It’s almost 6 a.m. and Matt Koshak is playing slow melodies on a two-tiered keyboard, in the small studio where he and his girlfriend practice, record, and sometimes live. Liza Thorn, the other half of the shoe-gaze/drone duo known as Starred, lounges on a couch debating with friends whether the two young boys cuddling in the mixing booth are gay or just fucked up.
All around them: beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, McDonald’s, and a few things we probably shouldn’t mention.
“I just want it to start already, we’ve been in this studio way too much,” Koshak says about Starred’s tour opening for Courtney Love, which was to start the next night in Philadelphia. (Koshak is also the sound engineer for Love’s band.)
Up on the rooftop, a handful of Starred’s friends watch the sun inch over Brooklyn. Thorn wears a long red dress and a baggy t-shirt with Korean script, like a kid sent to the future from a late-80s Acid House rave. “Someone needs to take the generic picture of us all fucked up watching a Bushwick sunrise while wearing sunglasses,” she deadpans. No one takes the picture.
Koshak, 31, and Thorn, 27, pride themselves, albeit cheekily, on being almost cliche rock stars. Like Courtney Love, the duo’s de facto mom, Thorn has skirted the line between music and glamor. She met Koshak in San Francisco, on the music scene that birthed bands like Girls and Brian Jonestown Massacre. A few years ago, they moved to Los Angeles, where Thorn caught the lens of photographer and designer Hedi Slimane. Her unforced, unique style became an inspiration for Slimane’s first (and controversial) collection for Saint Laurent, and she’s since been profiled and photographed for magazines like V, DIS and on the cover the Times Styles section (headline: “The Unforgettable Face of a Muse.”)
But Koshak and Thorn are no poseurs. “It’s just about the rock n’ roll, man. Rock and roll,” Koshak giggles.
They’ve spent the last year in New York actually being full-time musicians, meaning no jobs, little money, sad dark days and lots of work on their music. “The romance of being an artist kind of dies when you can’t afford food,” Koshak says. “We barely made it through New York winter.”
Back downstairs, Koshak is jamming on his guitar and pedals. It sounds like a blues drone, B+B suggests. “Yeah I’m using blues chords,” Koshak smiles. “This is my solo stuff.”
Thorn picks up an acoustic guitar and sits down on a stool in front of a mic. “This song goes out to the lovers next door,” she jokes about the cuddling boys. After some tuning, the duo busts into a 20-minute, two-song acoustic set highlighting the tightness of a band at pre-tour peak.
The slow, repetitive songs off their “Prison to Prison” EP are both pretty and angry (Thorn’s sweet voice can also snarl) — a mix of 4AD shoe-gaze and 70s Americana with a New York attitude.
You can hear them for yourself when Starred on June 26.