The string of words that make up the name Death By Stars sounds at once full of portent and utterly frivolous. This dichotomy seems to seep into and help define the band's music as well. Combining the biggest, most direct qualities of punk, electronica and psych-rock, the band has cooked up a cutting, immediately hooky sound. There's an invigorating quality to Death By Stars that seems to transcend their basic formula of spacey, psychedelia-informed vocals encased in programmed beats, exploding into life-sized dance-punk refrains. In a live setting, Death By Stars veers into performance art territory, with light shows and costumes. It's a delirious soup - all surface, really. But what a surface it is.
Of course, Death By Stars - having formed in the earlier half of last year - is a band still in the process of finding itself. The three-piece is made up of Bees, Patrick Galactic and Cherry Danger (if those are their real names!).
"We kind of started with just guitars and bass," says keyboardist Cherry Danger. "I had old ES-1 beat-making machines and things that we were playing with - lots of Korg stuff. At first, it was this guitar-y, almost Link Wray sound, and as it evolved, it ended up being a lot more cerebral and post-punky with a little bit of psychedelic. So that's where we're at right now."
"When (fellow bandmate) Bees and I were discussing it, our intention was to have a less than typical setup, where you have two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer," says Patrick Galactic. "We had the intention that we were going to play around with electronics more. Cherry brought that to the forefront."
As I've mentioned, Death By Stars really comes to life when performing in concert. The band's brand of dance-punk is a perfect foil for their overblown visuals.
"The performance is something we believe in," says Galactic. "We want to put on more of a spectacle than just music. The show's kind of an art form beyond just music."
"We're really about putting together an experience where people can be surrounded by (the music)," adds Danger. "All of a sudden, they depart from what they're normally used to doing and seeing in some little club, somewhere in Tacoma. We try and take them to a complete place, where there's a real feeling of place there that's beyond just sound. ... We're pumped to play the Dorky's show, because we're totally in that vein of video games and fun in Tacoma."
Dorky's Arcade is a bizarre venue, to be sure. In a darkened room, lit up with the glow of a couple dozen arcade games, a tunnel vision begins to form between you and the band on stage. It's an absurd sensation, and Death By Stars seem uniquely equipped to take the environment that comes so naturally to the arcade and blow it up into something bigger and more meaningful than the sum of its parts.
It's all of a delirious surface. But what a surface it is.
Death By Stars
with the Hyper-Space Dumpster Sludge Junkies, Oven Rake, the Dirty Words and Sliide
Saturday, Oct. 29, 8 p.m., no cover
Dorky's Arcade, 754 Pacific Ave., Tacoma