By Jay Tilles
Those that only know Mark Stoermer as The Killers’ bassist will likely be surprised upon hearing his latest solo effort, Dark Arts. The multi-instrumentalist’s second solo album is thoughtful and sonically perfect with its sixties-induced psychedelia, bluesy swagger, lyrical poetry, and lush cinematic orchestration.
It’s clear Stoermer wrote and recorded the album to please himself. As his own biggest critic, it’s instantly apparent the musician and producer poured over every note. In May, The Killers announced that Stoermer would be taking a break from touring with the band “to pursue other educational goals and releasing a solo album.” To make a perfect album, it can’t play second fiddle.
With a big band-playing father and influences ranging from Public Enemy and N.W.A to Nirvana, The Beatles, The Who and Pink Floyd, Stoermer’s new album coalesced into his own distinct sound.
With Dark Arts set for an August 5th release, Stoermer answered a few pressing questions.
The voice over on “Alchemical Formula,” who is it? Sounds very familiar.
A gentleman named Tony Curtis. A local, Las Vegan, originally from the UK, friend of David Hopkins, my collaborator and co-producer of the album.
I had this introduction speech for the album that I didn’t want to deliver myself, and Dave suggested to bring his friend Tony. We think he has a great voice and we’re happy with the result. He should do audio books! I would definitely buy an audio book if its was read by him.
It feels as though you may have taken away something from your time with Smashing Pumpkins… Any Corgan influences on Dark Arts?
Hmm… The Smashing Pumpkins have been an influence on me in general probably since 1990, but I don’t think the music had any special influence on Dark Arts specifically. That said, I respect Corgan for his uncompromising and fearless risk taking approach to his music. If one percent of that vibe happened to rub off, I would consider myself lucky.
What muscles do you exercise with a solo album that don’t get used during the making of a Killers album?
Before my first solo record I never sang or wrote lyrics. And this is only my second attempt at that, so I definitely had a chance to exercise those muscles more. Also, I’m more involved with the production side of things and have more freedom to experiment without having a committee to run everything by, but there are a lot of pros and cons to that of course.
After listening to Dark Arts in its entirety, it’s clear how different the compositions are from Another Life. What do you attribute that growth and change in style to?
I think where I was in my head with the first album was a pretty different place from where I was at with the second. The first album, I was almost purposefully writing more story focused songs. For the second, I made a somewhat intentional effort to let the music breath, as you said, although the stories are still important.
I think I also may have the intention of creating more of an album experience this time around, with the goal of creating a sonic world similar to some of my favorite rock albums growing up, such as Pink Floyd, The Who, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin…
Definitely working with David Hopkins helped define some of the sound and direction of the music. I wrote a lot of these songs on acoustic, and sometimes I feel that I like so many different kinds of music, that I don’t know where to take it. But when David Hopkins and I started to talk about music, we had a lot of similar influences from the 60-70s and even some from 90s Brit rock. I think we played to our strengths. Working with him helped me focus on what the album was going to be.
Are Your Stars Out is your The Wall. So much attention was spent on details, range, emotion, richness, layers. How will you gauge success or acceptance of this album?
I’m doing this for fun and to hopefully grow as a writer / musician. It’s all about the process for me, which I enjoyed. If there’s any goal, it’s hoping to make an album that I liked myself. I would hope, if I like it, someone out there may too.