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Starcrawler frontwoman Arrow de Wilde is strikingly tall, spindly and spectacularly art-damaged. At six feet-plus, she towers over most of the crowd at the Lodge Room, a well-appointed and independently owned venue in Los Angeles’ hipster-fied Highland Park neighborhood on a warm late-March evening. With flaming vermillion hair, an insouciant voice, angular poses and a ferocious stage presence, de Wilde and her incendiary hard rock band transfix the entirety of this sold-out 500-cap ballroom for over an hour.

“Lately, I’ve been inspired by Japanese horror movies and zombie films,” de Wilde says a few days later. Gone is her banshee persona, in its place is a demure former art student who only last year graduated from an East L.A. performing arts high school.

“I like a lot of facial expressions that either the villains or the people being attacked make,” the 18-year-old continues. “When I started the band, I was obsessed with learning about the history of insane asylums and the barbaric treatment of patients. I researched it and it was a dark, depressing hole but it was also very inspiring. There’s a lot of beautiful and eerie photos that inspire a lot of what I do on stage, and my outfits.”

Musically, this young hard-rock-demigoddess-in-the-making channels a lineage of blood-and-guts punk frontwomen, including: Wendy O. Williams, Patti Smith, Courtney Love and Karen O among others. But she cites someone else entirely.

“I first got inspired by the Runaways and Cherie Currie,” says de Wilde, name-checking the proto-‘70s L.A. female rock act, whose rawness can be heard in de Wilde’s voice. But then she namechecks Ozzy Osbourne and the glammier, glitzier Motley Crue.


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Photo: Autumn de Wilde

Starcrawler

Though de Wilde’s apple hasn’t fallen far from her parental tree rooted deeply in L.A.’s hip ‘90s eastside music scene – her mother Autumn de Wilde is a rock photographer and video artist; her father is drummer Aaron Sperske (Father John Misty, Beachwood Sparks, Lilies and Ariel Pink among others) she is clearly on her own trajectory.

Starcrawler is anchored by a torrid hard rock trio that knows its Sabbath; Henri Cash, the 17-year-old guitarist (son of blues guitarist Buddy Zapata, his guitar tech at the Lodge) along with drummer Austin Smith, 22, and bassist Tim Franco, 21, have the formidable task of creating and reining-in the metal mayhem. This means keeping it together during de Wilde’s unplanned dance calisthenics or the fake-blood soaked, quasi-religious ritual she leads mid-set or Cash’s crowd surfing with his guitar cord inadvertently wrapped around his neck. Alas, by set’s end, the quartet finally succumbs to the mayhem as de Wilde saunters off the riser and out of the ballroom’s doors never to return as Cash straps his custom black Les Paul onto an unsuspecting fan who somehow plays the band off stage as the sold-out crowd loses its mind.

“It felt like being hit by four trains at once,” is how musician Ryan Adams, in a Vulture article, described first seeing them play. That’s only relevant because Adams produced the band’s self-titled debut, which dropped in January on Rough Trade Records. Thankfully, upon catching a performance, the artist/producer knew exactly how to record them at his Pax-AM Studio. “Seeing them live would explain why,” Adams said, who went direct to tape. “It’s all there, all the sounds anybody needs.”

Indeed, the band’s careening and fiery live show has steadily propelled them up the indie ladder from their first gig at a friend’s storage space on Sunset Boulevard in mid 2016 to last month winning SXSW’s Grulke Prize for Developing U.S. Act after playing nearly a dozen shows at the Austin confab (which included an emergency room visit by de Wilde following a spill at a Waterloo Records showcase).

In between, the band signed a management deal with Peter Matthew Bauer, who was in The Walkmen, a NYC-based band that tasted critical and independent success throughout the aughts before going on hiatus in 2013. He first stumbled upon Starcrawler through de Wilde’s father, with whom he toured.

“We were Instagram friends,” Bauer says. “I saw [Starcrawler] on the first few shows he posted about. I noticed this incredibly charismatic-looking person and was sure something was going on with them because they were already recording with Ryan. But I called him and he's like, ‘No, no, they’re barely just getting started.’ So I jumped in and have been with them almost two years – when they were still in high school.”

Paradigm’s Marshall Betts, whose roster includes Courtney Barnett, Cloud Nothings, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Gary Numan and Andrew W.K., joined the team about a year later after discovering them on a 2016 year-end best of list. “They stuck out because they were one of the only rock bands,” Betts says, “so I hit up their manager.” Betts also spoke with Liz Garo, VP of talent at Spaceland Presents, which oversees The Echo, the band’s live home away from home, before signing the deal.

“I've booked them as much as possible,” Garo, one of Starcrawler’s earliest advocates, says. “That first show was so creative, so fast and furious, so engaging, I became an instant fan. But they’re a band in that old tradition where it’s unexpected and inspiring; edgy and it feels dangerous.”

With Bauer, Betts and the addition of Adele Slater from Coda Agency, who reps the band internationally, Starcrawler has played on three continents in just over a year, including three jaunts to Europe and a stint in Japan while destroying smaller established U.S. clubs. This includes Chicago’s Empty Bottle, San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill and Brooklyn’s Rough Trade – though Los Angeles remains the band’s native and spiritual home (powering their anthemic “I Love L.A.” single).
 


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Photo: Travis P Ball / Getty Image

Starcrawler


They’ve also played smaller festivals, including The Foo Fighters’ CalJam in San Bernardino, Calif., Desert Daze in Joshua Tree, Calif., and Boise’s Treefort Festival. But the band counts their shows in Japan, a place well versed in extreme rock and visual kei, as among their best.

“We played in Nagoya, Japan, in this little tiny place and that was the most crazy,” recalls Cash.

“Right off the bat they were insane,” adds de Wilde.

“And they stayed insane, too,” continues Cash. “They kept going. At the end this guy was running into the walls and doing flips and spanking our asses, and covered in his own blood.”

By that barometer, it may be hard to replicate such success; but, looking forward to their upcoming tour schedule, Starcrawler’s star is clearly on the rise. This summer they will hit a string of major European festivals, including the Barcelona and Porto editions of Primavera Sound; Germany’s Rock im Park and Rock am Ring fests; and the British and French editions of Download Festival. They’ll close out the run opening for the Foo Fighters at the 66,000-capacity London Stadium in late June.

In the last few months, Bauer has joined management forces with Present Artists Management, the management wing of Daniel Glass’ Glassnote Entertainment. The company is led by Bauer and Jeff Neuberger with a roster that includes Matt Costa, Lushlife, Liily, Katie Toupin and Field Report.

While Starcrawler is currently in writing and recording mode and looking to release a new album later this year or early next, Bauer remains acutely aware of the power of the band’s live performances. “There’s forward momentum with every show they play,” he says.

“There’s always some sort of positive feedback loop that starts there and is different than what came before. And they’re only getting better.”

When asked about playing larger festivals and shows, de Wilde doesn’t hesitate. “I like playing those big stages, it just feels good,” she says. “It’s like being on a big pedestal in front of everyone.”