NYU garage-punk band Been Stellar tackles the transition from adolescence to young adulthood through high-energy rock. Formed at a Michigan high school during cross country practice, vocalist and Tisch first-year Sam Slocum and guitarist and Philosophy first-year Skyler Knapp hit the ground running with their The Strokes-inspired sound that the two have become known for.
“Sam and I came up with a name [for the band] while we were vacationing in Cape Cod with Sam’s parents,” Knapp told WSN. “We determined that we wanted to make music together. There was this band called Com Truise that I knew of, and I thought it was cool how they used an actor’s name. I wanted to use an actor’s name but make it its own sort of sentence. I thought Been Stellar was cool because it sounds like Ben Stiller, but it also sounds like the phrase, ‘How’ve you been? I’ve been stellar.’”
After 15 months of songwriting and production, the band finally released its debut effort “Sells Out” last June on Bandcamp. Featuring 10 lo-fi tracks blending surf rock, indie rock and punk, the LP tackled the trials and tribulations of growing up as well as the fine line between adolescence and adulthood.
“Selling out is the main theme throughout all the songs,” Slocum told WSN. “We saw our friends and a lot of the kids we grew up with decide to become different people, and to us they were selling out. Everybody wants to be someone else at a certain point. It’s a fine line between wanting to be somebody else and looking like a moron while doing it.”
Following the success of “Sells Out,” Been Stellar wasted no time on releasing new music. The band’s follow-up single “Midwestern Holiday” hit Spotify early last December and was met with overwhelming positivity, garnering more plays than any song the band had released yet.
The pair’s transition from Michigan to Manhattan has shaped Been Stellar’s work significantly. While the band was largely unable to play many shows back at home, save for a handful of shows at the University of Michigan or basement performances, Been Stellar has blossomed in Brooklyn, playing in rooms with over 200 audience members.
“It’s impossible not to be influenced by New York lyrically,” Knapp said. “You’re always surrounded by interesting things. There’s creative people everywhere and you gain a new sense of perception for the world … We’ve picked up a unit of comparison between living in Michigan and living in New York, and that’s been the conceptual force behind the new stuff we’re doing.”
Check out the band’s latest single, “Midwestern Holiday” on Bandcamp and visit their website for updates and new releases.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 2 print edition. Email Nicole Rosenthal at [email protected]