“It was literally one of those moments where you walk into a room – no planning, no real music to play – and we just went at it,” recalled StarZero guitarist James O’Brien of the SoCal quintet’s first rehearsal. “It was magical. I just felt that fire … I was a teenager again.”
Based in the surfers’ paradise of San Clemente, StarZero are unabashed ‘90s grunge/alt-rock flagbearers creating original music that’s firmly for the here and now. Centered upon the soaring, Chris Cornell-esque vocals of Josh Paskowitz, former co-frontman of The Flys alongside his brother Adam, they channel the hefty yet melodic and uplifting aura of Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and Stone Temple Pilots with utter authenticity and zero compromise.
“The strength is the brotherhood that we have in the band, and the genuine admiration and interest in one another’s artistic expression,” said Paskowitz, who sold a million records and toured the world, including opening for the Rolling Stones, with The Flys. “When these guys are doing their thing it’s liberating, it’s invigorating, it’s empowering.”
StarZero’s roots reach back to the early 1990s, when Paskowitz, bassist Jeff ‘Poppy’ Poppenhagen, and drummer Bernie Sanchez were all members of popular San Clemente outfit Jesus Chrysler(that also once featured late Foo Fighters legend Taylor Hawkins). While Paskowitz was enjoying an MTV-era rock star role in Hollywood with The Flys, whose ’98 hit “Got You (Where I Want You)” dominated airwaves, O’Brien was touring hard with UK post-grunge Fred Durst prodigies Score (Flip/Flawless Records). In 2018, after countless life and musical adventures, the duo connected in California and, with Sanchez, began what would three years later become StarZero.
For all of the twists and turns, treachery, and heartache of their respective musical journeys, StarZero, which is completed by guitarist and accomplished backing vocalist Billy Murphy, remain infectiously unbowed in their love for the big-voiced, tuneful, and harmony-heavy guitar music that they feel the world is lacking.
“We’re not trying to imitate – it’s just what comes out of us,” enthused O’Brien, whose effervescent energy would shame most teens. “I’m baring my soul with this music.”
StarZero uncannily recaptures that sensation of hearing your future favorite rock band for the first time ever. Their sound is a rush of blood that’s foreboding and darkly dramatic but also imparts a sense of optimism and powering through even in the depths of life’s most confusing and challenging chapters.
“We’re hopeful to make music more like Black Sabbath was in the beginning, where there’s a doom element to it, but there’s also like a we-won’t-ever-be-overcome kind of element,” mulled Paskowitz, who also guested on Masters of Reality’s 2001 album Deep in the Hole. “That’s what I’d like people to feel with StarZero – that sense of resolve and strength.”
And the industry is taking notice of StarZero’s unique spark and seasoned songcraft. Older and wiser, their mistakes far behind them, the band is gathering a trusted music biz family around them with a shared belief in bringing the unpretentious headrush of grunge and its immediate offshoots to a generation largely starved of such inspirational, escapist stimulation.
With an experienced manager already aboard, they’ve caught the ear of producer Cameron Webb (Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Motörhead Sum 41 etc.), who’s helming their debut recording at his Maple Sound studio in Santa Ana, California, and have also enjoyed pre-production input from producer/keyboard player Ronnie King (The Offspring, NOFX, Rancid, Pennywise etc.). After their debut performance in San Clemente in April was rapturously received, StarZero earned a spot alongside the likes of Everclear, Filter, and Soul Asylum at the 2022 Flannel Nation Festival in San Pedro in August.
“We’ve been through so much hopefully this music has a little bit of what we’ve learned on the way, and some sense of hope,” Paskowitz concluded. “That’s one of the meanings of StarZero: it’s like absolute magnetic north; it’s like the origin point where you’re completely free to create a new beginning.”