“I’m a pretty shy guy,” Jason Martin told me in 2006. “I probably shouldn’t be singing for a rock band and putting out music.”
That was five Starflyer 59 albums ago. “Young in My Head,” the 15th full-length from a band in which singer-songwriter-guitarist Martin has been the only constant member, comes out April 26 via its longtime label home, Tooth & Nail Records. SF59 nerds — and the band doesn’t have fans as much as it has obsessives — will agree that the new release is Martin’s finest in over a decade.
Many of those fans glommed on to Starflyer 59 a quarter of a century ago when they were quiet guys playing loud music in Orange County. They were on a Christian music label, but their songs were not overtly religious. They were deafening but in the deadpan way most shoegazers were. They were — and Martin remains — humble to the point of self-deprecation. The frontman uttered scarcely a word the first time I saw them at Koo’s Arts Café (RIP) in Santa Ana.
But who could have known that almost two decades years after their 2000 best-of, “Easy Come, Easy Go,” Martin would still be going? Starflyer 59 has subtly shifted styles over the years, from shoegaze to straight-ahead hard rock to post-punk to new wave to a lot of in-between. The calling card has always been Martin’s simple, direct songwriting (not to mention the echoing guitar tones that seem to tell stories themselves). He writes songs about writing songs. He writes songs about day jobs. He writes songs about being a tiny speck on a big planet. He writes songs about being old — in fact, the album “Old” (which featured the sonic fairy dust of Frank Lenz and the late Richard Swift) was released in 2003.
Aging recurs as the underlying theme on “Young in My Head,” but Martin seems OK with it. “I would have thought by now I would have more things figured out,” he told Jason Woodbury in an excellent (and rare) interview published on Aquarium Drunkard in February, “but I really don’t feel much different than I did 20 years ago. … Head is the same, body is just older.”
Which brings us to “Remind Me,” a solemn ballad, tucked into the new album’s midsection, in which Martin reflects on the cycle of life. “I had my time / stayed longer than most / Longer than I should have / ’cause I’ve never known / how to let go.” The tune also references Charlie, Martin’s 16-year-old son, who drums on the album: “I want to work with my kid / record all his songs / ’cause all mine are gone / and when I play guitar / I’ll play it on weekends / write riffs with my son / or some of my old friends.”
Of recording with his son, Martin says: “I was about that age when I was in a band, being unbelievably excited to record music, so now I feel like I’ve taken that whole thing and gone full circle. Things that are hard and tedious to me in the studio are fun to him.”
The album was made at Martin’s home studio with some of the aforementioned old friends, including bassist Steve Dali and keyboardist TW Walsh, with a mix from Grammy-nominated JR McNeely.
Check out “Remind Me” below — along with a playlist from an obsessive: Buzz Bands LA’s favorite 40 Starflyer 59 songs.
||| Stream: “Remind Me”
||| Also: Stream “Young in My Head”
||| Stream: Starflyer 59: Buzz Bands LA’s Favorite 40 Songs