,” Hodges said. “Since then we’ve added Patrick Morris, and it’s all going well. It’s like you’re dating four people, and you have to break up with people sometimes. It’s definitely the best it’s ever been.”

Increasingly popular success has followed for Hodges, Glassford, Corcoran, and Morris. Starfucker released its first major record label LP in 2011 after signing with Polyvinyl Records, and the band has licensed a number of songs for use in commercials and television shows.

“When I was a kid, [licensing songs] was really uncool,” Hodges said. “Now it’s just the nature of the business. Bands don’t make as much money on a record as they used to. There are definitely things I wouldn’t do, like an ad for the military.”

Hodges said Starfucker has grown largely by word of mouth, as opposed to the viral Internet success of some of its contemporaries. He thinks the band appeals to wide audiences—the edgy electronica stuff brings out the club kids, and the catchy pop sound appeals to all sorts of indie music lovers, even the easy listening set.

Hodges said that while the band was playing at parties just five years ago, the four-piece now finds itself in larger venues every time it makes a repeat visit.

“Going through cities like D.C., there are all these venues that we have heard about, and now we’re playing them,” Hodges said. “The shows kind of go with the audience. We started playing these packed rooms, and in that environment it’s easy to have a shared energy. We try to keep that playing the new venues.”

Starfucker draws on the influence of theatrical acts like the Flaming Lips and Of Montreal to help keep the energy up. The band’s stage manager has been known to stage dive in an astronaut costume, and the guys sometimes dress in drag. They travel with a flashy LED wall to keep it trippy, and they work the room after shows like they’re still at a hipster house party.

“We always hang out and talk to people at the merch table,” Hodges said. “We see people that haven’t seen us for years that are like friends now.”

Starfucker’s latest album, Miracle Mile, is an extension of its early success. Half “drunk guitars” and half dance tunes, the record has been criticized for not moving forward, but it’s as catchy as anything the band’s ever produced.

“At first I wanted to make a happy sounding album,” Hodges said. “That’s the drunk stuff. But then there is also the dancey stuff. The whole process was more collaborative than ever before. It used to just be me writing and recording. Now we are writing together and getting everyone in the same room.”

With more live bookings and growing record sales, one problem has continued to come up for Starfucker—the name. Hodges said some people won’t even listen to the band because of the expletive, and they’ve had a lot of posters destroyed over the years. To make the whole thing go down easier and make sure they get on marquees, Hodges decided to switch to STRFKR in 2012.

“People still know,” he said. “That was a way we found to keep the name and still get to be on the radio.”

STRFKR has come a long way from being a send-up of rock stars, and Hodges clearly wrestles with that fact. But in the end, he says it’s a lot more fun whoring himself out by doing something creative than by working behind a counter somewhere.

“Now the fun thing for me is seeing how far we can go with this name,” Hodges said. “Every time we play festivals and headline a stage, it’s like, this is so fucking crazy that we can do this.”

FKNG crazy indeed.

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