Phebe Starr is the new kid on the pretty pop block with a sound that is, as she describes it, “Björk meets The Cure meets Supertramp”. Influenced by the craziness of Japan’s J-Pop scene, the charming and effervescent Phebe takes mainlines some pop fizz into that oh so self-aware singer-songwriter genre. Her first EP, Pink Lemonade will be released on Friday. We spoke to Phebe to get the skinny on the release and life as a musician.
The title, she tells us, is a reminder to pay attention to the little stuff: “The small pleasures in life are like pink lemonade. It’s a small thing but it reflects on the bigger picture. It brings up connotations of where someone has been in their life. I tried to create a feel around that.” As a songwriter Phebe aimed to go beyond the narrative approach, she wanted to “explore the techniques of not necessarily storytelling over a lifespan but rather, individual moments and feelings”.
As an indie girl writing synth-pop, it can be hard to find a niche in a world that isn’t Top 40. “Before I was doing more of a folky sort of sound but I got more interested in pop. The alternative scene has made pop really uncool, so I wanted to explore different techniques of making a happier sound,” she explains. The quirky elements that Phebe brings to her music help her avoid the obvious saccharine trappings. “I grew up in a country town and I was interested in a lot of quirky things. When I used to come down [to Sydney] on school excursions to Chinatown, I’d be like, ‘this is so cool.’” That early exposure to Asian culture grew into a love of J-Pop. “It has this kind of innocence. It is something that I was a little bit embarrassed about for a bit because it’s so in your face, it’s a little bit uncool, but it is so unique to their culture and they can make anything funny. There’s a real funny side of it. I’d watch all the [music] videos and they’ll do this old Hollywood set and you can totally tell it’s fake. I love the humour in it. Plus the electronic aspect of course. There are certain things that hit your soul and resonate with you that you want to bring to your music.”
The first single from the EP is titled Maneki Neko, which is, according to Phebe, “the Japanese name for those little cats you see in Asian shops. It’s a symbol of good luck and brings prosperity... It reflects my frustration at a world trying to accumulate riches but the ironic thing is that Maneki Neko is superstition and doesn’t matter. Sometimes the things we want will be really successful and sometimes they won’t but you’ve just got to enjoy it. You shouldn’t be in it for money. Don’t worry about the outcome, just pursue it for the love of it. And then I think that if you do or don’t have success you won’t be shaken.” Wise words from one so young, Ms Starr.
The Pink Lemonade EP launches at Oxford Art Factory this Friday night from 9pm. Entry is FREE! words: Kristen Hodges
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