GIVEN the fact that it’s taken just two years for Starcrawler to become a hot property — fêted by Elton John and Dave Grohl, adorning magazine covers and with their Ryan Adams-recorded debut album about to drop — singer Arrow de Wilde is oddly unforthcoming about how they got here. Although to be fair, when you’re 18 and life is surging crazily around you, you’re too busy living it to do much reflecting.
‘I don’t know,’ she says, a millennial shrug in her voice down the phone from LA, when asked what made her start a band when she was still in high school. ‘I was into visual art and then something switched and it seemed kind of random; all of a sudden, I wanted to make music. I just wanted to start a band and so I found Austin.’
Austin Smith is Starcrawler’s drummer and, at 22, the oldest. He and Arrow met via Facebook and started jamming together in 2015, later adding guitarist Henri Cash (who’s still at high school) and bass player Tim Franco.
The buzz around the band centres as much on their wild live performances as their high-energy, riff-stacked songs, which cut the classic rock of AC/DC and Black Sabbath with glam punk (The Runaways, The Stooges).
On stage, Arrow is a towering force of nature: with fright-wig hair and smeared eye makeup, she storms about in a straitjacket or sequinned Y-fronts, spitting (fake) blood. Entertainment plus confrontation is the aim, according to Arrow, who says LA friends The Lemon Twigs and Pinky Pinky share Starcrawler’s ethos.
‘I want to stir the pot, but I also want to have fun. I guess rock music became less popular, so we’re trying to bring it back.’
But if she appears fearless, Arrow has actually had to overcome serious anxiety. ‘The first time I was ever on stage with Starcrawler, I was terrified,’ she admits, ‘but to be honest I have no clue how I got past that. Now, there’s like another persona, which only comes out on stage. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like something that takes over me.’ She adds: ‘I want to shock people, I guess. I like getting a reaction out of them, whether it’s to annoy them or make them angry… I think people are too stuck up now, so it’s fun to mess with them.’
Given their youth, it’s maybe surprising that the band look so enthusiastically to rock’s past. ‘I like how bands back then had a mystique about them. You didn’t know about their personal lives or even their characters; you didn’t know if they were mean or really cool or whatever and I just want to try and maintain that with my band.’
So, if Starcrawler have a message for us all, what is it? ‘I don’t know. I guess that like, rock is back.’
Wednesday, The Deaf Institute, Manchester, thedeafinstitute.co.uk and touring