“I’ve always strived for Starset to be one of the bands that can hopefully make rock cooler,” says frontman Dustin Bates.“I’m not saying we can do it, but I do want that. When you go into iTunes for instance, Joan Jett is still in the top 40. That’s so lame.”
This is not an easy mission statement by any stretch of the imagination, but Bates is well on his way to achieving it with Vessels. Combining the epic scope of 30 Seconds To Mars with the progression of Periphery and gluing it together with moments of Radiohead-esque greatness, Bates has created the perfect storm for making accessible, yet challenging rock.
“I really wanted guitar the and music work to push the boundaries to be more progressive this time, and use Djent stylings as well,” says Bates. “I have a penchant for pop melodies, or at least accessible melodies – it’s in my DNA, that will never go away. So, hopefully it makes for a cool blend.”
While it is easy to imagine that the instrumental side of Vessels would suit a heavier vocal delivery, Bates wanted the music to be accessible to anyone. “I like it better this way, rather than the insular, communal thing. It is fun to take something like ‘Back To The Earth’ for instance, which we just released,” says Bates. “It’s in 4/4 and 3/4 and it’s compound time and chord structures and yet some kids on the Internet are saying it’s too pop for them, it blows my mind.”
The band’s previous album, 2014’s Transmissions, had a strong message behind it which has proved to be somewhat prescient. “I’d say the major tenant was that it’s a look at automation and how it’ll affect our lives in various ways. In the end, we’re seeing that come to pass,” says Bates. “We’re seeing politicians being elected by manipulating the population’s understanding. The reason Trump won in a lot of the rust belt states was, I think, his ability to create a boogieman to point at such as Mexico, or globalism, or China. We sort of regretted not capitalising on that. Our goal was to help people and bring awareness.”
Besides music, Starset’s mission is to promote the ideals of the scientific group The Starset Society. “On this new record, it’s absolutely similar to Transmission but there are more tenants. In the coming days and weeks The Starset Society will be much more clear about what those are and how they work into Starset and the various other campaigns,” says Bates. “We want to move the needle in terms of space, science, understanding as well as futurism.”
As well as a PhD in electronic engineering, Bates has spent time teaching at the International Space University in France. With such a strong academic background it only makes sense that those he studied – from Nikola Tesla to inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, left their mark on his artistic output. Bates explains how he implanted references to the greats within the actual music itself, but made sure to keep it vague enough for further interpretation.
If this all sounds rather more complicated than you would expect from a rock record you may not be surprised that Bates is in talks with Marvel Comics to create an original graphic novel series.
“I’ve written [for the comic] and helped various people involved in it,” says Bates. “There are even some writers at Marvel who are helping to change our narrative and apply it to the graphic novel itself. I don’t think I can reveal much just yet but we’re super excited.”
Vessels by Starset will be released on Friday January 20 through Razor & Tie/Cooking Vinyl Australia.