Home Feature Lethbridge’s Starpainter shares track-by-track breakdown of sophomore album Rattlesnake Dream

Lethbridge’s Starpainter shares track-by-track breakdown of sophomore album Rattlesnake Dream

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Photo credit Heather Saitz

Lethbridge, AB folk-rock band Starpainter recently released a sophomore album titled Rattlesnake Dream out via Neon Moon Records. The band took the album on the road, playing a string of shows across Canada, including a stop in Toronto to perform at Canadian Music Week and record a live video session with Southern Souls. A self-produced and home-recorded record, Rattlesnake Dream was mixed by John Anderson (Andy Shauf, Aiden Knight) and mastered by iconic Canadian mastering engineer Phillip Shaw Bova (Angel Olson, Father John Misty, Feist, Bahamas). Starpainter is Joel Stretch, Colby Stolson, Mickey Hayward, and Joel Gray.

Starpainter’s lead singer and songwriter, Joel, has graciously shared a track-by-track breakdown of the new album, taking a deep dive into the stories and inspirations behind each track! Check out what he has to say as you soak in the album below!

1. Low-Hanging Fruit

“It’s not you, it isn’t me
but somebody somewhere is making lots of money”

One thing I like about this song is it showcases each player’s strengths—I love Mick’s drumming on this one, Joel’s slide stuff and fuzzy solo, Colby’s melodic and percussive bassline. I’m proud of the songwriting too. I was really into Bob Dylan’s “New Morning” and “Planet Waves” at the time and wanted to incorporate some of that sort of barreling piano and organ and groove. This song set the tone for this record sonically—it was the first one we laid down and provided the main palate we explore on this record.

2. Let It Pass

“I’ve seen visions of you moving by
when I’m looking around
on my way home
I almost drive off of the side of the road”

This is a long-distance love song, I would say. Having no good reason for driving, however long, aside from feeling like you have to see that person that’s been on your mind. This song was dolled up in lots of different costumes when we were trying to decide how to present it on the album, and I love the version we landed on. Bailey’s harmonies on this one kill me. They always do, but on this one it felt like it took the song and really turned it into something else. This is probably my favourite song to play at shows right now—we’re really letting it buck; it’s been a highlight for me every night.

3. Summer in Your Mouth

“Keep a watchful eye, you still won’t see it coming
but it’ll leave you crying when it goes”

This song was inspired by an Al Purdy poem called “Transient” that starts like this: “Riding the boxcars out of Winnipeg in a / morning after rain so close to / the violent sway of the fields it’s / like running and running / naked with the summer in your mouth.” I read that poem when I was a teenager, and those lines stuck with me over the years and ended up inspiring this tune. It turned into a song about seasonal depression, resilience and regret and prairie toughness.

4. Waiting for a Train

“Feel like I’ve been living here my whole life
Talking in my sleep
Dreaming of your golden light”

The starting point for this song was a weird one—I was reading an album review of a Weyes Blood album I hadn’t listened to, and something about the way the album was described made this song start forming in my mind. These are really two songs that were fused together. This is another one that’s been really fun at shows; we’ve just been leaning into the wildness and psychedelia of the outro and letting it take us wherever it wants to go.

5. Gasoline

“Jesus Christ
the moon is huge tonight
Water is turning in dark corners of my mind”

“Gasoline” is kind of a unique one on the album lyrically—I set out to write a horror movie scene as a song. I incorporated some personal memories into it too. I remember being a kid and not believing that the centre lines on the highway were six feet long (I thought they looked much shorter. Still do.) One time, me and my friends waited until there were no cars coming then went and laid down on the highway to check the length of the centre lines. Not a very smart thing to do, and I remember feeling scared when we did it—something in the fear and danger I felt in that moment connected with the fear I was trying to access in the lyrics of this one.

6. Rattlesnake Dream

“I dream I’m walking kinda fast
the sun always blinding”

This song was inspired by a dream I kept having where I’m fighting a rattlesnake in the coulees in Lethbridge. I told a few people from around here about the dream I was having, and the people I shared it with all said they have had the same kind of dream at one point or another—sort of a municipal or geographically specific nightmare.

7. Even in a Car

“Let me hear your voice inside my telephone once more”

Even in a Car is a song about emotional and geographic separation—knowing someone’s a couple miles away but feeling like there’s no way of actually reaching them. I wrote it on a day when Lethbridge got snowed in and leaving the house was basically impossible. I was visiting with a friend cancelling plans and then sat down and wrote this one almost entirely in one sitting, front to back, which is kind of rare for me. I love country music, and this is probably as far as we lean into country vibes in the album.

8. Aerostar

“The landscape ages like a face
I got lost
I didn’t know what to say”

This song has a couple of my favourite lyrics on the album. “The landscape ages like a face” and vice versa: the faces age like a landscape—that kind of sums it all up. When I was a kid, my family actually did have a turquoise Aerostar, and some of my earliest memories of falling in love with music were in the backseat of that van, late at night with my head down by the speaker while my siblings slept and my parents drove. I remember the feeling it gave me back then, and it’s the same way I feel now when I really connect with music.

9. Fallin’ Off

“Even way outta town on the clearest night
You’re a constellation I can never find”

This song is about personal plateaus and struggling with how to move forward when things are feeling bad. The lyrics on this one at the time I wrote them were pretty personal and pretty literal, more so than lots of what I write. I really was living in a basement suite. I really was stuck at a job I didn’t know how to move on from. I’m really into Sly Stone and found some samples of a Rhythm King drum machine that he had used a lot on “There’s a Riot Going On” for the intro of this one—obviously a very different context but fun to borrow some drum machine sounds from one of the masters.

10. Do You Know

“See you smiling through the pain
like a dancer on a stage”

I wrote this album crying in the bleachers of the University of Lethbridge, where I went to school. “Do You Know” is the oldest song on the album. I wrote it for our previous album but could never finish the chorus, so it got left off. It is probably the most personal song on the album lyrically. The narrator in this song is definitely myself and, I’m attempting to just speak plainly about hard times.

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