Star-Crossed: Pop Trio Lost Stars Set to Release ‘Sirens + Light’ July 5
Pictured L-R: Charley Holden, Damian Malnar, Trey Warner
Originally hailing from Kansas, the members of Nashville-based pop trio Lost Stars are true to their name. They have the chemistry and camaraderie of a group drawn together, perhaps by fate.
Damian Malnar (vocals/keys) and Charley Holden (guitar) became friends and bandmates in high school, later re-connecting as students at Belmont University. Their paths to become professional musicians, however, have varied.
“From the age of 2 to 6, I was convinced I was going to be Elvis,” Holden recalls, noting a lifelong pursuit of a career in music. “I started learning guitar in fourth grade, got to high school where I met Damian, and we played in pep band together. I was in jazz band throughout high school, and I worked my way to Belmont.”
Malnar, a lifelong musician in his own right, came to the idea of turning his art into a profession much later. Originally envisioning a career in business or mathematics, he was convinced by loved ones to instead pursue his passion full-time as his college years approached.
“A lot of the things that I’ve done in my life are through someone that I admire convincing me to do something,” Malnar notes. “A lot of people around me were like, ‘Wait, why don’t you want to do music?’
And so, Malnar came to Belmont to study drums. That’s where he reunited with Holden after two years apart, describing the moment as “feeling like (they) were in a band again.” There, the pair met Trey Warner, a guitarist from Wichita, Kansas. Warner became hooked on classic rock during his adolesence, a bond he shared with his father.
“I just loved the sound of the guitars,” Warner remembered.
That formative experience led him to learn the instrument himself, which subsequently led him to Belmont where he became Holden’s freshman year roommate. The two hit it off immediately.
“They became best friends from the first day they were in the room together,” Malnar said of his bandmates. “We started doing shows together, backing up other people, and getting involved musically with each other. After a couple years, I was trying to do a solo thing, and they were my backing band.”
Soon, the trio decided to unify under a single vision. Thus, Lost Stars was born.
“I don’t think I realized that this was a big deal until about halfway through my time at Belmont, when I was really diving into songwriting and producing,” Malnar said.
Again, it was those around Malnar who carried influence, this time by convincing him to give performing another go. As he worked with various artists at the university, program directors began to encourage him toward a career as a singer and performing artist. That, coupled with support from his now-bandmates, lit a fuse.
“Being around these guys and starting to do writes with people (had me) really believing in the art of songwriting,” Malnar recalls. “Halfway and toward the end of college is when it really started to get serious for me.”
Since then, the trio has released an EP – 2016’s six-track “Dreaming in the Dark” – and stand-alone singles “It Only Takes One” and “Whip Me.” They have also toured twice, most recently performing 20 dates in the southern and northeastern United States during early 2018’s “Shot in the Dark” tour, as well as summer dates in some of their most engaged markets, including Kansas City, Chicago, and Atlanta.
“The first thing you learn on tour is that it’s not like the movies at all, and it’s also not anything that anyone will tell you,” Malnar notes, recalling the demands and possible pitfalls of life on the road. “When you get back from the road, all you want to tell people is how badass it was.”
Despite the unpredictable nature of touring – where anything from limited healthy food options, to vehicle problems can make life challenging for artists – the band has developed a taste for the road, counting the connections they have made with fans in new cities among their top memories.
“We’ve played shows for five people, we’ve played shows for 300 people,” Malnar said. “The most important memories I’ve made are ones where there are maybe 25 people in the room, and almost all of them stayed afterwards, hung out, and talked to us about life afterwards. That’s what music is all about; it’s just life through audible expression.”
“Meeting so many cool people on the road that you never would’ve met in your life if you weren’t on this path, that trumps all of (the challenges),” Holden added.
Creating ‘Sirens + Light’
On July 5, Lost Stars will release “Sirens + Light,” a six-track EP combining the band’s varied influences across genres including rock, pop, dance, and indie/alternative.
Malnar’s excitement was palpable when discussing the new music, calling it “the greatest music that I’ve ever made.”
“What’s different about this new music is, this is me opening up and collaborating a lot more with the guys and outside writers,” Malnar states. “When I was starting a solo project, I had all these songs written by myself, and we cut those in the studio for our first EP. We’ve gotten a lot closer with each other now, and within the collaboration between the three of us and other people.”
One of those people is noteworthy Swedish producer David Thulin, who the band heralds for his “phenomenal gift for production and melody.”
