Two Star Symphony Talks KTRU, Silent Films, Dr. Dre And Minor Threat
This week Rocks Off got a hot tip from our pal Jason that the venerable Two Star Symphony would be playing an evening gig out in Houston's western territories. It had been a good while since we'd seen the local string quartet, and with our Spidey Sense tingling about big things afoot in their camp we made the trek out to CityCentre - which is quite far from the center of the city.
Two Star Symphony on Facebook
In fact, we were so certain something was coming down the Two Star pipeline - up the fingerboard? - Rocks Off sat down to have a chat after their two hour-long sets at the Monnalisa Bar in Hotel Sorella, where Two Star returns Sept. 14. [Ed. Note: Some answers were more collective in nature and are credited to the entire group.]
Rocks Off: That second piece you played in the second set...
Debra Brown (violin): "Another Little Terror"?
RO: Ah, we were curious about the name, because we've only ever heard it referred to by Ben Wesley as "The Hip Hop Song."
DB: We also call that the "Ass-Kicking Squad Song." If you heard that outside your window, it meant that you're about to get your ass kicked by Two Star.
Jerry Ochoa (violin): Who came up with the name?
Margaret Lejeune (cello): I don't know? I named it, but I don't remember why.
DB: I think it was after B Flat.
JO: B Flat is [Margaret's] Chihuahua.
RO: We know this is kind of a lame question, but who do you count as influences? Do you lean towards more modern or classical composers? We don't hear a lot of big John Williams craziness, but we hear some Danny Elfman.
JO: Danny Elfman is definitely an influence. Dr. Dre, Shostakovich, I think there's some Tchaikovsky in there. Danny Elfman and Dr. Dre are both deliberate influences, probably some Tom Waits and some Shostakovich.
DB: I think it's more imagery than music that is our influence.
ML: Man, I have to say though: Minor Threat. When I was little I used to sit around and learn Minor Threat and 7 Seconds songs on my cello. That's always kind of affected my playing.
RO: You mention imagery - do you see select sets of images in your head when you play certain songs?
ML: I think it's the images that make us write the songs, I don't ever see them when we're playing.
DB: There's a song called "Danny & the Black Cat." I had a superball with a skull inside of it.
ML: And a graveyard! Debra gave it to me. One day I was playing with it and it bounced up and hit her in the face.
DB: Busted my lip...
ML: Rolled out in the street and got hit by a huge truck, in Austin in front of Kerbey Lane.
DB: It was a moving truck with a crate on the front, and it wedged into the crate. There's a superball with a skull in it that's traveling around.
ML: I was in shock because it was my favorite superball I've ever had, and we lost it.
DB: All of that became "Danny & the Black Cat."
RO: Do people tell you what they imagine when they hear your songs?
Two Star Symphony: Yes, and it's never what we think. It's awesome. We have a song called "Cesare," named after a character in an old horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. And this other guy who we did a whole huge project with, Synthesia, thought it was "Caesar," and he had invented this whole Roman-emperor backstory to the entire song. That's what he was thinking of when he did this interpretive light performance to it, and the whole time we were thinking of this 1920's German horror film character who sleepwalks and kills people.
JO: Well, the very first Two Star show was just Debra and Margaret, at an open-mike night in an ice cream shop where you got free ice cream if you were playing.
DB: We made everyone dress like pirates and we only had three songs to perform. But we really wanted ice cream.
ML: The Haunted Mansion at Disney World is always an influence. You know when you're looking over the stairs into the library and all the ghosts are dancing? That has been stuck in my head since I was four or five.
JO: Sometimes when we perform "Another Little Terror" one of us will say, "this was influenced by Dr. Dre and Disney's Haunted Mansion," and it always gets a laugh, but we're serious.
DB: A lot of our music now has been influenced by movement, because we get to work with ballet dancers. [Note: three of said dancers are currently in the pool adjacent to where we are talking, but a manager is about to kick them out of said pool, just before Jerry has a chance to take a dip.]