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sf59: Music That Never Gets Old
[ by ben forrest ]

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I'll admit to being almost entirely ignorant when it comes to indie music or anything that resembles it. Jason Martin, lead singer and principle songwriter for Tooth and Nail artist Starflyer 59, learns this not long into our interview. SF59 has been around for 10 years, toiling in relative obscurity while earning a reputation for being one of the hardest working bands in the industry (all of the members have day jobs and play in other bands when SF59 isn't recording or touring). After such a span, it seems obvious to this young hack that a greatest hits package should be on the way. So when will we see one?

"Actually we put out a double disc entitled Easy Come Easy Go a couple of years ago," he says, "which was basically a best of with b-sides and some live stuff."

Perhaps with this in mind, the answer to my next question is exceedingly short. "If SF59 ceased to exist after tomorrow, what would the obituary say?"

"You tell me."

I can't, of course. I hadn't even heard of the band until a few months ago, and so our interview ends there.

To even a casual observer, however, Starflyer's staying power is impressive. Since 1993, they have remained with the label that first signed them, at times making ends meet with journeys to the casino, and growing as artists while not giving in to the Christian musician's greatest temptation: regurgitating whatever is popular in the mainstream. According to Martin's scribblings on toothandnail.com, the reason for the band's evolution is simple: why put out the same album twice?

Still, Martin, the only member to have remained with the band since 1993, manages to publish at least one album a year under the SF59 moniker, and another is due in May. Current bassist Jeff Cloud, in an interview with hmmagazine.com, puts it aptly: "We are a tank. We just keep going. We don't give up."

But, says Martin, it's not that they haven't considered it. "All the time," he says when asked if he ever thinks about leaving his music career behind. "[But] you just do something for so long you don't really know how to stop. I can't really remember what it was like to not be in this band."

Their near-anonymous status to fans of the top 40 is not for lack of effort. Says Martin, "We have been touring and putting out albums for 10 years. We are where we are, but you also never know what is coming down the line."

In their immediate future is Old, the follow-up to last year's Can't Stop Eating and Live at the Paradox EPs, and their first full-length album since 2001. "I think the record turned out well," says Martin. "We kind of went back in time a little bit on this record. To me it sounds like the record we didn't know how to make about 6 or 7 years ago."

Years of playing the part of "struggling musicians" may be weighing heavy on the band's shoulders, however. Asked what he wants fans to take away from the album, he answers simply, "We're all getting old."

Lines like, "We have always been on [Brandon Ebel's] label, so I really don't know it any other way" and "after all these years," peppered throughout our discourse, also bring to mind images of Methuselah. But the band shows no signs of letting up. They dream of a day when playing music is a feasible full-time job and groupies attack them at every turn. But they don't want to be the next U2. Says Martin, "I'm not sure I would like to be playing stadiums. Somewhere in between would be nice."
- Ben Forrest
May 2003
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