justLISTEN! The Star Captains

Interview by Alan Ng
Words by Amie Nguyen and Alan Ng
Photography by Alan Ng

Location: Vancouver



Please introduce yourself to our readers.

DK: My name is Dan Klenner. In the Star Captains, I play drums and I aspire to be Tim Proznick. My background, I used to watch these guys play every Friday at a restaurant/pub in White Rock, BC, close to the boarder. They changed my life and I thought I might as well play with them.

N: My name is Nimish. I played the bass in the band. I like to have a good time and play music. Luckily, we have a band that’s been together for a long time and now we also got NaRai who sings, which created a new set of dynamics. Now we have a vocalist so we can write tunes with vocals and still play interesting things. It’s pretty fun.

JB: My name is Jim Black. I play guitar, one of the two guitar players in the band. I am a rock guitar player; I enjoy playing really loud with lots of fuzz, pedals and other effects.

DM: My name is David Mergens. In this band, I play a few instruments. I play the auxiliary keyboard, the secondary keyboard player in the band. I also play the saxophone and an instrument called the EWI Electronic Wind Instrument. It’s like an electronic wind driven synthesizer. I joined in when it was already formed to a certain extent. I guess I joined it over a year ago and have been enjoying very much.

M: I am Max Zipursky, keyboard player of The Star Captains.

G: Gavin Youngash, I play guitar. I guess my main contribution to the band is that I write music. If Jim’s the rock guitar player, I am the cleaner side of the guitar pairing, trying to compliment each other.

NR: I am NaRai and I am the newest member of this group. I am a singer, song writer, Panasonic player extraordinaire, and I also play the spoons really well.

Can you tell us about the band?

JB: What’s the meaning of any name? Our origins, it’s hard to trace. We played together for a long time, informally – just improvising a lot. When we first started to get organized and name the brand, we were presented with the task of coming up with an identity. I don’t think the name means much. I think all of your favourite brands, their name dictates what they mean. I don’t think Led Zeppelin or Pearl Jam means anything. You just stop thinking about it after you name the band. I think after all the names that we thought of that represented us, the only name that was free on the internet was The Star Captains, so we took that one. It’s easy to spell and remember. It uses a bunch of synthesizers and you get a lot of 70s stuff.

Different bands have different identities. What do you think sets you guys apart from other bands out there?

N: I guess we all went to jazz school. I mean, different bands come from different backgrounds so definitely coming from a background where we all went to school together some point at an early stage, going through musical training, and being exposed to similar influences at the same time. Playing the songs at gigs for jazz casuals here, for duos and quartz, even now the group today, we play a lot of smaller gigs together.

G: Within the band, we play together in about just all types of configurations imaginable. I play a duo with Jim a lot and Max, Dave and Nimes have played a trio before. We all have a good understanding of each individual’s method and approaches to music.

DM: When you bring it into the symbol as a whole, it’s that much more fresh. It helps when we play in smaller aggregations; it helps us to get to know each other better musically.

NR: I think not only musically, which you will probably notice, but also just we are all friends as well which makes it even more amazing because we don’t just know each other musically, but also as people.

J: Yeah, no one is like, hired at any point.

Speaking of your friendship within the band, what else do you guys do together in terms of hobbies or activities?

J: We play basketball.

NR: Yeah we do!

N: If anyone wants to know, we’ll be there around midnight.

NR: And we are pretty competitive.

You guy should challenge another band.

JB: Yeah, we have thought about doing that.

N: Right now, let’s challenge another band. I would like to challenge our local friends and band mates who are playing with us, the Booms Booms, to a basketball game.

JB: To see who can headline the next show.

I know you guys have an upcoming show next week. Other than doing more shows, what other projects do you have for the upcoming year?

N: Working on the upcoming album. I think it’s kind of our main focus for the band right now.

JB: NaRai has done a couple of releases on her own, and we have done one release as The Star Captains, and this next upcoming album will be NaRai and The Star Captains. It’s going to be a combination of some of our instrumental songs, in which we are known for having interesting instrumental songs, and also songs that we have been writing with NaRai, who has wonderful vocals. It’s going to be an interesting album and it will be coming out before the summer.

How do you guys come about creating songs?

