Stars From Capelton Hill Amy Millan interview

Stars are still setting hearts on fire on their new album From Capelton Hill

We spoke to Amy Millan about how laughter, hope and audience connection keep the flame alive despite the band’s struggle to survive the streaming age.

The indie pop/rock band Stars has been making celestial tunes for 22 years, and despite their upcoming album From Capelton Hill being somewhat of a sonic chronicle of their time as a band, the fire is far from being extinguished. You have to remember that this is a band that grew up together, cut their teeth in the music industry alongside their friends, bands like Metric and Broken Social Scene. So the creative spark from 22 years ago, when they all gathered in a room and started making music in 1999, is still at the very essence of a Stars song. 

“Honestly, more than the ‘creative fire,’ it’s the laughs,” says singer/multi-instrumentalist Amy Millan. “They have not stopped. And we have red-faced laughing fits at every rehearsal. So as long as we have that, nobody is going anywhere.”

From Capelton Hill has the band battling the depression many of us faced as we faded through the murky waters of the pandemic, but as with most of Stars’ work, the songs are pieces of hopeful, if not cheery indie pop. 

“Sometimes, in my experience, you write things that are yet to happen but eventually do, like premonition hymns,” Millan says. “Some of my reaction was trying to buoy and write hopeful songs, even though it was exactly the opposite of what I was feeling.”

It’s also hard to feel good about your place as a musician in the streaming world, where 400,000 streams of one song garners you $1,000.

Stars From Capelton Hill
Torquil Campbell, Evan Cranley, Amy Millan, Chris McCarron, Patty McGee and Chris Seligman. Photo by Gaëlle Leroyer

Milan has been outspoken about this issue for quite some time and is part of an upcoming coalition of artists looking to change the industry streaming standard. 

“Tom Gray over in the U.K. started the #BrokenRecord campaign (lobbying the U.K. government to regulate music streaming) and has been working hard over there. We definitely need to change the royalty rate laws. We get over 1,000,000 streams PER MONTH and it’s a struggle,” Millan says. 

But even with all that, all those thoughts and insecurities percolating in their minds, Stars rises above it and has made a fantastic album.

“The music industry is totally fucked right now but we are trying not to let it kill us,” Millan says. 

The title From Capelton Hill is a reference to an area in North Hatley around rural Quebec, where the band learned how to be a band, and the title track being about the house they lived in while writing the album Set Yourself on Fire, which would later be nominated for a Juno and set Stars on track to being one of the bigger indie bands in Canada.

“Torq had the verses worked out and I could tell he was talking about the house and our times in North Hatley so I wrote the chorus with the same sentiment in mind,” Millan says. “As always, what we want is the songs to find a place in your story. The hope is they connect with something you are feeling and finding them helps articulate a feeing in your chest or helps with the passing of the day.” ■

For more on Stars, please visit the band’s website.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.