“All of us have the same sound in our head at the same moment, and (David) just gets it out there,” Holden said.
“You’ll explain a sound you’re looking for, and it will take him less than ten minutes to land on that,” Malnar added.
Thulin, alongside producers Mike Robinson and Gavin Slate, helped Lost Stars quickly realize their creative vision for “Sirens + Light.”. All six songs were written in a two-month span before taking just a week to record. Then, less than a month later, the band received the finished product that it is now preparing to release to the world.
“The amount of creative output we put into this record in such a short time, and the result we got, was insane,” Malnar said.
Digging into the singles
The road to “Sirens + Light” officially kicks off on Friday, April 5, when the EP’s first single, “Once in a Lifetime,” will be released. The track was the obvious choice for the band to release as the EP’s first single; its bright, vibrant synths and guitars kick in with an infectious energy, while the lyrics tell the story of an exciting new love.
“There are certain times where you feel that everything is about to change, right here and now,” Malnar said. “That can be in a relationship, like the song talks about, but it also feels like a turning point for us as a band.”
Set to follow that up will be “Never Getting Over You” on May 17, a moodier piece of synth pop that reflects on the one who got away – or perhaps, the one who needs to go away.
“A lot of people just have that one person in their life that, no matter where they’re going, they’re always going to be in the back of their mind somewhere,” Holden said.
The final single before the full EP release will be “Enough.” Scheduled for release on June 7, the song dives into the important and all-too-often stigmatized topic of mental health.
The band is unified in its belief that this is an important topic to approach, especially in a world where mental health issues are on the rise. This is especially true among younger populations facing unprecedented societal pressures, including the specter of massive financial stress, and the comparisons that arise from time spent on social media.
“People in our age group, 30 and under, all pretty much have some type of mental health thing. I think people are starting to figure out that it’s not rare,” Warner offered. “Most people have something, whether they talk about it or not. No matter what the cause is, it’s common, and we need to be able to talk about it.”
“We have a lot of people in our lives who struggle with these issues and, if we’re being forthright and honest, we do too,” Malnar added. “The scariest thing about these things is the stigma that’s around them, and feeling like it’s hard to talk about them, especially as a young a man for fear of people thinking something is wrong with you. There is this internal debate of ‘Do I manage this on my own? Am I just being emotional, or is there something deeper going on that I need to let people know about for my own sanity?’”
The band took time to applaud artists and writers who have taken similar steps to recognize mental health as a widespread issue, most notably recognizing LA-based pop artist Julia Michaels for “wearing her heart on her sleeve” about similar topics.
“I think there are a few artists and writers that have taken steps forward through the music industry, as far as what you can touch on in a song,” Malnar said. “We’ve had decades of great music, but nothing gets as plainly honest in creative ways as the writing camp that’s coming from that Julia Michaels realm.”
Honesty was important when crafting “Enough,” and the band made a deliberate choice to not gloss over the song’s message with silver linings.
“We intentionally didn’t do that, because I think there’s a beauty in accepting that it’s OK to feel sad or scared,” Malnar noted. “You can get better, and there are people out there who are going through the same things and who want to help you. But, I think part of life’s journey is accepting that you will feel those feelings your whole life. You can either choose to let them crush you into nothing, or crush you into a diamond.”
All in all, the band is versatile in its storytelling on “Sirens + Light,” offering its take on a variety of relatable topics.
“We think that life is a culminating experience,” Malnar said. “Why just write a bunch of songs about sex? Why just write a bunch of songs about introspective, psychological stuff? Life isn’t defined by one of those things. It’s experiences of doubt, fear, acceptance, rejection, rejoicing, pain, anger, and everything else. I think Lost Stars’ goal is to show life as a spectrum through pop music; through flying guitars, huge drums, and big synth pads.”
After the release
Lost Stars have their collective sights set on releasing lyric videos, music videos, and other content associated with “Sirens + Light,” which will be celebrated in Nashville with a release party on July 18.
Through it all, the trio looks forward to spending more time on the road, reaching back to existing fans and introducing themselves to new ones.
“We’re going to be going back to our favorite places over and over again, seeing the fans that we have,” Malnar said. “We’re on the road, gigging as much as we can, and trying to put the music into people’s ears.”
“I think one of the best compliments that we get from our fans is that we don’t come to their cities enough,” he concluded. “The more we can do that, the more we can make positive change with music.”
Keep tabs on Lost Stars by visiting loststarsmusic.com. For a taste of their music, watch a live video of their 2018 single, “Whip Me.”