Interview & Images by Jan-Willem Dikkers
“I really became obsessed with Ozzy Osbourne.
I went to an all-girls Catholic school,
so finding him during that time period was crucial.”
— Arrow de Wilde
Based in Los Angeles, the band includes members Arrow de Wilde, 17, on lead vocals, Henri Cash, 16, on guitar, Austin Smith, 21, on drums and Tim Franco, 19, on bass. Starcrawler is currently recording their first studio album, produced by Ryan Adams of Whiskeytown. Their debut single “Ants” premiered on Apple’s Beats 1 and was played on Elton John’s “Rocket Hour.”
Arrow de Wilde
Lead-singer of Starcrawler, Arrow de Wilde is the daughter of rock photographer Autumn de Wilde and Father John Misty drummer Aaron Sperske. De Wilde is in her senior year of high school and lives in Los Angeles.
“I am god. I am a dog. I am also a cult member of @thestarcrawler,” reads Arrow de Wilde’s Twitter bio. With intense dedication to style, performance and a fanciful streak of madness, this 17-year-old fronts Los Angeles-based band Starcrawler. Her red-stained mouth, wide eyes and feverish energy make for take-no-prisoners punk-rock theater. Fresh out of high school (or almost), with only a handful of performances behind them and one single, Starcrawler already commands our attention.
Jan-Willem Dikkers: Where are you guys from?
Austin Smith: We’re all LA natives.
JWD: How did you connect?
Arrow de Wilde: Austin and I knew each other through mutual friends and started jamming. One day at school, I noticed Henri walking around and thought he looked cool, so I approached him. What did I say, Henri?
Henri Cash: I was carrying a tuba case down this big staircase at school. It has no handles, so it sucks. You have to really lift it up. I was tired and put it down to rest, and Arrow comes up to me and says, “You look like you play guitar.”
ADW: I said, ‘You look cool.’
HC: ‘You look cool.’
AWD: ‘You play guitar?’
HC: So that’s how that started.
AWD: I mean, I assumed if he could play tuba, he could play guitar. And I’ve known Tim for a while.
AS: We were going through other players before we met Tim again through mutual friends. That’s how we linked up.
HC: Tim’s the man.
JWD: Do you all go to school together?
AS: Just me and Arrow.
JWD: How many years of school are left?
AWD: This is my last year. Henri is a baby.
HC: I have one more year. We’ll see. I’ll be going to school online while we go on tour next year after our album comes out.
JWD: How long have you guys been playing together?
AWD: A little over a year.
AS: It was an almost broken process getting to where we are now. I’ve been playing with Arrow maybe a year and a half, almost two years. And then we all came together as a unit about a year ago.
JWD: How long has it been since you’ve started playing gigs?
HC: Our first show was February a year ago, at a place called Damn on Sunset. Everything else was just rehearsing and practicing.
AWD: We kind of did it in reverse: We practiced for about three months writing songs, then we recorded demos with Steven McDonald, then we started playing shows.
AS: We recorded “Ants” before we even did our first show.
JWD: At the moment, “Ants” is your only official release. What should we expect in the future?
AS: We are currently working on a full-length record. We wanted to take our time to make sure it comes out right. Maybe somewhere down the line we will release another single, but for the time being we’re taking it slow.
JWD: Are you still writing new material?
AS: We’re constantly writing new stuff.
JWD: What were your influences growing up?
AWD: The first band I ever got into is The Beatles and was obsessed. It’s all I wanted to listen to as a kid. When I got older, I really became obsessed with Ozzy Osbourne. I went to an all-girls Catholic school, so finding him during that period was crucial.
“I’ve been pretty obsessed with
Jack White since second grade.”
— Henri Cash
HC: I’ve been obsessed with Jack White since second grade. I once waited seven hours before his show at The Fonda Theatre to be right in front. Later on, I got into more experimental stuff like Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa. I like anything weird. I really love this band called Morphine. They play two-string bass, baritone saxophone and really small drums with a high-pitched sound.
AS: I have classic rock roots. I listened to Led Zeppelin when I was a kid, but as a teen my music morphed into metal and hardcore punk, like Cro-Mags and Bad Brains. From there I got into garage rock and more noisy experimental rock.
