Velvet Starlings


How do you solve a conundrum like Christian Gisborne? The 20-year-old multi-instrumentalist prodigy is impossible to pin down, in all the best ways. A few years ago, you might have been able to describe his constantly-shapeshifting project Velvet Starlings as a 60s-worshiping psych outfit, given his proclivity for writing palpitation-inducing riffs and canny, gargantuan hooks: a teenage Jack White on the forefront of Gen Z’s garage revival. Now, things are a whole lot more complicated: Pacific Standard Time, the follow-up to 2021’s self-produced Technicolor Shakedown, is a musically vast gut-punch – a swell of unusual samples, melodic left-turns, and devastatingly incisive lyricism. The debut of a newer, sharper iteration of Velvet Starlings, Pacific Standard Time – an album some five years in the making – (initially tracked with Joel Jerome [Cherry Glazerr, Sloppy Jane, L.A. Witch] in Eagle Rock and then re-tracked in part and re-mixed by Christian) introduces Christian as one of his generation’s most compelling front persons and premier studio tinkerers, the bandleader paying as much attention to recorded innovation and live impact. 

 A “pretty unreasonable kid”, Christian refused to listen to anything other than the Fab Four for much of his childhood. His monomania turned out to be didactic: By the time he started playing guitar in elementary school, he already knew intimately the structures and chord progressions of much of the foundational pop songbook. Christian’s first introduction to performing live music routinely began at 7am when he would head to the local farmer’s market, a move that would eventually become an essential, irrefutable part of his life. 

 Christian later explored classic Britpop artists like Blur, which led him down a rabbit hole to Gorillaz – a project whose experimentalism and renegade approach to pop’s rules became instrumental in Christian’s understanding of his own music. At the same time, Christian was educating himself, naturally gravitating towards studio-rat producers making lush, expansive versions of indie-rock: “I have always been a bit of a loner, spending a lot of time in my room and going on walks, just listening to music for like, four hours every day,” he says. “I love producers who you can tell they just kind of sat in a dark room and hung out with themselves way too much, making music. That ethos inspired my recording process for Technicolor Shakedown and Pacific Standard Time.” 

 Key to Velvet Starlings is Christian’s own sense of fandom: he’s been going to gigs from a young age, and has met many of his closest friends (and even bandmates) lining up for shows. Now, he’s an omnivorous consumer of all genres, waxing lyrical about Ty Segall and King Gizzard as passionately as he does 100 gecs and Charli XCX. The only common link between the kinds of artists that Christian loves is hard work, dedication, passion, and keen attention to the way that genre classifications are a starting point, rather than gospel. Through his own fandom, Christian found an entirely new way of thinking about music, as well as a community to surround himself with. Naturally, live performance has also been key to Velvet Starlings’ rise: the band has played iconic LA venues like the Troubadour, Lodge Room and The Echo; showcased at SXSW; toured the UK multiple times and played at festivals including Summerfest, Beachlife and Isle of Wight. 

 With the current iteration of Velvet Starlings, Christian has found a set of bandmates who share his omnivorous tastes, including flautist/vocalist Amaya Montgomery and drummer DeRon Monroe, both members of The Intelligence with Thee Oh Sees’ Lars Finberg; and keys player Aaron Hoang. 

 Coincidentally, but not accidently, Pacific Standard Time, shifts genre from song to song, bar to bar. “Bullfight,” the album’s lead single, is an Oh Sees-inspired shredder with seasickness-inducing tonal shifts, initially beginning with a rockabilly stomp before descending into sinuous, hypnotic sludge. The album’s title track is a pop-rock confection that features one of the album’s most ingratiating hooks, Christian’s utterance of “your love is like the sunshine” mirroring the track’s twinkling, sample-heavy production. The track’s wild video matches the manic energy of the song, finding Christian soliciting a drug dealer on Venice beach, choosing to pick up a lyrical bag of “PST” and going on a trip. “I just thought it was funny” says Christian. “I’m from the generation that just does it for the meme – as much as I take music seriously, at the end of the day we’re having fun.” 

 That’s not to say that Velvet Starlings’ music is apolitical – the opposite, in fact, is true. “Amazon Prime”, a howling highlight, takes aim at hipster culture and posers wearing “fake 60’s boots”, which he is guilty of himself.  Self-deprecation is glaringly evident throughout this record.  “Turning Point” rides a double meaning, chronicling a shift in a romantic relationship even as it espouses a clear-eyed message about climate change. “At the time I wrote it, I was thinking about climate change – we’re at a point where we could either start trying to fix it now and if we don’t, it could be too late, or you could look at it like you’re in a relationship that’s on the rocks,” he says. A thread of the universal is key to Christian’s songwriting style. “If I wrote songs about the exact details of my life, no one could identify with the songs – I’d essentially be writing them for me. If I choose my words wisely anyone can get something out of my songs.”

 “HG Wells” is a nesting doll of a track that finds Christian using sci-fi tropes to sing an urgent, timely message about transferring political power to the people and working to undo the damage we’ve done to the world over the last decades. In the song’s surreal, hallucinatory video, Christian goes back in time to kill the past version of himself – providing a neat, ridiculous, and kind of shocking metaphor for the song’s cacophonous chorus. “HG Wells” is a boisterous, uncompromising vision, politically and musically – but ultimately, that’s what Christian is all about. “The goal of Velvet Starlings isn’t even for people to like it – it’s for people to hear it,” says Christian. “I’d rather listen to something objectively bad than something that doesn’t make me feel anything. The goal for me is to make people feel something.”  

Publicity Contact: Lisa Gottheil


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