If the United States of America had a couple million more Becky Starks, the world would be a far more peaceful place. To spend 40 minutes on the phone with the Los Angeles based singer for Lavender Diamond is to become convinced that it's possible for every individual on the planet to change the course of history. The amazing thing is that she's right, which makes you wonder why given what's going on in Iraq the people of America are more interested in updating their Facebook profiles than banding together to demand change.
"A lot of people have this cynical perspective like, 'It doesn't really matter what you do because nothing changes,'" Stark says, on the line from home. "But hello, people, wake up. Like, what the fuck? That's a totally false consciousness. Why isn't fucking everyone taking to the streets every goddamn day? Why isn't every citizen of the earth getting together as one? But still, I think people are ready for change. I think that people need healing right now."
That's where Lavender Diamond's impossibly optimistic debut, Imagine Our Love, comes in. Things kick off with "Oh No", a thumping take on ethereal piano pop written the day American bombs began falling on Baghdad. What follows makes the case that, even when the skies are blacker than Texas crude, love is all you need. That relentless positivity is the one constant that connects the paisley MOR of "Open Your Heart" to the hypno-rocker "Like an Arrow" and the sunset-country symphony that is "The Garden Rose".
Stark didn't decide overnight to align herself with feel-good indie-rock alchemists like Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsom. Raised in Providence, Rhode Island, she initially trained to be a classical singer, abandoning that goal at 17. Exposure to Fugazi was followed by her becoming enraptured with New York City art-experimentalists Black Dice, with both DIY acts convincing her that anyone could write songs and make records. Ultimately steering her in the direction she's gone with Lavender Diamond was John Wiese, a Los Angeles noise terrorist who's collaborated with everyone from Wolf Eyes to Thurston Moore. There was a period when Stark and friends were obsessed with the kind of sonic agitators that eventually lead to tinnitus. It's a testimony to the singer's boundless, wide-eyed enthusiasm for life that she looks back on a night of bowel-detonating bombast with Wiese as something beautiful.
"John plays really crazy, experimental noise music," she says. "He's like a loud, crazy, experimental wizard. This is really embarrassing, but we went to this one concert, and whatever it was that John was doing, it totally sounded like a nuclear bomb going off. And what that did was made us have diarrhea. That's the kind of music that me and my friends were into we were into the idea that music should be a really physical experience.
"So when I first started playing music," she continues, "it was from that place. Coming from the fact that we know that music can make you shit your pants, we decided to take that knowledge and do something different. We didn't want to give people diarrhea, but the opposite."
Her mission today is simple: Stark aims to convince her fans that all they need is love. What the hopelessly charming chanteuse comes back to time and again is the idea that the world isn't beyond saving. And although she doesn't say it, Imagine Our Love is as good a place as any to start the process.
"We have to heal each other to start creating a new world," Stark argues, her sincerity making her sound part '60s flower child, part alien from a far-out planet. "I feel that now is a perfect time for love to make that possible."
Lavender Diamond opens for the New Pornographers at the Commodore on Friday (September 28).