JB: Gavin gracefully mentioned that I make terrible sounds with my fuzz pedals and I think primarily, Max and Gavin have composed most of the music for the group. They come out with a lot of the ideas. Max writes core progressions and Gavin is the master of melody, so the two of them come up with a lot of ideas. We always bring them together as a group and arrange them together. I mean, I think there are only a few instances that someone will come with a finished song and say that we will play it.

N: To be honest, we haven’t written that many songs yet. We were playing a lot of songs that NaRai wrote as well.

NR: It’s a whole new level of getting to know each other now in terms of writing styles, learning how to communicate and learning to each of our styles of writing. It’s an interesting thing, having seven people in the group trying to write a song together.

JB: It’s starting to be like that. Some of the new ones [songs] that came out have been definitely a collaboration of everyone.

M: When we say a fusion of music, it’s all of us trying to combine our styles, but we combine through music. It’s a fusion, the writing process too.

For NaRai, you have been at your solo career for a while. How were you involved with The Star Captains and how did you come to join the band?

N: At first, I met Jim at a barbeque. We went on tour for a bit and went on shows together. It’s been amazing and it’s been also like a dream.

JB: It happened fairly naturally. We did some shows here and there. I kind of made a conscious decision to make an official collaboration together.

NR: My background was more hip-hop stuff and I have always wanted to play in a band. It’s kind of like magic.

You guys have definitely created a strong friendship throughout creating a strong band. What advice do you have for people that would like to be a part of a band?

JB: I don’t know if we are in the position to give any advice. My philosophy on that is that everything has to be equal. We kind of done it where it’s equal, we can’t have any division. I think that’s how you become successful as a band.

JB: Drink beer and band space.

NR: I think it’s always also about your love and commitment. If you love something, you just want to keep at it, basically.

What do you want your music to speak to the people about? What kind of messages do you want to convey?

NR: It’s all love.

N: One love.

M: I think our passion for music and the respect for it. The power to reach people through music – I think we all feel pretty blessed.

What is it about music that really drives you personally and keeps you going with it?

N: I didn’t really like waking up early for a day job. Music is a lot more fun because it doesn’t have to start really early.

JB: You know what? I never really think about it too much. Every now and then, I go, “What I am doing?” I have been playing music for so long that you realize some things you are doing don’t pay off financially, you know? I listen to so much music from the ‘70s and it just keeps your soul enacted. I teach kids music. I teach guitar and that keeps me going to.

M: For me, playing music gives me access to a feeling or emotion that I can’t get anywhere else–that alone keeps me playing music. It also gives me access to communicate with other people that play music.

G: I’ve been playing somewhere for as long as I can really remember. It’s like another voice or way to communicate– if you play your instrument or sing on your own, it’s like you can relate to your own emotions. If you are angry, you can put back into your instrument and you can sort it out. If you are happy, you can amplify your happiness. On a social kind of level, I love connecting with my friends in this band and with students–I teach as well. It’s basically another way of communicating. Sometimes, it’s more effective or more comfortable to communicate with music.

NR: Music’s been the only thing that I have really known. It’s been the only thing that I feel normal doing. Getting to know myself as a person, like, this is just what I do. It’s something I breathe. I’ve always had melodies in my head, I’ve always written, and always thought there was a message in everything that I have written. I don’t feel like I am the one writing it–it feels like the message is from somewhere else and that it’s something that needs to be carried on and that’s what keeps me going because I want to spread it to everybody.

What is HYPE?

DK: Some guy in a green tracksuit jumping up and down at the front of the stage.

N: HYPE is what you and your friends like to do.

JB: Fuzz pedal and a martial stat.

DM: HYPE is the urge to jump up and down without thinking about the consequences.

M: HYPE is nothing without real as the backbone.

J: True HYPE to me is kind of a grassroots following. There’s a quality, element in the center. People hear it, people respond to it and it grows. People might try to manufacture HYPE, like this is something you want when it’s not. Real HYPE is something that grows from the ground.

NR: HYPE to me is love and living in that love. When I think about love, I love it. It’s the best.



  • February 15, 2011


    Nice guys! Jim, it’s awesome to see where your playing has taken you. All the best to all you guys, Narai, and The Star Captains! Cheers.

  • February 16, 2011


    Great interview! Jim, I’m looking forward to hearing your album! Cheers, ‘Eddie!’ Keep the spirit of the ’70’s alive.
    Jim D

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