TF: As a kid, my mom would play the greats like Bob Seger, Billy Joel, The Beatles, Scorpions and Led Zeppelin. As I grew up, I got into super indie stuff and started a band with a friend. He turned me on to bossa nova and jazz. Then I got into Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman.
JWD: How would you describe your musical style?
HC: Right now it’s a mixture of everything.
AS: We want people to come to a show and decide for themselves what our music is like, because we feel weird when a band says, “We are this.” We have our influences and what we play is what we’re influenced by. Come see for yourself!
JWD: Who primarily writes your lyrics?
AWD: Henri and I do most of the lyric writing.
HC: I’m really good at writing riffs. I always have a guitar in my hand. But when it comes to the band, we mesh well because there’s something that each player can do uniquely. Starcrawler wouldn’t be anything without all of us.
JWD: So you are still pretty young—is this what you want to do?
HC: Of course.
AS: For all of us.
HC: I feel like playing music is almost as if you know the secret [to life].
AWD: Yes. I wasn’t one of those kids who was always musically inclined. My dad is a drummer and my mom photographed bands, so I was always around music. But I didn’t really know that I wanted to play music until 9th grade. I was more into visual art.
HC: I’ve always wanted to be a musician because everyone in my family is musician. I’d see my uncles when they were playing in LA and then on Conan or whatever, and I wanted to do that. I wanted to jump around and be like them. It seemed fun.
AS: I’ve been playing drums since I was a kid. I didn’t think it was a career path; playing the drums just made me happy. Initially, it was more of an artistic outlet.
TF: I started playing music over the past three years. Before that, I had no real interest besides video games. It’s all recent, but I’m taking it very seriously and learning new stuff every day.
JWD: How much does performance matter to you guys?
HC: It’s everything.
AS: We really take the time to practice and get our shows to where we want them to be. We’re not a sloppy band. Before a gig to make sure an intro is right, or decide how we should fade out a song.
JWD: How about the aesthetic of your performance?
AS: It plays a role too because we are trying to create an atmosphere. We don’t want it to be four people thrown onto a stage. We want to make sure it feels authentic to us.
AWD: It’s not just a band, it’s a whole thing—you’re watching a show.
HC: Every night is different.
AS: It’s fairly improvised.
AWD: But I sort of plan what we’re going to do.
JWD: Do you want to explain?
“I thought to myself, ‘I want to spit blood.
I want to just be disgusting in people’s faces’
and I kind of developed a character.”
— Arrow de Wilde
AWD: I used to be very shy, and the past couple of years I don’t know what happened. I had a band before this, and it didn’t work out. I was still shy, so I just stood there and felt boring. I thought to myself, “I don’t know what I’m so afraid of.” I remember listening to The Runaways one day like, “I want to spit blood. I want to just be disgusting in people’s faces.” And I kind of developed a character.
HC: An alter-ego.
AWD: Yes. It’s definitely my alter-ego. Even 20 minutes after I come off stage, I’m still in a crazy state of mind. That takes a while to fade.
JWD: Are there people you look up to for that?
AWD: Definitely Ozzy, Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper. I don’t want to seem like I’m the baby Alice Cooper. I’m making it my own thing, but drawing inspiration from those people.
JWD: If you had the opportunity to collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
HC: Tom Waits. I love the sound of his albums and have heard about his drum room. With Marc Ribot on the guitar it’s all weirdness. The compositions feel like an orchestra.
AS: Steve Albini. I really like his sensibility. He’s very structured and formulaic in his work, and I’m really inspired that.
AWD: Ozzy. I like the song that he did with Lita Ford in the ’80s, “Close My Eyes Forever”, so maybe something like that.
JWD: What are your interests outside of music?
HC: I really like the rain and hiking. I live in Altadena, so I hike every day.
AWD: I hate rain.
AS: I’m into fine art. I make it sometimes and admire it. I love movies in general.
AWD: I like making art, too. I’m also into fashion. I like looking for weird old costumes.
TF: I like video games.
AWD: Can’t forget Taco Bell.