The Starlight Magic Hour – Michael Cunningham (centre) and Dan Caldwell (right), photograph by Through The Eyes Of Ruby
IN CONVERSATION WITH: The Starlight Magic Hour
There’s a lot in a name. The Starlight Magic Hour conjures up the idea of the peculiar kid in class with the double-barrel surname, a lust for bigger spaces and even wilder daydreams. Watching this team on stage only pushes that idea further – the (currently) six-piece boast something new and unapologetically chaotic which grabs at the idea that you’re the fly on the wall of a overtly-friendly madhouse. “We’re in a band with kind, loving people. Opposite to the music we make and the image we perceive.” Michael Cunningham, Elliot Roche, Dan Caldwell, Mike Hughes, Mark Javan and Oliver Harrison are the mad men in question with the Mark E Smith quirk, twisted with a fresh, topical guise forged from friendship.
Front-man/pastor/preacher Michael and guitarist Elliot met at the age of seventeen before a few loops had been spun, with Michael recalling the first time he met Oliver whilst walking his dog past “that corner by Afflecks Palace. We started talking about bands and then I played electric for his (band) and then I quit”. Fortunately, Oliver soon followed suit and the founding fathers of TSMH were born. A medley of different musicians have entered the Starlit world and tried to reach the other side. Dan had only recently put together Mold when upon hearing a minute of the Hour before joining the guys at a practice on guitar & vocals but just as a fill-in-the-blanks space to cover the missing edges. Six months then turned into a year, which saw Elliot, Michael and Dan becoming housemates. This soon followed up with the addition of Mark on guitar; “when Mark came in it was our Christiano Ronaldo transfer, the eighty million pound transfer” and Mike on drums “then Virgil Van Dyke comes in here to save the defence.” Brothers in arms are often drawn together and the fateful Starlight meetings thankfully brought an easy amicable group together. “We’re all more like friends than anything and, whenever we play, the music’s not secondary but it doesn’t feel like just a band – it feels like family.”
Dan Caldwell (left) and Mark Javan (right), photograph by Through The Eyes Of Ruby
Not what you thought you’d hear? You wouldn’t be shoved kicked and booted for thinking that Starlight live up to their raw, turbulent, stage presence but as pointed out by the group: “the more aggressive and transgressive the music is, often the calmer the musician is.” When you hear the appreciative, admirable quips about one another you see the ethos that runs through The Starlight Magic Hour. An ethos beyond the classic ‘music’s-my-life-n-I’ll-deck-u-if-u-stop-that’ ideology of a multitude of musicians vicariously trying to live the ‘rock’n’roll’ lifestyle.
Mike Hughes, photograph by Through The Eyes Of Ruby
The Starlight family is growing and spreading even further – much like Drastic Decline label-mates Mold – the band are putting on gigs with Dentcha & their own outfit TSMH Promotions, having already put on three superb shows with the likes of Locean, Aldous RH and LICE in late 2017. More recently came the launch of their debut single under the guidance of So Young Magazine, which saw the grand introduction of the band through ‘I am the Swan to your Song (Kiera’s song)‘ at London venue ‘The Five Bells’, produced by the talented Margo Broom at Hermitage Works Studios. Looking closer to home (though there is some Northern border being tread) the band have filled a slot amongst the much-hailed lineup of Manchester’s Sabotage Festival, as well as the March warm up gig. The enchantingly and somewhat overwhelmingly ideal outcome/end game for The Starlight Magic Hour is to bring the light and love back to music: “an orchestra, full drum section – everything. No more anti-everything. The end would be putting on big productions – like an extravaganza – something more than being punk and being cool.” But in present climates, the inspiration comes from the mavericks around them, including LICE, H0nkies and the recent success of wild Starlight friends; shame.
Now, the place-mats are laid, the cogs have been set in motion and there are already a whole host of tracks for the band to pluck from their ever growing back catalogue. There are no set roles though – a band with two guitarists, a violinist and two lead singers aren’t apt to playing by the rules. “There’s no set songwriter, it’s an amalgamation of the six of us.” Despite being based in Manchester, they’ve currently got a heavy-focused showcase in London – one show being their upcoming support slot for Phobophobes at the notorious 100 Club – but by no means is this a shun to their hometown. “London’s been kind to us and hasn’t had any pre-conceived idea about TSMH whereas in Manchester there seems to be one.” That shouldn’t be being said. Preconception and whispers are the spikes that will make the music industry meet it’s demise. We’re here for the music.
Elliot Roche (Top) and Oliver Harrison (Bottom), photographs by Through The Eyes Of Ruby