Though they aren’t as superstars just yet, the Gainesville, Va. trio known as THE STARLESS formed by lead vocalist/guitarist Briana Strobele, bassist Donny Sauer, and guitarist Shane Lewis, released their debut EP Impulses Drive earlier this year, but not before they picked up drummer Josh Duncan. With Duncan on the skins, the band are finally bringing their anthems about the human condition to the masses.

With songs as dark as the night sky, discussing topics like depression and suicide, their music is hopeful for a brighter future. We met up with the band to discuss over some local craft brews about the band’s new start as a four-piece and what’s to come for them in the near future.

This summer, your band played your first festival show at Untitled Music Festival. Can you tell me about that experience?

Shane: It was pretty awesome, especially for a festival we didn’t know too much about. That was our first festival and our third show ever. I had been in previous bands where we were invited to play Untitled, but we didn’t really know much about it. We didn’t even know where New Castle, Va. is [located], but upon showing up, it was really well put together. The people [hosting it] were really nice, and it was an awesome experience.

They had two completely hand-build stages from the woods behind the property, and we got put on the larger stage. The stage hands were really accommodating. We actually had a decent crowd at a decent time of the day, and people loved it. There were a lot of other awesome bands playing, and it was just a blast.

Josh: It was fun. I’m hoping to play it again next year, but even if we can’t I’d like to go. It was a lot of fun people having a good time listening to good music and enjoying themselves.

Donny: It was probably the best time we have had as a band so far. The festival was great, and the people were awesome. We had a really good crowd. As soon as we got on stage, it seemed like a lot of people came and saw us play, and it was really cool looking out on that. It’s cool when you are just starting seeing people have that reaction to your music. It’s a bunch of people that love music, and that is the greatest thing ever.

How has the dynamic of the band changed since Josh joined?

Shane: Our sound has gotten a lot better. Before, it was just me, Donny, and Briana in a dark corner of the room playing together, and Donny would play drums on the keyboard, which was so cheesy. When Josh came in, it added a more “rock” dynamic. It allowed us to finally play shows too. We had a lot of people try out and send us demo videos. They were good, but Josh definitely stood out the most.

Briana: We like having him add his own flair to the songs wherever he wants to add his own touch on things. We can break down individually if we want, or we can bring everything together as a group.

What other local festivals would you like to play in the future?

Shane: Number one would definitely be Warped Tour. It kind of sucks that you have to compete for it, but at the same time, it would be pretty cool to say we played Warped Tour even if it’s just on the Ernie Ball stage.

Josh: I don’t know about festivals, but I would like to play some of the nicer venues around Virginia, like some of the good ones in Richmond, definitely get down to The Norva, and hopefully conquer Virginia before we head out of state.

Shane: I know they have a lot of festivals out in Richmond, and it would be cool to go to a different area. We come from more of the suburbs, kind of rural area, and it would be cool to go to a more urban environment to play some festivals out there to a different crowd.

Since your band released its debut EP Impulses Drive in December 2014, what impacts have you seen from its release in the local scene and beyond?

Shane: It was kind of a slow start. It was really hard getting it out there in the first place. We kind of set the date, and we didn’t even have the album artwork, so we were cramming with different designers to get that drawn up and promote it as much as we could. At that point, we hadn’t played a show yet, so it was hard to announce we hadn’t even performed live before.

Eventually, people started to catch on, and everyone really liked it. We’ve only had three shows, but people have been coming out giving us really high praise and compliments, as well as giving us advice for our live sets and stuff they would like to see. It’s been pretty awesome so far.

I saw on Facebook that you wrote a song called “5 or 8” about struggling with depression in honor or Robin Williams. Why was it so important for your band to address this topic?

Briana: For starters, obviously Robin Williams isn’t the only person who has gone through it. It effects countless people, all day every day, and for me personally, I have friends and family I talk to. Even though it’s people that care about me, I think, most importantly, the thing that gets through to me the most is music.

Being able to put it in a song and relate it to a pretty cool topic like Jumanji was incredible. We wanted to touch on that he went though it by himself and being an incredible person. I think it was a fun thing to do to relate it not only to a great man but also to a great topic and help people through that.

What are some of the other subjects you cover in your music that helps you stand out from other alternative rock bands in Virginia?

Briana: The opening track on the EP, “Dedicated Lungs,” is about the struggles of being in the industry and people wanting you to write certain things, giving their input, or writing songs for you and using other people to get ahead of the game. It’s also about not letting other people get to you and not feeling like you have to just roll over and not write what you want to write.

There’s not too many love songs on the EP, which I think is pretty cool (laughs). That does separate us a lot.

In addition to playing at local bars such as Fat Tuesday’s in Fairfax, are there any local breweries your band would like to perform?

Shane: I went to James Madison University, and they have a lot of local breweries up there, even in Winchester. I think it would be sick to go back to JMU and play a house show. They also have Pale Fire Brewing Co., which I know is really new up there, and they have Clementine Cafe and other local spots. I think it would be sick to play there, or even go down to Richmond to play in the VCU scene for the college kids or younger people out there.

Fat Tuesdays was fun. They were a mid-20s to early-30s crowd, but they were throwing down. I danced with an old man, and it was an amazing experience (laughs).

Josh: It’s not local, but I’ve always wanted to play the Outer Banks Brewing Station in Kill Devil Hills. N.C. It’s got a great stage and setup, and it’s a nice, open venue.

Donny: The Devil’s Backbone Brewery would be nice. I love their beer (laughs). I’d also like to play an acoustic set at a winery. That would be really cool, with a really relaxed setting up in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Do you have any new music or shows coming up soon you would like to announce?

Shane: We have two shows kind of lined up, but we have been back and forth with the booking agent and the local promoter who are putting those on. It has kind of been ambiguous whether we are playing, which is kind of frustrating, but it’s understandable. Since we aren’t booking it, we have to work with the middle man in order to do it.

Josh: We’ve got a couple new tunes on the books, and in the foreseeable future, we will be recording a song with me making my debut on live drums. I should be interesting. It should be fun.

Shane: We definitely plan on recording a single. We feel like that is a smart idea for bands to do nowadays. If you release a 10-song CD an no one has heard of you, why the hell would they go and check you out? We feel like it’s a good idea to release singles every now and then to give people a taste of what you sound like and what you stand for.

Donny: We started the new song a while ago. It was going to be on our EP, but we decided to do five songs instead. We recently finished it, and Josh was playing along to it and helping with the drum parts. It was all acoustic at first, and then we jammed it at practice a few times.

Brianna: It has a different sound to it. I’d say it’s less on the heavy side, as far as the tone of the instrumentals, with a little more of an indie rock feel. It touches on a pretty serious subject as well. It’s about a friend of mine from when I was a kid who committed suicide and essentially told me he was going to do it, but it didn’t click until afterwards. It’s about me wishing I could have done something about it.

For more updates on THE STARLESS, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and check out Impulses Drive on iTunes.

Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

As editor-in-chief, Joe is very passionate about promoting music and culture in Virginia and DC. A resident of Fairfax, Joe enjoys going to shows, checking out local breweries, and trying new foods with his girlfriend Alex.