Formed in New York City in 2002, The Sad Little Stars are Max Low and Rachel McIntosh on vocals and various instruments. Both recently transplanted mid-westerners, they struck up an immediate bond in the keyboard section of a Manhattan music store.
Their first release, The Stars Below, is a fifteen-song recording released in 2003 written by Max Low and produced by Brad Albetta (Martha Wainwright, Freedy Johnston, Teddy Thompson) at Monkey Boy Studios, New York. It was recorded there and at Low's home studio using a combination of everything from micro-cassette recorders to 4-tracks machines to digital recorders. A thoroughly unconventional yet familiar collection of instruments combines with guitars, synthesizers and drum machines to imbue the band with their unique sound. However, the modest arrangements, subtle vocals and warm lyrics give the listener a feeling that no notes have been wasted, despite the variety of instruments on the record.
Lyrically, the songs are intensely personal and romantic, while retaining an impressionistic quality that allows the listener to freely supplant their own feelings on the situations described. Songs like "We Were Just Waking Up," "Nothing Ever Happens When You're Gone," and "I'm Waiting For You to Change Your Mind," while seemingly direct in their intentions, tell their respective stories in broad strokes.
The Sad Little Stars are defining a new voice in pop, one that is both reminiscent of the great duos of the 70's and yet completely modern and distinct. The interplay of male and female vocals and harmonies adds a varnish to the rough-edged recording techniques, and grounds the group in tradition while acknowledging the new.
With a vast array of instruments and other gadgets, The Sad Little Stars' stage looks more like a scientific playground for futuristic kids with short attention spans than the more traditional rock band set up. "We don't discriminate, we collect anything that makes an interesting noise and find a way to use it," says Max. While on stage, the duo incorporates pedals to record and loop individual parts live on the spot while moving from instrument to instrument, making each show a singularly remarkable experience. "There is always some sense of risk involved. It's a bit like juggling hammers. It feels good when you do it right. This is what allows us to remain a two-piece band and not depend on hiring other musicians," says Max.
None of this hype can take the place of experiencing the music for oneself. Whether as Compact Disc or Live Performance, an evening with The Sad Little Stars is one that will never be forgotten.
The Sad Little Stars performed as part of CMJ Music Festival in New York in 2003 and 2004. They perform at the Knitting Factory, Fez, CB's, and others in the city and are currently taking their show on the road.