Interview with vocalist Arrow de Wilde, guitarist / vocalist Henri Cash, drummer Austin Smith, and bassist Tim Franco
Interview by Brian O’Neill
Photos By Tashina Byrd
Watching Arrow de Wilde perform on the tiny stage at Boot And Saddle, a former South Philly country-western bar, is revelatory. There are hundreds of live Starcrawler videos on YouTube, but none of them are adequate preparation for the intensity that their frontwoman unleashes on stage. Or the blood.
“Putting on a show, I want everyone to escape,” she explains, in a tiny room underneath the stage. “Let’s not think about all the terrible shit and let’s just pretend that none of that’s happening. Once you leave, you can start worrying about the rainforest again.”
She is flanked by the rest of Starcrawler – drummer Austin Smith, guitarist and vocalist Henri Cash, and bassist Tim Franco. Also present is the band’s tour manager, who might just be bored, but is more likely playing the role of chaperone. Arrow is just 20 years old, and her bandmates range from 19 to 24.
In what passes for a dressing room, Starcrawler come off exactly like the kids they are, something Cash is fine with. “I never want to grow up, I think being a kid is fun,” he says, and shrugs. “I wish they stopped punishing kids by keeping them out of fun places like pubs. I’m not trying to be any older than I am.”
Starcrawler formed four years ago when de Wilde – the daughter of rock photographer Autumn de Wilde and Aaron Sperske, drummer for the likes of Beachwood Sparks, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, and Elliott Smith – met Smith in high school. Very soon, the band was signed to Rough Trade Records, which released their eponymous debut as well as a handful of singles.
They toured way more than the teenagers could ever have expected. “It’s definitely cool to see your face on a billboard,” reminisces de Wilde. “I don’t think you ever get used to that.”
Their first album was praised for saving metal, punk, grunge, glam, and indie rock, depending on who you asked.
“That was a big cross for us to bear,” jokes Smith.
Devour You, their October 2019 follow-up, shows even more diversity. “No More Pennies” and “Born Asleep” add a honky-tonk vibe that would not have been out of place in the venue’s previous incarnation, or on a Rolling Stones record, though Arrow pointedly explains, “It would be offensive to country music to call us a country band.”
“I think we had more ideas this time,” Smith says, nodding. “Our first record was more of a snapshot of what we were at that time. When we had been touring for over a year-and-a-half on that first record, we had these ideas of taking more time to develop or write these songs.”
The band plays Devour You nearly in its entirety that night, as well as most of their debut, their first single “Ants,” and a recent cover of the Ramones classic “Pet Sematary.”
As they play, de Wilde channels Iggy Pop at his most pugnacious. Clad in a torn outfit with crimson stains, the singer takes turns antagonizing the crowd, writhing on the stage and doing unmentionable things with her microphone. She flings her thin, 6’2” frame on, over, and off the stage. She blurs the lines between the beautiful and the grotesque so much, eventually the difference is hard to discern.
You worry about her a little, but the band assures us that’s unnecessary.
“I feel like we’re probably the most equipped, even at our age, to handle this,” says Smith. “It’s a demanding lifestyle. It’s really difficult, and the majority of people can’t handle it. I think, oddly enough, we’re kind of the most capable to do so. If that makes sense.”