Michael Witting, Joey Avalos, & Chris Cleveland - Stars Go Dim

January 30, 2009

Photo Credit: Angela Monger

Tell me a little bit about you guys.

Band: Well, weíre a bunch of guys. My name is Michael and I play bass for Stars Go Dim. Weíre based out of Tulsa but weíve got members all over the place. Me and Chris here, our singer, are from Tulsa. Our guitar player Joey is from Phoenix and our drummer is from Kansas City. Weíre from all over and weíve come together making new music magic.

Sounds good. I was looking some stuff up about you guys and I saw some of you had been in Pillar. I had reviewed a CD by them a while back and had talked to Robert.

Band: But did you give it a good review? Thatís the question.

Yes, I did.

Band: I played bass for Pillar for 11 years with a founding member and just recently stepped out. Lester, our drummer was in Pillar and actually Joey here, our guitar player, played in Pillar for several years. Thatís how this whole thing started. Out there on the road with Pillar.

Hey, letís start our own band!

Band: I think it was more friendship. Me, Lester, and Joey just gelled really well. We met Chris through some mutual friends and we clicked and just started writing music together. It was a side project actually and it went from there.

It took off on its own. You guys released an EP. A bunch of little love songs.

Band: Itís a bunch of big love songs. Massive love songs. Yeah, we released an EP. Just Stars Go Dim self-titled. Itís a precursor to our full length Love Gone Mad. Itís going to be out this spring. Thatíll have 10 or 11 tracks on it. Basically Joey does most of the writing. Him and I co-write a little bit. They are all songs that everybody can relate to. Weíve got the screw you love songs and I never want to see you anymore which everybody needs sometimes. Then weíve got the so Iím in love with you I donít want to look at anything else love songs. So really something for everybody.

And Iím so love sick that you left me and I donít know what Iím going to do with myself love songs?

Band: Hopefully we donít get too desperate but theyíre real emotions and itís every aspect of love that you can think of. Itís a bunch of huge love songs. Itís a precursor to a full length that weíre working on actually. Just finished up called Love Gone Mad. The word mad means so many different things.

You can be angry. You can be crazy.

Band: A lot of people turn it on even playing. Iím mad for you. Whatever, just like anything. Thatís what we do is just kind of sum it up. All the spectrums. It wasnít a concept album or anything. We just write songs. The pick of the litter, the song that cuts to the wall kind of thing, those are what made the album.

You guys just finished it?

Band: Actually, it was mastered about a couple of days ago. Itís finished. Hasnít been pressed or anything yet. All of the engineering part has been done.

Why does it take so long from that point to actually getting it released?

Band: Itís more of just setting it up so people know about it. Making sure you spend time to mention the wordís out. You have the choice. Tomorrow when we get in we can go ďhere you goĒ if thatís what we want. Weíve had some loyal listeners from the get go because we didnít have music the first year when we were working on this project and theyíve been all watching video blogs of this whole process. The whole journey. Most people that are not in music donít understand the process of writing a song to recording the song to putting the song out. Today actually I think it would be disrespectful to them to have been part of the journey and this process and if youíre just ďhere you goĒ itís not very fair them.

I thought Iíd ask that because a lot of people ask me how people put records together and I say that can take up to a year and sometimes a little longer. People are like ďwhy does it take so long when so and so recorded their stuff in two weeks?Ē Well, thereís a whole process behind it so maybe if they hear that from the bands themselves.

Band: The band is not the only one that has to do anything with the record. There are so many hands in the pot. There are so many other outside forces that you donít have control of. The market. Thereís music and the business of it, the music business and if you have the music done the business needs to catch up and make sure itís there for you too. Weíve actually been writing this record for a year and a half. Itís not two weeks. Weíve been recording it for over a year. Actually recording the album in five different states, six different cities, in over a year period. A lot of work. A lot of work. A journey.

This record was done all over.

Band: Everywhere.

So you guys are a Christian oriented band?

Band: Pillar is. Weíre all Christians. Thatís our faith. This band is really not a ministry type base.

So your stuff isnít preachy.

Band: No, not all. I didnít grow up in church and Iíve got a street version of it in the way I look at Christian music. Iím not speaking for the band but itís how I can always see it. When you label something Christian music, it sounds to me like itís for Christians only.

Yeah, you seem to limit your audience.

Band: If you say ďhey, this is a jazz recordĒ most people that donít like jazz arenít going to listen to this record. Or if itís a raw heavy metal record, why would someone who listens to Norah Jones want to listen to it? Thatís the way I look at it. If you label something Christian music, it seems like itís directly for that audience. We just like to write good songs and if anyone wants to listen, fine. If no oneís listening, fine too. Weíre still going to do what we do. These are all relationship based songs. Theyíre all guy girl kind of a love story between two people. You can find similarities with anybody. Anybody in the world can relate to this record. We just wanted to put something out that anybody on any day could sit down and say ďyou know what? Iíve been there and I know what theyíre talking about. That hits it home with me.Ē Yeah, weíre not trying to pitch a call at all.

Yeah, thatís kind of a bad thing. I interview all sorts of bands because I listen to all types of music. Anything from 50ís rock and roll to black metal. Thrash metal and in between. I listen to it all. Someone asked me how I hook up with all these Christian bands and Iím not necessarily sure these bands want to be labeled that because you limit your audience too much. Iím not a Christian so if someone tells me theyíre in a Christian band I may not be interested.

