‘It’s like being in a brotherhood’: Interview with Devin Oliver of I See Stars
blog by Ben Kirst • February 02, 2013 @ 8:00am
What were you doing when you were 21? Let’s see, I was going to Fredonia State, washing dishes at a hotel and driving a 1977 Delta 88 around the happenin’ streets of Dunkirk, NY. Good times!
Devin Oliver of I See Stars, by comparison, is 21 years old and has managed to put together a slightly more impressive resume. His band’s third album, 2012’s Digital Renegade, reached No. 45 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
He’s traveled around the United States and the world, including England, Europe and Australia, as part of the Warped Tour, AP Tour, Monster Outbreak Tour and many others. He’s made lasting friendships with fellow bands and grown closer to his own brother and lifelong buddies, with whom he formed I See Stars as junior high students in Warren, Mich. less than a decade ago.
“A lot of bands come and go,” Oliver said in a phone interview from his home in Warren last week, where he and guitarist Brent Allen were working on songs for I See Stars’ fourth album, scheduled for release later this year. “But we’ve just rocked out and kept it going. We have all of the same members, and that’s awesome. We’re not some super-group that changes around for every album and every tour—it’s just us. We’ve only played together.”
Oliver and I See Stars will be in Buffalo for a 5:30 p.m. show on Monday, Feb. 4 at Xtreme Wheels (356 Hertel Ave., Buffalo) as part of the band’s Filthy February tour with For All Those Sleeping, Get Scared, Palisades, Upon This Dawning and Buffalo’s own The Bella Donna.
I See Stars’ music is sometimes described as “electronicore,” which is to say that it combines elements of keyboard-infused pop and dance music while maintaining a heavy reliance on the dual-guitar attack, hard vocals and thunderously breakdowns that define the post-hardcore scene of the 21st century. Oliver and company, however, are currently working to push themselves to a more extreme level than what’s been heard on their previous work.
“Yeah, we’ve tried messing around with some dubstep stuff, trying to improve our own knowledge of some of the new sounds, but we like heavy music,” Oliver explained. “We like the breakdowns. Those are fun to play. We went balls to the wall on Digital Renegade and we’re going to do it again on (the next) one…if anything, we’re increasing our heaviness. Heavy breakdowns, really rocking choruses—we’re doing it all. Our next record, it’s going to have everything that you heard on Digital Renegade, but times twelve.”
The fact that Digital Renegade was a commercial success was not as surprising to Oliver as was the fact that he still finds himself able to enjoy the album. A brutal self-critic, Oliver finds that he has actually grown more fond of Digital Renegade as time has passed.
“I’m very proud of that record,” he said. “I can still listen to it from front to back, which is rare, because I am really picky. I tend to mess around with our songs forever because I’m never 100 percent happy with them. If there wasn’t a (recording) deadline, I would take forever. But that album, I can listen to it and be stoked about every track. And with the new album, I feel like these new tracks are getting better and better.”
The Filthy February tour was not initially intended to be a group outing. I See Stars wanted to get back on the road after some time off around the holidays and new year, and asked a few friendly bands if they’d be interested in a short tour—word spread, however, and the band was inundated with requests by other groups to join in the excursion. After some debate, the members of I See Stars agreed that they’d pull together a larger event, but only if they got to pick their tourmates.
“For this tour, we weren’t going to go out with anyone—maybe just a couple bands,” Oliver said. “We didn’t want it to be a big package deal, initially. But one of our friends wanted to come, and then we started getting requests from more and more bands to come out, so we were like, f**k it, let’s load it up. The thing is, though, we wanted to pull in a lot of up-and-coming, highly anticipated bands—bands that we liked, too. We wanted to help out bands that we like.”
Building a sense of community, Oliver continued, comes naturally to I See Stars.
“We are a very friendly band,” he said, “and we like our tours to be among friends. You think about it, and being on the road, there are struggles that we all share. No one else understands what the rest of us are going through as well as the other guys doing the same exact thing that you do. As great as touring is, there are a lot of things that suck about it, too. And people don;t want to hear about that when you go home. When you talk to your family or your friends at home, they can say they get what it’s like, but you know they don’t really get it. i can’t even talk to them about it. But you get out with these guys from other bands, and they understand every single thing. We take care of each other mentally. It’s like being in a brotherhood.”
Which is not to say that Oliver bemoans his fate—he excitedly admitted that he loves his band and his life. He was excited about resuming the band’s touring schedule, particularly to escape the winter cold of the Midwest (“I’ve had a cold for two weeks, dude,” Oliver said, “and I saw that we’ll be in Texas in, like, a month. I can’t wait.”) and to hop back on the wild roller coaster ride of traveling, performing and finding new inspiration.
“We don’t like to have any limitations,” he said. “We like to do it all. We’re so inspired by all kinds of different music. We love to hear it and we love to play it. Sometimes it’s confusing, and sometimes it sounds like we found the master plan. But I think that’s what makes our band our band. We’re doing it all, and experiencing a little bit of everything.”