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File:J-martin 1854.jpg

Does it matter what my age is, Lord?

Am I the dust from a swept-up floor?

I had a song for the ages,

forgotten in the pages.
—"I Had a Song for the Ages"

Starflyer 59 is an Alternative Rock "band" from Riverside, California. Jason Martin is the guitarist, vocalist, keyboardist, songwriter, producer, and only permanent member.

Jason is a Christian; although faith doesn't come up often in his songs (on many albums, the only indication of his beliefs is a single-sentence dedication to "Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior" in the liner notes) he has no problem self-identifying as Christian Rock. He doesn't believe there's any real difference between "a Christian band" and "Christians in a band".

Mister Martin's musical career began with his brother Ronnie's techno band (which performed under a variety of names, but ultimately recorded under the moniker Dance House Children). Wanting to do something different, something with guitars, Jason recorded some demos on his own and gave these to Brandon Ebel, who signed Jason to his fledgeling label, Tooth & Nail Records. Jason recruited bandmates from his circle of blue-collar, Southern-California-dwelling, Britpop-listening friends, and Starflyer 59 was born.

(Ronnie Martin, meanwhile, went down his own path, and retooled Dance House Children into the one-man synth-pop band Joy Electric, and was every bit as prolific as his little brother.)

The debut album, Silver, was reverb- and distortion-drenched pop-rock--either one of the final first-wave Shoegazing albums, one of the first post-Shoegazing albums. Sf59's subsequent albums leaned more towards lounge (Gold) and hard rock (Americana), but the shoegaze label stuck, despite Jason's reluctance.[1] After three albums (and some songs intended for a fourth album that were ultimately shelved), Jason decided that he'd finished saying everything he wanted to say with guitar distortion, so it was time to do something different.

Under the influence of the producer and keyboardist Gene "Eugene" Andrusco, Starflyer made an abrupt Genre Shift to a lighter, New Wave-influenced sound with lighter guitars and melodic keyboards. Fans and critics were surprisingly receptive to the New Sound Album The Fashion Focus and its even lighter followup. Then, in 2000, Gene Eugene died.

Jason Martin pressed on, recording a series of albums which all employed wall-of-sound production in different ways. 2001's Leave Here a Stranger evolved the prior albums' pop into a synth-orchestrated Baroque Pop tribute to Pet Sounds. 2003's Old was an energetic, effects-drenched mix of Space Rock and Dream Pop. 2004's I Am the Portuguese Blues was a weird throwback--the shelved post-Americana demos re-recorded as Up to Eleven blues-rock. 2005's Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice was a mellower follow-up to Old, backed by a live string trio.

The production was finally dialed back to Gene Eugene-era levels for My Island, while the speed was cranked up. Subsequent albums continued in the same vein, while adding acoustic guitars and Synth Pop influences (simultaneously) to the mix.

Beginning in 2005 or so, Jason's family ties made it increasingly difficult to go on tour. The last live show was played in 2008, and Starflyer is now a purely studio band. In an interview with a fan website, Jason Martin was asked about the future and replied that his plan was originally to put out 20 albums and then retire.

In 2011, Starflyer 59 parted ways with Tooth & Nail Records. Currently, Jason is raising funds via Kickstarter to produce the next Sf59 album (and he managed to meet the $10,000 goal within the first day of the fundraiser).


Roster

Current

  • Jason Martin
  • Stephen Dail: bass (from Ghosts of the Future to present)
  • D. Brotherton: drums and percussion (on The Changing of the Guard)

Former

  • Andrew Larson: bass (on Silver and Gold)
  • Ed Giles Benrock: drums (on Gold)
  • Wayne Everett: drums (from Gold to EMM)
  • Gene Eugene: keys, producer (from Gold to Everybody Makes Mistakes)
  • Eric Campuzano: bass (on Americana)
  • Jeff Cloud: bass (from The Fashion Focus to I Am the Portuguese Blues)
  • Joey Esquibel: drums (on Leave Here a Stranger and Can't Stop Eating EP)
  • Josh Dooley: keys, guitar, bass (on Leave Here a Stranger, one track from The Last Laurel EP, My Island, and Ghosts of the Future)
  • Frank Lenz: drums (from Old to Talking Voice vs Singing Voice), string arrangements (on TVvSV)
  • Richard Swift: keys (on Can't Stop Eating and Old)
  • Eric Collins: bass (on Never Play Covers)
  • Dean Lorenz: guitar (on Never Play Covers)
  • Trevor Monks: drums (on My Island)
  • Trey Many: drums (from My Island through Dial M)