Band: Honestly thatís where I coming from. I grew up in Phoenix, AZ. Itís not the Bible Belt. I didnít grow up in a church. My experience is my own relations to God. Heís my own I feel. A lot of time people that were born and basically youíre already born into it, I feel grateful for having my own experience. It happens for everyone that they feel theyíre experiencing religion or whatever they go through. Thatís their own experiences between what you believe and itís none of our business. The thing is, weíre all about hope and love. Everyone can relate to love. Thatís what the whole album is about. When you think about love, love is hope. Thatís what weíre all about.

Youíre about spreading love, man.

Band: Oh yeah. Never goes out of style.

Thereís this thing about what song was the number one song when you were born. I got a kick out of that because I was born in 1967 and the number one song was ďAll You Need Is LoveĒ by The Beatles.

Band: In the early stages Iíd seen the Lionel Richie thing too. You always say love never goes out of style.. Write a love song people can relate with.

I think more people need to write songs like that because lately most of the stuff you hear about is all depressing. Iím angry at the world. You guys were the finalists in a John Lennon writing contest. What is that? Thatís cool.

Band: Itís probably one of the bigger songwriting contests in the world. Honestly when I was a kid, I wrote crappy songs and I entered them in that contest when I was probably 15. Joey wrote the song ďDeliveranceĒ and it was a finalist. Just to be part of a band that would get that far. I always relate everything to sports. Like this weekend the Super Bowl is coming. Itís like playing in the Super Bowl. Even though you donít win, thatís pretty cool. Itís the Super Bowl of songwriting. That song also won the USA song competition which is another one of the biggest in the world. Then ďCome AroundĒ won a songwriting competition at a Country Music Televisionís Listenerís Choice Award. Weíre not country but we beat a bunch of country songs. Weíve been blessed to have good songwriting.

Youíre going to make a bunch of rednecks out there really mad. Look out. Who are some of your musical influences?

Band: Usually itís all the above. I know personally the reason why I started playing guitar was Stevie Ray Vaughn. He was amazing to me. I saw him when I was 13 so thatís when I decided to do it. I listen to anything.

What about you?

Band: Iím just the bass player. I play whatever they tell me to play. I just follow the guitar player and the drummer.

I have two ex-boyfriends who are bass players.

Band: Are they from back East? They were extremely handsome werenít they?

One turned out to be a real dork and the other turned out to be a real jerk. Bass players always get all the girls though.

Band: Do they? I thought it was the lead singer. What if youíre a lead singer and play bass?

I had a drummer once. He was alright.

Band: Iím just chill. The drummers are usually tight. They have to be to lay it down.

So who are your musical influences and donít tell me youíre just the lead singer.

Band: No. I listen to a lot of different music as well. Some of my current guys that I really like right now. A guy named Amos Lee. A guy named Marc Broussard. Gavin McGraw.

That Marc Broussard guy plays here in Dallas a lot.

Band: Heís great. Wonderful. A New Orleans guy. Heís got more soul than any white guy Iíve ever seen. I like soulful music. John Mayer kind of stuff. Thatís the kind of stuff that Iím really into right now.

And our tight drummer. What does he like?

Band: I like a little bit of everything. I really donít listen to a lot of rap. I grew up listening to jazz. Old traditional jazz. Count Basie, Art Blakey. Now Iíve grown more to the rock, not heavy metal, but a little bit of hard rock. I like the guy from Killer. I like a little bit of alternative. Iíve got a lot of influences. Lester is one of my influences. Weíve got a gang of friends in the Kansas City area that we all get inspiration from. We get a little bit of competitiveness from. It would take me a long time to name a lot of the influences.

Give me a week with him and I could turn him into a death metal aficionado.

Band: I pretty much like everything across the board. I like everything. Smooth jazz. Anything really.

Isnít funny when someone is black and everyone automatically thinks he likes rap?

Band: Or heís going to steal something.

Yeah or heís going to ask for your last cigarette or something.

Band: But heís tight man.

Because heís the drummer! How has your tour been going so far?

Band: Itís going awesome. Doing well. Weíve teamed up with an awesome organization called Invisible Children. Itís an organization that provides awareness and relief for kids in northern Uganda. Basically what it is, is these rebel groups come in and steal children out of these villages and force them to be soldiers in their armies. Kind of brainwash them. So these kids will walk every night from their villages into Uganda and sleep in the streets because thatís the only place that theyíre safe. Some kids from California went out with a couple of video cameras and did a documentary and brought it out to the world. Itís really catching on and taking hold so we thought it was an important thing that we wanted to get out and come show everybody so weíve been talking about it.

Thatís a cool thing to get into.

Band: We had a chance a few years back in the other band to meet the guy who started the whole thing. We watched the video. It was about three or four years ago. It was real powerful. We have the video actually at our merch table and Chris will mention it on stage. Once you see it, it will open your eyes a little bit. You see a little bit of what theyíre talking about in the movie Blood Diamond that came out a while ago about kid soldiers. Thatís the real life stuff thatís going on. We tell people about it. Be aware of whatís going on.

If it doesnít have anything to do with what Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are doing this week or what Paris Hilton is doing next week, the whole world can blow up.

Band: What are they wearing?

I noticed that living under the Bush administration for eight years, I noticed all this weird stuff they were doing and you would mention it to people and theyíd be like ďoh, really? Wow? Well, you know Paris Hilton wasÖ.Ē Good morning!

Band: Right, exactly.

That was kind of creepy. If I canít have my remote control and my Prozac. Any other thoughts or comments?

Band: We hope that people stop by www.starsgodim.com and check out our journal. Watch us on tour and see whatís going on. Write us a note. We like to write everybody back.

Do you write everybody back?

Band: We do. Actually we do.

Do you divide up all the emails?

Band: It gets done. You play the same songs every night. We love playing music but what makes every night special is just meeting new people. Even meeting them online. Seeing all the people supporting us encourages us and keeps us going.

Stars Go Dim