Starset

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One of the most innovative bands in music history, Starset have sky-rocketed in the last four years, largely in part to their presence on social media. Their debut album, Transmissions, and accompanying graphic novel ‘The Prox Transmissions’ established the fictional backstory of planet Prox, a future haven from a dying earth. Since then, Starset has dedicated themselves to understanding how various technologies might affect our lives politically, socially, and economically; all under a veil of prog-rock electronics, captivating vocals and undeniably beautiful melodies. Starset is heading to Australia for the first time this month in support of their sophomore album Vessels which is, much like Starset, out of this world.

Starset’s unique vision can only be understood with a conversation with their mastermind and founder, singer Dustin Bates. With a background that includes a Masters degree in electrical engineering, a former professor at the international space university in France and a researcher for the US Air Force, Bates has taken his scientific passions and philosophies and intertwined them with his other love: music. Bates is more than qualified to create a marriage of this kind. “It’s a blend of science and sci-fi and of overarching narratives – a lot of the goals of the Starset society are to raise awareness of science and tech and how it’s changing the near future, and I think anything that we can create to help push that forward is the goal.

“We try to use hyperboles and large ideas to draw people’s eyes to the sky.”

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In attempting to bring two worlds together, Starset draws on other creative platforms to engage their audience, namely spine-tingling visuals. Some of the videos that accompany the singles from Vessels are incredibly intricate, stirring up feelings of doubt and sadness. The single, “Monsters”, in particular, agitates an excess of emotions, ones that Bates is pleased he can instil in his audience and has an oddly steely but warm response to these reactions. “Some of my goals with that video, I wanted more of what you said,” he says. “The goal is to have multiple lines of metaphor, with direct connection to a plot but also a metaphorical look at ourselves and how technology, even in current times, is distracting us from reality: how our false realities of our cell phones and social networks are pulling us away from each other and reality itself. That’s only going to be exacerbated as things progress.

“A lot of what we think, all the main tenants, is that technology is very unsure – I’m very pro-tech but also very aware of the dichotomy of it. If you look at a hundred years ago, the average person was working from sun up to sun down, and that was just to survive. Technology has allowed us to live longer lives, it has cured sickness, the general quality of life and that continues today.

 

 

 

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“But at the same time, as we’ve just discussed, we recently saw it do something else – cloud the vision in us. Coming online, the social aspects that have taken hold in the last five years: they pale in comparison to some of the other central dangers, particularly when millions of jobs are going to be lost on a great scale shortly. If we haven’t prepared ourselves as a society, we’re going to see people demonising each other, pointing fingers. Acknowledging that this is an inevitable fact of the future and our technology, at the same time, when people are losing jobs, technology is giving us the ability to create products and labour and utility with less and less effort.

“And so, in one way that should bring us into some utopia – it’s how we perceive, and we utilise this developing technology as to what the results [will be] in society.” Bates is oddly sentimental – lyrical even – when discussing the many layers to his visions. Yet there’s a robotic air about him, likely due to the topics he discusses. Science and creativity made flesh? Perhaps. Bates has such a technologically centric way of thinking and yet, he is taking science and the arts and intertwining them, giving science a new language by applying it to music.

It’s possible, Bates says, that Starset’s music may be offering people a new way to understand the socio-political aspects of technological and scientific advancement. “The more tangible, the [more] unique, maybe [we’re] able to capture people’s attention and peel back that first layer of intrigue. To show people that anybody can conceptualise and philosophise, especially the demographic of people that listen to rock. It provides a way for people to think about things that otherwise they might not, in a broader way.

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“Our music and our shows provide ability without bombarding them. Perhaps a certain percentage of people will look into it. And you know, if others just want to be there for the rock and the experience, totally fine with that. It’s just very nice we’re able to achieve these things.”

Space, science, technology, they’ll always provide a never-ending wealth of inspiration and investigation, so Starset will never be short of material to pen more music. “It’s so vast,” Bates says with an endearing wonderment. “Obviously, I have a leg up because I’ve done this before on the other side [with his background in science]. The more we do it, the more I wonder why… I’m essentially one of the very few people who give media to promote science and tech, especially, sci-fi and space – there are such a wealth and such an abundance, I’m always excited to pursue it further and bring more awareness.

“To have this niche for such a thing, I wouldn’t call it a niche even, it’s too big… I’m just excited about it.”

Written by Anna Rose

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