Discography

  1. Silver (1994; reissued with bonus tracks in 2005)
    • "The Drop" 7" single (1993)
    • She's the Queen EP (1994)
  1. Gold (1995; reissued with bonus tracks in 2005)
    • "Goodbyes are Sad" 7" single (1995)
    • Le Vainqueur EP (1995)
    • Plugged Live EP (1996)
  1. Americana (1997)
  2. The Fashion Focus (1998)
    • Fell in Love at 22 EP (1999)
  1. Everybody Makes Mistakes (1999)
    • Easy Come, Easy Go (2000) Greatest Hits Album, plus a second disc of b-sides, rarities, and live tracks.
  1. Leave Here a Stranger (2001)
    • Live at the Paradox EP (2002)
    • Can't Stop Eating EP (2002)
  1. Old (2003)
    • Old Demos EP (2003)
  1. I Am the Portuguese Blues (2004)
    • Portuguese Blues single-sided 12" EP (2004)
    • The Last Laurel EP (2004)
    • Never Play Covers (2005) Live album
  1. Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice (2005)
    • I Win EP (2006)
  1. My Island (2006)
    • Ghosts of the Future (2007-2008) A boxed set of ten 7" vinyls, featuring demo versions of songs from Dial M plus cover songs, instrumental tracks, and remixes as b-sides.
  1. Dial M (2008)
    • Minor Keys EP (2009) Download-only release.
    • Ghosts of the Past (2009) Collects all the non-redundant tracks from The Last Laurel, I Win, Ghosts of the Future, and Minor Keys.
  1. The Changing of the Guard (2010)


Side projects

Bon Voyage is almost but not quite Starflyer with female vocals; the Dream Pop yin to Starflyer's shoegaze yang. Then they switched to synth pop with their third album. Jason writes the songs and plays guitar, and his wife Julie sings.

  • "Issue I" 7" single (1995)
  • "Issue II" 7" single (1996)
  • Bon Voyage (1998)
  • The Right Amount (2002)
  • Lies (2008)

Pony Express was an indie-pop band headed by Jeff Cloud. Jason contributed, alongside Frank Lenz, Josh Dooley, and Richard Swift.

  • "Transparent with Blue Eyes" 7" single (1996)
  • "Under the Gun" 7" single (1996)
  • The Eastwood Drive (1997)
  • Monkey Hearts EP (1999)
  • Becoming What You Hate (2003)
  • "Living on Dimes" 7" (2003)
  • Fraud EP (2004)
  • OddBalls (2006)

The Brothers Martin saw Jason reunite with his brother Ronnie for the first time since the Dance House Children days. Both brothers' love for New Wave resulted in their collaborative album attempting to out-80's the 80's themselves. Now that Ronnie has relocated to Ohio, a follow-up album is very unlikely.

  • The Brothers Martin (2007)

Neon Horse is an Anonymous Band playing a mix of hard rock and synth-pop; fans suspected that it was a collaboration between Mark Salomon (lead singer of The Crucified and Stavesacre) and Jason Martin from the very beginning. This was confirmed to be true at the band's first live show.

  • Neon Horse (2007)
  • Haunted Horse: Songs of Love, Defiance, and Delusion (2009)

Low & Behold is a Goth Rock / New Wave band, with Ryan Clark from Demon Hunter on vocals.

  • "Blood Red" 12" maxi-single (2011)

Enemy Ships aka The Emergency was a short-lived hard rock supergroup that Jason played guitar and wrote a few songs for. They gained some major label interest, signed to Atlantic Records, recorded an album called The Emergency, and then got inexplicably dropped. The unreleased album was leaked to the internet in mp3 form.



