Puddlegum is pleased to premiere the debut music video (and single) of a new dream pop duo called Starrgazy. Ben Wesley Morgan and Lucie Hill of Cornwall, UK, formed Starrgazy during the pandemic. They’re releasing their debut single, Flying, tomorrow (April 2nd).
Jamie Harding (IDLES, Fenne Lily) shot the music video, blending symbolic scenes that mimic 80s sci-fi while reflecting the song’s message of persistence. “Flying not dying,” Lucie sings, a tenacity to push through these times. “Follow the paths of resistance. You need to believe.”
As you’ll read below, the project was a surprising development that neither of them anticipated. We talked with Starrgazy about how this project began, ways they approach remote writing and recording, how the pandemic impacted their music, and about plugins and gear.
A Conversation with Starrgazy
Ben and Lucie are not new to music. Benjamin Wesley Morgan has been a touring musician for band such as The Loose Salute (with members of Slowdive and Mojave 3), and Louis Eliot. Lucie Hill has had a solo career in the UK and New Zealand. It was the during the lockdown in 2020 when a song idea was floated between them.
Lucy shared with Puddlegum, “When Ben produced a song I had been working on as a solo artist during the first lockdown I was blown away by how different it sounded when he bounced it back. A melancholic acoustic song had evolved into an uplifting ethereal dream pop track and I felt much more excited to listen to Ben’s interpretation. The musical chemistry between us was obvious so I suggested that we write some songs together as a duo and the rest is history.”
Their ability to write cohesively became clear, which developed into Starrgazy. The two mix acoustic guitar with dreamy synths. The instrumentation is professionally tracked, giving it a more polished dream pop sound. The sound is perfect for Lucie’s voice; her pop vocals blend so nicely with the light trailing reverb. Her harmonies in the chorus are superb.
Ben added that Lucie’s melodies are instrumental in the songwriting process. “Lucie has a real knack for finding interesting melodies and phrasing, and usually once I hear what she has come up with I find the rest of the music writes itself around her lyrics and melodies.”
Remote writing and recording
“The magic formula so far has been that Ben writes a dreamy track and sends it to my inbox,” Lucie shared about their writing and recording process. “I listen and am transported to another dimension and feel inspired to write lyrics to suit the music. I write the melody and lyrics at the same time and send it back to Ben’s inbox for his approval.”
The two share the songwriting, seeing it as a dual effort. “We decided we wouldn’t split hairs in terms of songwriting credits as the music and lyrics are informed by each other,” Lucie explained. “The only challenging thing has been lockdown. Ben has been an absolute diamond to work with.”
“We’re very lucky that our respective methods of working seem to fit together very well,” Ben echoed Lucy. “As Lucie says, lockdown has been the most challenging aspect of our collaboration so far as we haven’t been able to work together in the way musicians usually do, bouncing ideas off each other in the same room, so we’re excited to see how the sound develops once normality returns. We haven’t seen each other in person since before Christmas, so we’re just really looking forward to working together in the same room again in May when restrictions ease up. It’s been a crazy time to start a musical project, but we think it will be worth it.”
The Pandemic and how it shaped their sound
Considering that Starrgazy began during the pandemic, they found that the sounds reflect these unpredictable times. “The first few tracks we worked on all featured this woozy, unsteady guitar sound that you can hear on ‘Flying’, which I think was a bit of reflection of how surreal and unsteady everything felt at the time,” Ben reflected. “It’s felt like we’ve been in a half-awake, liminal state for much of the last 12 months.”
Lucy shared, “The songs definitely have a surreal feel to them and have been inspired by lockdown experiences such as going for a run at 4 in the morning to combat anxiety. Other experiences have included insomnia, mindfulness and binge watching.”
Starrgazy’s sound is shaped by the synth tones they have chosen, largely pulling from early 1980s models. Ben shared several synth plugins they have enjoyed. “There’s a really nice Juno 60 emulation by a company called TAL that we’re using on a few tracks. I often gravitate towards sounds from the ARP Solina, again we’re using a software emulation as the originals are quite expensive and hard to find. Maybe one day we’ll be able to get our hands on the real thing.”
He also shared his favorite guitar pedals with us. “I’ve been enjoying the Walrus Audio Julianna quite a bit recently for vibrato/chorus, and the Neunaber Immerse for reverb. I also really like the built-in effects on the Roland Jazz Chorus amplifier. I’m not a purist though, and I’m quite happy to record a clean guitar part and then add studio effects if I can’t find the right sound through pedals, especially if I want to make things sound wider or weirder.”
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