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Star Dweller this Thursday at the Bell House

January 13, 2010

Stardweller; photograph: Eric Schwortz

It’s fate that Star Dweller is opening for Zee Avi this Thursday at the Bell House. It seems like fate, too, that Stephanie Davila, the woman responsible for Star Dweller, moved with her band The Winter Blanket to Minneapolis for over 6 years, and then to New York to pursue writing and get Star Dweller started in 2008.

Let’s start with Thursday’s show. Opening for Zee Avi is a great gig. Zee is a bonafide “YouTube sensation” who was launched on a road to success when a member of the Raconteurs discovered a video of this Malaysian singer-songwriter playing some of her songs on YouTube. I’m personally most excited by her ukulele talents, and to see her play her all-around cheerful yet edgy songs. I’m also very excited by Thursday’s eclectic line-up, which includes comedians Rory Scovel and Kumail Nanjiani, singer-songwriter Kevin Barker, plus “Beardo” episodes by Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav playing between sets. I expect a very entertaining night!

I recently had the chance to talk with Stephanie and learned that Star Dweller is her first solo project. She enjoys focusing on the lyrics and letting the words carry the music. Leonard Cohen is a big influence on her, and she feels the focus on writing lyrics gives her music and lyric-writing new dimensions. She also likes the challenge of performing live as a solo artist, with no band energy to feed off of. However, she’s been looking for someone to perform with her on her solo project, and Thursday will be her first show with new bandmate, Adam Charity, who plays lap steel, mandolin and Dobro.

Which leads me to the fate part of the story. Awhile back, Stephanie met Zee Avi at a show and they happened to chat about fashion, of all things. They share that passion, as well. The two exchanged information and kept in touch. Then recently, Stephanie and Adam decided to play at an open mic night in the East Village to practice performing together, and who should walk in but Zee Avi, who had moved to NYC the night before! After hearing their set and reconnecting, Zee invited them to open for her.

Stephanie’s musical past is full of other fateful connections. Back in the early 2000s, her band The Winter Blanket got started in a small Illinois town. The band traveled to Duluth to record an album produced by Alan Sparhawk of LOW, and ultimately moved to Minneapolis after traveling to Minnesota several times. They lived and performed there for over 6 years. In 2008, Stephanie got a writing gig in New York City that she couldn’t refuse. Around that same time, two of her bandmates were also drawn to other cities for various reasons, and so The Winter Blanket ended on a positive note.

Stephanie still has a special place in her heart for Minneapolis, and not just because her boyfriend lives there. Last year, she recruited Minneapolis-based musician Jeremy Messersmith to collaborate on a Star Dweller EP with her, which has a home-spun and organic sound. She also plays the music for Radio Happy Hour, the live radio-style show I’m always raving about, which is chock-full of Minnesota talent, from creator and writer Sam Osterhout to producer Dustin Luke Nelson. Stephanie’s musical talents take a different turn here as she crafts 50s and 60s style jingles and old-timey radio songs for the show.

Stephanie’s talent with words and music is very impressive, and her music is quiet yet powerful. All this makes Thursday’s fateful show a must-see. Get tickets and more information at The Bell House website.

THU 1/14: 7:30pm / $12

ZEE AVI
RORY SCOVEL
STARDWELLER
KEVIN BARKER
KUMAIL NANJANI
TIM HARRINGTON OF LES SAVY FAV
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