Provides examples of:

  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: Back in the 90's, Jason took fashion tips from 50's greasers. For example, see the "Housewife Love Song" music video.
  • Break Up Song: Nearly all the lyrics from Gold were lamenting the messy ends of relationships. Jason has insisted that the relationships in question were friendships, not romance.
  • Chess with Death: In the "No New Kinda Story" video, as a Shout-Out to The Seventh Seal.
  • Christian Rock
  • Christmas Songs: While he's yet to record a proper Christmas album, Jason is the only musician who's recorded songs for every volume of Tooth & Nail Records' Happy Christmas compilation series.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: When Bon Voyage covered The Smiths' "Girlfriend in a Coma", they didn't change the lyrics at all.
  • Creator Breakdown: Gold is the soundtrack to a barely-averted nervous breakdown. Jason's bandmates departed after the Silver tour, leaving Jason to record the follow-up album almost completely by himself. On top of this, Jason was feeling messed up over some friendships that had dissolved. That claustrophobia you feel in the finished album? That's Jason nearly suffocating under his own high expectations.
    • Though Jason denies it, there's some Wild Mass Guessing that his breakup with Leigh Bingham [2] also played a role.
  • Doing It for the Art: Both Jason Martin and the record label. Jason has a day job; he's in this because he loves the music, not because he needs cash. And Tooth & Nail Records keeps putting out the albums, even though they're losing money on them.[3]
  • Ear Rape: The shrieking guitar feedback on "Dual Overhead Cam".
  • Epic Rocking: "Traffic Jam", "Messed Up Over You", "Le Vainqueur", "Too Much Fun", "I Like Your Photographs".
  • Fading Into the Next Song: "I Like Your Photographs" and "...Moves On" off Leave Here a Stranger.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck / Unusual Euphemism: Sf59's lyrics eschew harsh language, except for "hell" in two songs (as in "You know we had one hell of a dad" in the song "No New Kinda Story"). Outside the music, Jason would say "shin" and "eff" in place of actual obscenities.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: The end of "First Heart Attack".
  • I Am the Band: Not only is Jason the only permanent member, but he played almost all the instruments on Gold by himself, to boot.
  • Idiosyncratic Album Theming: The dedication to Jesus in every album's liner notes. The use of Only Known by Initials.
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art: The Ghosts of the Future vinyl sleeves.
  • The Invisible Band: At Jason's own request, he hasn't appeared in any Starflyer video since "A Housewife Love Song". The video for "I Win" goes so far as to substitute photogenic teens for the entire band.
  • Last-Note Nightmare: "First Heart Attack".
  • Looped Lyrics: "Gangs of Riverside"--the title is also the song's only lyrics.
  • Lyrical Shoehorn / Word Salad Lyrics: Whether the lyrics of a given song have any meaning is a toss-up; Jason always writes the music first and lyrics second. Even the songs that do mean something are frequently padded with lyrics that were penned solely to sound good.
  • Lyrics Video Mismatch: "No New Kinda Story". The lyrics are pretty vague, but seem to be about the singer's life being no different from a story. The video is a tribute to The Seventh Seal, with a man getting poisoned by his car's air conditioning and then losing a chess match against Death.
  • Melismatic Vocals: "Like Sha-a-a-a-ane, he comes when he's needed."
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Silver, Gold, Americana, Everybody Makes Mistakes, I am the Portuguese Blues, "The Brightest of the Head" single, the Minor Keys EP.
  • Missing Episode:
    • That album by the side project Enemy Ships was never released, outside of being leaked to the internet.
    • "Jim", an instrumental song laid down during the Old recording sessions (and mentioned several times in Jeff Cloud's online recording journal). The band cut it from the album, intending to release it on an EP later. Then the hard drive containing the only recording of the song was damaged, and Jason forgot how the song went. So "Jim" is lost forever.
  • New Sound Album: The Fashion Focus.
  • The Not-Remix: The 2005 remasters of Silver and Gold. Criticized by a vocal segment of the fanbase for falling prey to the Loudness War.
  • Old Shame: Fans may love it, but Jason says he can't stand to listen to Silver any more.
  • Ominous Chanting: "I Like Your Photographs" from Leave Here a Stranger; "Underneath" and "First Heart Attack", off Old.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: On the song "Old".
  • One Degree of Separation: Go re-read Starflyer's past and current roster. With possibly one or two exceptions all of those musicians have had respectable careers in other bands and/or as solo musicians. And then most of the people in those bands have also played in other bands, and that's not event getting into the album producers... Southern California indie Christian rock rivals Shoegazing for the title of "The Scene That Celebrates Itself".
  • Only Known by Initials: First on The Fashion Focus, then on Leave Here a Stranger and every album since, the band members are only credited by their first initial and last name. Also results in unintentional Theme Naming on Leave Here a Stranger: the band is credited as J. Martin, J. Cloud, J. Esquibel, and J. Dooley.
  • Rockstar Song: Very common, ever since Everybody Makes Mistakes. For the most part, they boil down to the fact that Jason sees rock music as a career built on frustration and futility.
  • Self-Deprecation: Songs like "When I Learn to Sing" ("It's not the same when I try / it's just a bad lullaby") and "Ideas for the Talented" ("My ideas, they outweigh all the talent I own").
  • Self-Titled Album: The first two albums were both officially named Starflyer 59. Silver and Gold were the fan nicknames, which were eventually used as the official titles for the re-releases.
  • Shout-Out: Several.
    • To two of his musical influences in "Minor Keys":

