In Conversation with Kimi Shelter of StarBenders

StarBenders is an Atlanta-based electro-rock glam band noted for addictive melodies and youthful angst lyrics. They’ve just released “Down and Out,” a follow-up track to their recent album, Heavy Petting. Maestro guitarist and singer Kimi Shelter recently took the time to answer our questions about her background and the band, and gave some clues as to why she may be becoming the latest “it” girl.
Describe your musical background.
My background is equal parts classical and punk. My mother started me on violin in the second grade. She would drag my older sister and I to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra every Sunday morning while other kids watched cartoons. In defiance, I sought the opposite of classical music’s discipline and rigidity. Enter the electric guitar.

What was the catalyst that made you choose music as a career?
Nothing else locked into place the way music did. The few times when I didn’t honor my calling, my world would disintegrate.

What or who in your musical training had the most? and best? influence on you, as a guitarist, a composer, and a human being?
That’d have to be Nico Constantine. He’s my producer, teacher, and, most importantly, my truest ally in this world. He’s offered me a very enriching place creatively. While welcoming all my ideas he challenges the band and I to push further. With every creation we become more whole.

What part of your life do your songs come from?
There’s no part of my life that songs don’t come from. I generally sit down and begin channeling, with no expectations as to what will come of it. It allows me to target different parts of my brain without the danger of excluding anything.

What was the most mesmerizing musical experience of your life?
All of the pushing that I do within my own mind has allowed me different levels of consciousness. I have lucid dreams and have felt supernatural beings in the crowd at shows.

I seek openings in the universe.

If you had to give your music a genre, what would you call it?
We call it Glam Noir or ATL Glam. StarBenders have a distinct darkness That’s hard to put a finger on. Atlanta is known for its noise and art rock scene, which we’ve kind of adopted by virtue of geography.

What’s the story behind “Down and Out”?
“Down and Out” is an apocalyptic pop song. It’s about what people who are tuned in and turned on face in this world. You’re being told that everything will be alright while the world is on fire. Being a creature of love has left you exiled and those bent on evil descend upon your heart like vultures. Our freedom is found within dreams.

How easy is it for a woman to break into the music industry? and stay there? these days? What advice do you have for other female musicians?
It isn’t easy for anyone, male and female alike. I think that the sooner you try to not have a chip on your shoulder, the stronger you become. You have to see yourself as being a whole entity, with equal parts male and female in your spirit . . . yin and yang.

Do you have any advice for adolescent girls that you wish had been given to you?
There are definitely obstacles girls have to deal with in the world and within the music business. Rock music especially is a boys club. What you focus on grows and I go out of my way not to think about it. My advice is to work hard and rise above.

What conditions do you require in your life in order to go on being creative?
I create an environment that doesn’t allow me to doubt myself and question what comes out. If you overthink your art before it has a chance to grow, You’re dead in the water.

What do you feed your muse?
I’m an empath, so I have to avoid violent movies and negative places. I gravitate toward things that don’t seem to sway me in any direction. Staying physically strong helps me a lot. I do yoga every day.

My bandmates inspire me big time. Kriss is one of the greatest guitarists I’ve ever heard and his love affair with music is inspirational. Aaron is an incredible guitarist as well. He’s brought a very melodic, supportive, and unique current to the bass lines of our songs. Katie has swagger for days and a passionate approach to the drums that makes me want to wreck a room! I love the way she plays!

As artists do you feel any desire to straighten out the world a little with the art you make?
Like any relationship, you should never be under the impression that you can change someone. All we hope to do is offer a light that the audience can feed on and carry within themselves.

If you had an artistic mission statement, what would it be?
we’re with you.

Tell us about your current and upcoming projects.
we’ll be putting out singles every 6-12 weeks and be on tour this summer.

Do you have anything else to add?
My favorite animal is a cat.

Wanda also writes the blog The Mindful Bard:The Care and Feeding of the Creative Self.