Some time ago I caught a commercial for Universal Studios, which was pleasant enough visually for a TV ad, but had a killer soundtrack that stuck in my head for days because of its familiarity. It was a song that I had heard before and liked, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out who it was. This was before I had the ultra-cool Shazam app on my iPhone and the section of the song featured in the ad had no lyrics to search on the web, just a cool opening guitar riff, grooving drum-and-bass rhythm, a countdown and then a wordless male-female "ooo ooo ooo" chorus. I filed it away in the back of my mind until one day, due to a happy coincidence, my iPod shuffled through some 25,000 tracks and landed on that tune. It was "Stay Entertained," a track by Brooklyn, New York-based post-punk foursome stellastarr*. I hate to give Universal Studios a free ad here, but for purposes of this blog, here's the commercial, complete with the stellar stellastarr* soundtrack, followed by a stream of the full song from 2005's Harmonies For The Haunted, the band's second album.
You may notice that the person that posted the clip, added the comment, "I love it when my friends sell out." I have a feeling that "friend" meant that comment in jest, because in this day and age when it's nearly impossible for new acts to break into the corporate-controlled terrestrial radio airwaves and eek out a living on CD sales, many artists are turning to licensing their music to TV, films and commercials, not only as an alternate means of exposure, but just simply to survive. It's likely that stellastarr* received a handsome fee for allowing its song to serve as the soundtrack for that spot, but by no means has the band sold out. If anything, it's taking an even more D.I.Y. approach to its career.
Like Harmonies For The Haunted, stellastarr*'s 2003 debut was released on major label RCA, but with the recent release of Civilized, the band is doing it themselves by issuing the title on its own Bloat Wife Records label. And the band has once again turned to alternate means of exposure for its music. Back in April, the band debuted "Graffiti Eyes," the first single from Civilized, on the CW's Gossip Girl, simultaneously with its digital release. Check out that tune below.
But don't get the wrong idea. This isn't a band that's sitting around waiting for the latest licensing goldmine. stellastarr* is a living, breathing, touring rock band that's on the road now. Check them out at a club near you and pick up Civilized. Here's a clip of the band performing "Tokyo Sky," another cut from Civilized, at a recent WFMU-sponsored date at New York's Mercury Lounge.