(This article was originally written for Montreal Rampage)
If you were a mysterious organization dedicated to considering the technology of the near future and how it might affect our lives politically, socially, and economically, how would you publicize your agenda? For the mysterious Starset Society (http://thestarsetsociety.org/our-mission/), a rock band was the answer to their PR needs. Thus was the origin of the band Starset, founded by Downplay frontman Dustin Bates to promote the society’s message, and help attract attention to their activities. “The band is helping to promote the Message of the Starset Society,” he explained to me. “We are part of its public outreach campaign which is attempting to garner public interest in their narrative.”
Recorded over a period of roughly 4 months, the band’s debut album “Transmissions” (released in July 2014) draws its inspiration from the Society’s activities. “I have written the record based upon their overarching narrative in an attempt to help increase the public’s knowledge of it,” Bates said. “If this seems confusing, there will be a novel released in December that helps to explain things in much greater detail.”
With Bates’ academic background (he has a PhD in electrical engineering, a field he only abandoned when a record deal made it impossible to do both), it’s perhaps no surprise that he was drawn to that message. The music, which he aptly describes as “a hard rock band blended with a soundtrack to a sci fi movie,” draws influence from bands like 30 Seconds to Mars, Deftones, Muse or Breaking Benjamin, with a dash of Nine Inch Nails or Owl City electronics and the cinematic music of Hans Zimmer and Sigur Ros. Put all together, this makes for a pretty interesting record of melodic rock, with the cinematic aspects being the glue that holds all these influences into a coherent package. Bates sings and plays keyboards in addition to writing all the material, and is joined by Ron DeChant on bass and keyboard, Brock Richards on guitar and Adam Gilbert on Drums. The production is also top notch, with a crisp sound and slick mix that never gets muddy even in the more aggressive moments.