Alexandra and the Starlight Band: Grace Slick, Meet Your 21st-Century Upgrade
INTRODUCING ALEXANDRA AND ZAC
There has been an influx of performers that derive their flavor from music’s heyday.
Artists like Kings of Leon, Red Kross, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings -- and The Black Keys -- each imbibe the glory of their idols.
But there’s one band that immerses itself in the tastes of yesteryear peppered with its own uncompromising spin on classic rock soul and bluesy Southern rhythms. That group is Alexandra and the Starlight Band.
Alexandra Starlight bears the lucky distinction of being as captivating as she is talented. So much so that music’s elite have come to her: Bob Cutarella -- who was instrumental in the early success of Metallica as well as having worked with Paul McCartney and Alice Cooper -- collaborated with her on a couple of her latest tracks. Then, there’s the voice: Her singing style rivals the greats like Tina Turner and Janis Joplin. She’s also got the swagger of a thousand men.
I caught up with her and her band’s lead guitarist, Zachary James, recently at their home in Los Angeles to discuss tours and performing. Amid the barking of their dogs and the random sleepwalking of their elderly next-door neighbor, they also dished about their favorite artists and ASB’s most recent release, the Rainbow Glitter EP (out on vinyl), followed by a feature-length album slated to early this year. Both efforts are an engulfing nod to glam rock and portend a great career in the making.
“I think right now is an interesting time for music,” says Starlight, as she reclines in her chair. “You don’t need a major label; you don’t need a million dollars to put a record out. You just need a computer. There’s something happening right now. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it feels like there’s something in the air where people are hungry for real music again -- real music that gets you.”
For the duo, it’s “The Me Decade” -- with all its pageantry -- that best showcases their stage performances and frames the “real music” that their fan base has come to crave.
“The costume is such a huge part. Queen and anyone else who is over the top, I’m into,” Starlight says.
While on a recent tour with Porcelain Black, Far East Movement and Lil’ Wayne, James was even affectionately nicknamed “That ‘70s Show" by several of the accompanying acts, due to his retro-rocker image. But the inspiration extends further than just the physical. There is a kinship to the era that these players have adopted, body mind and soul.
“I love that feeling of freedom and total unbridled rawness,” Starlight explains. That’s something I’m really drawn to,” she says. “I feel like a lot of women are afraid to rep that nowadays. They don’t want to alienate the male demographic. I just feel like the Grace Slicks and the Janises ... you don’t really see that nowadays.”
OLD MEETS NEW
Aside from classic rockers, these partners (onstage and off) are very succinct about the modern groups that are on their radar. As a vocalist, Starlight confesses to a love of Amy Winehouse, Adele and Nikka Costa. And James has a wishlist of contemporary acts that he would love to tour with, should the opportunity present itself:
“The Killers, Muse, the Strokes. Um, Dave Grohl -- The Foo Fighters would be awesome,” he notes. “All those bands would be totally awesome.”
Alongside his duties with ASB, 2011 proved a banner year for James; he recently signed endorsement deals with Orange, Home Brew Electronics and Fender. The guitarist was even gifted his weapon of choice, two Telecaster Blacktops, for the tours. When not backing Starlight and other assorted artists, he performs in his own group, the Zachary James Band.
Hollywood has embraced Alexandra and the Starlight Band: The group is a regular fixture at venues such as The Hotel Cafe and Harvard & Stone. Even with the initial glow of success looming overhead, Starlight and James are very much in sync when it comes to where they ultimately hope to go in their careers.
“Mainstream success, for sure. It’s got to be mainstream,” he says. “I’d love to be nominated. Grammys? That would be awesome.”
NOW COMES THE GOOD PART
After discussing Alexandra and the Starlight Band, James quietly suggests that they play me an unmixed version of “Shine Like a Star" from the group’s forthcoming release. His guitar intro rushes through the speakers and has all the strength and emotion of Motown’s finest, but also bears its soul with the intimacy of a Southern gospel record. Just then, Starlight’s smoldering vocals kick in and she begins to sing along to the recording.
And I try to pick my jaw up off the floor. It’s just that good.
For more on Alexandra and the Starlight Band, visit alexandraband.com.