At the back end of August, Los Angeles band Velvet Starlings released their latest album ‘Pacific Standard Time’ and a real ear-grabber (and final single before release) was ‘Turning Point’. Perhaps a titular remark at how the band is changing under the youthful multi-instrumentalist Christian Gisborne, the wider ten-track collection marks the start of a newer, sharper iteration of the group.
‘Turning Point’ kicks off straight away and imposes a pace and presence immediately on the listener. Keys pulse out, in a fashion akin to the Doors’ Ray Manzarek. In my honest opinion, the song of course is a solid addition to a growing psychedelic back catalogue. Yet, when presented with a press pack which bandies about the word ‘prodigy’, interest admittedly wanes. Despite this though, the skill on keys makes up for it as well as, I later find, a direct contrasting humility…
With those Doors-esque inspirations, the band are ultimately rooted in the past, but the song’s meaning itself looks to the future as their young lead-man spoke of weighty climate change connotations:
“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.”
Christian Gisborne has taken a lifelong interest in music to respectable heights at the age of 20. Where once, he was humbling plugging away at the foundational pop song structure textbook, he plies his trade at the likes of Isle of Wight Festival, Summerfest, and Beachlife. On the LA circuit, his determined brand of creation, as he continually expands his sound, finds him go across varying iconic venues like The Troubadour, Lodge Room, and The Echo.
I preface this section with an admirable look at the artist, as honestly, this song leaves contrasting feelings. I think to a point, there’s an element of formula as this song slides seamlessly into an eclectic resurgence of surf-rock psychedelia, especially rife in California. However, on the other, I’m listening to a young man put so much onus and emotion to his lyrics through delivery. With his, and his band’s, clearly gifted musical nature – it’s certain that a more individual sound is going to be carved out. For now, the homage of comforting sounds of old will attract a keen few – yet the longer term is what I find more exciting. Tracks like these are a brilliant foundation block for a duly-blossoming career.
Acknowledging the key subjective nature of music, Gisborne’s own outlook is a progressive breeze of change through the Los Angeles sands:
“The goal of Velvet Starlings isn’t even for people to like it –
it’s for people to hear it, 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."
With the current iteration of Velvet Starlings, Christian has found a set of bandmates who share his omnivorous taste for music, 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. If this clearly gifted group can keep the wheels turning, the future will likely be bright.