 Through the speakers and through the walls...

[later]

Like Johnny Marr I want my "Please, Please, Please".

 So, we play Kick the Can

It'll make us young, like Serling says.

 Jason’s initial reaction to the completed record was one of disgust. ... The ashen aura of doom hovering over the record grew several shades darker when it was finally released. Fans of Silver’s triple-tremolo-assault retaliated viciously when they heard the muted mope of its follow-up, often vocalizing their distaste to Jason in person. ... People walked up to Jason at concerts and asked, point blank, “Why does your new album sound so bad?” ... And that’s when a strange thing started happening. People started liking Gold. No one quite knows when it happened or how, but suddenly sales of the record began jumping, and fan defense of the songs became more ardent, more impassioned. Jason’s cryptic lyrics began resonating with disaffected teenagers, and the mammoth, almost supernatural guitar sounds started seeming more calculated, the shrieking solos more tortured, more precise. Gold went on to nearly triple the sales numbers of its predecessor, and take solid root not as a failed follow-up, but as a triumphant return.

  • Soprano and Gravel: Jason is the gravel, and any backing singers are almost invariably rather high-pitched.
  • Strictly Formula: Jason has been quoted saying that pop and rock songwriting is a craft, not an art.
  • Studio Chatter: It's not clear if it was intentional or an accident, but in "First Heart Attack" you can barely hear someone say "Stop" immediately before the song (and album) ends.
  • Surreal Music Video: "No New Kinda Story".
  • Talking to the Dead: "Majic", addressing Jason's recently-departed father.
  • Troubled Production: Owing to the departure of most of the band, and Jason's Creator Breakdown, he barely finished recording Gold in time.
  • Tyop on the Cover: One of the original printings of Silver spells the band's name as "Starflier 59" on the disc label.
  • Un Installment: "Second Space Song", off the first album. A "First Space Song" was written for the next album, but it got cut and was only released on Easy Come, Easy Go.
  • Unplugged Version: Martin's song "Mr. Martin" started off as an electric guitar-heavy demo on the Ghosts of the Future boxed set, with a softer version on piano and acoustic guitar recorded as a B-side. Then when it came time to re-record the demos for the album Dial M, the band decided they liked the B-side better, so the unplugged version became the official version. And then the next EP featured two more tracks from the album--"The Brightest of the Head" and "I Love You Like the Little Bird"--and a cover version of The Church's "Under the Milky Way", all performed in the same unplugged style.
  • Word Salad Title: The name Starflyer 59 doesn't mean anything.

"All praise and glory to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. This has been a Blue Collar Production."

Notes

  1. In Jason's own words: "Shoegazer music has been dead since 1991. The only shoegaze music we ever did is maybe "The Zenith" from Silver--even that wasn't current when it came out." And his default reaction to the inevitable My Bloody Valentine comparisons was a dismissive, "We're not nearly as brilliant as they were."
  2. later known as Leigh Nash--yes, the lead singer of Sixpence None the Richer
  3. They're hardly hurting for cash, either, thanks to all the pop-punk and emo-hardcore they're selling.
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