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Portland's STRFKR dances the Miracle Mile

What's in a Name?

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You're probably guessing that at some point Joshua Hodges thought to himself, "You know, maybe I could've found a better name for my band than Starfucker." And you would be right.

Hodges, the founder of the Portland indie/dance-pop quartet says, "The whole project was born out of a certain attitude and reflecting something that's really 'I don't give a fuck, I'm not trying to be a successful band,' so that was how it started and now it has its own life. It is what it is I guess," Hodges says with an audible sigh, one that is perhaps aimed at the impetuous short-sightedness of youth.

With the release of 2011's second full-length Reptilians, Hodges and his Starfucker bandmates introduced a secondary spelling for the group's name, STRFKR. With their new album, Miracle Mile, they've adopted it as their official moniker. "We kept getting messages from people and having them rip down posters, and we were like, this is really annoying to have to deal with it," he says. "We started using both ways of spelling and kids now know what it is."

That's not the only thing that's undergone a transformation. The band — Hodges, bassist/keyboardist Shawn Glassford, and drummer Keil Corcoran — recently brought keyboardist/guitarist Patrick Morris into the lineup. Hodges was a big fan of Morris' old band Strength. When Strength broke up and former STRFKR keyboardist Ryan Biornstad departed to form his own band, Hodges scooped up Morris. The band's new LP even features a Morris-written track.

"We collaborated mostly at the end after the songs were written. I feel the song needs another part and then Patrick would come up with something or lyrics and stuff," Hodges says.

Many of the songs were written or recorded in a beach house along the Oregon shore. There's a loose paisley-pop sway in those tracks which blooms into something spacious, wispy, and even a little wobbly. At other times the tracks revisit the nimble dance-pop of STRFKR's earlier albums.

"Half the songs on the album were from what I originally set out to do — a sort of drunk, fun sound with more weird guitar sounds and stuff," Hodges says. "Then we had all these kind of dance songs too and [we said] why don't we throw it all together and make a long sort of an album?"

Among the best songs on the album is the dreamy little number, "Kahlil Gibran," an ode to the early 20th century Lebanese poet. The song drifts with a folky laconic trill that subtly evokes other rustic Pacific Northwesterners like Blitzen Trapper and Fleet Floxes. Other tracks like the warm, bubbly "YAYAYA" recalls Animal Collective, and the shambling "Beach Monster" suggests Beach House being crushed beneath a Beatles-esque sunset, while "Say to You" is a jangling, smitten paean that's kin to STRFKR's infectious debut album ode "German Love."

Meanwhile, Miracle Mile's dancefloor-ready half works a new wave/U.K. soul vibe epitomized by '80s acts like Soft Cell, Heaven 17, and the Human League. These include the thumping two-and-a-half minute popper "Atlantis," the icy soul number "Last Words," and the seductive and sinister "Sazed."

"Somehow it all fits together pretty well even though they're all kind of different styles," says Hodges, who believes his band has finally begun to develop a signature sound. "I do think we're getting closer to that — something more refined with more intention."

The fact Hodges is even making music is surprising. He's actually a very shy and reserved person for whom stepping on stage was a challenge. "I used to have stage fright really bad when I first started playing music," he says. "I almost couldn't even do it. Meditation helped me get over it and also doing it more and more."

For those who haven't seen STRFKR before, one thing to look forward to is the band's LED wall. The huge, mutating light display seems like something that a band three or four times larger would have.

"Keil the drummer came up with the idea and a couple friends in Portland built it,' Hodges says. "One guy built the brain and did it all open source in Linux, and published it online so anyone that wants to can use the program. The other guy built the physical structure so it accordions up on itself and it fits right into our trailer. It's not even heavy. It helps leave people with something that sticks in their brain more than just hearing the song."

Or the band's name.

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