Growing up halfway between Seattle and the middle of nowhere can have a profound effect on one’s life. In the case of Star Ann, it drove her to write and perform music. With melodic, aching vocals that’s as raw as the grunge that emanated from the city during the ‘90s combined with a sound that blends alt-rock with alt-country, Star Anna and her band The Laughing Dogs are the latest to emerge from the tight knit Seattle music scene. With Cat Power, Tom Petty and Lucinda Williams listed as some her influences, Star Anna’s lyrics and The Laughing Dogs music packs a punch that would make their heroes proud.
Star got her start at 11 when she received her first snare drum, started taking drum lessons and began buying some of her first CDs at the local record shop. “Music is something I’ve always been drawn to,” she said as we sat on her tour bus before her show at Spaceland in Los Angeles. She formed a punk metal band when was she was a freshman in high school and has been playing guitar since she was 16.
In search of a new band, Star Anna formed The Laughing Dogs. They’ve been playing together for four years and have seen various lineup changes along the way. But with the precision and tightness of the current lineup, which features guitarist Justin Davis, drummer Travis Yost and bassist Keith Ash, it won’t be long until the band sees its profile grow outside of the Pacific Northwest.
The band recently completed its first extended tour, playing shows across California and Oregon before heading back to Washington. So far, the shows have been successful, drawing legions of new fans in Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Francisco. If audiences aren’t familiar with the band’s work, it shouldn’t come as a surprise since they like to play many of their new songs live before they record. “This gives us a chance to hash them out and get them ready before we go into the studio,” Anna explained. “I like the songs from the first two records, but I don’t really feel a connection to them anymore and that’s why I like to play as much of the new stuff as possible.”
In early September, the band plans to record its third full-length album in Seattle. Most of the songs are complete and the best 10 of the batch will go on the currently untitled album. “Each of the times we’ve recorded has been a learning process, basically we learned how to record efficiently,” said Anna. “We are going to go in bang them out as efficiently as we can.”
Star Anna and The Laughing Dogs are different than many up-and-coming bands. Unlike other bands at this stage in their career, the group has received high praise from some of Seattle’s powerbrokers: Duff McKagan and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. McCready knew of the band due to budding alt-country scene in Seattle. “Anna has such a powerful voice that you can’t help but be drawn to her because it comes from a real place,” he said.
“At the Hootenanny for Haiti concert we did earlier this year, I was out in the crowd when Star was performing and she was mesmerizing and the band’s tightness blew everyone away and they stole the show,” McCready explained. In fact, Pearl Jam’s lead guitarist performed four songs with them at their Los Angeles show, drawing in people who may not have been familiar with the budding outfit’s material.
Seattle’s emerging alt-country scene, though different to the grunge explosion of the early ‘90s, is prominent in its own right. Don’t be surprised if Star Anna and The Laughing Dogs become the next band to emerge from Seattle and appear on your radio sometime in the very near future.