“I think there should be a certain mystique to a band,” says 18-year-old Arrow de Wilde, lead singer for the L.A.-based quartet Starcrawler and recent high school grad. “When a band posts [on social media] about what they’re doing every second of the day, it’s like you practically know them. You want to wonder what a rock star’s like, what they’re doing right now. It’s kind of more exciting not to know as much about a person or a band.”
Yet despite the band’s decision to maintain a low-key virtual profile—outside of promoting shows and “cool photos of us,” says de Wilde—it was a shared video of one of their high-octane performances that piqued the curiosity of singer-songwriter Ryan Adams. “He’s old friends with my mom but they fell out of touch,” explains de Wilde, referring to her mother, celebrated music photographer Autumn de Wilde (dad is drummer Aaron Sperske).
“Ryan saw some footage and wrote us about wanting to work together. He heard us play, then came to a show and wanted to get into the studio right away.”
The result: an unnamed 10-track album, produced by Adams and set to be released on Brit indie label Rough Trade Records. Starcrawler’s debut single, “Ants” (for which Autumn and cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt directed the music video), bursts with punchy guitar riffs and can’t-get-them-out-of-your-head lyrics. Chalk it up to the group’s collective musical influences, which run the gamut from Jack White and the Ramones to Led Zeppelin, Elton John and de Wilde’s idol, Ozzy Osbourne.
“It’s about things we love and things we hate,” says guitarist Henri Cash, 16, of the themes that run through the album, refusing to elaborate on what that might mean for the bandmates, who all grew up in and around Los Angeles. After being introduced through mutual friends, de Wilde and drummer Austin Smith, 21, began jamming together. Looking for another musician to bring into the fold, de Wilde approached a tuba-case-toting Cash in the stairwell at their Echo Park high school and inquired if he knew how to play guitar, too.
“I play a lot of instruments,” explains Cash, who is currently a student at downtown L.A.’s world-renowned performing arts school the Colburn School. “She somehow figured it out, spot on.” For de Wilde, the decision to single out Cash was simple: “He had long hair. It was a given.” Twenty-year-old bassist Tim Franco, a friend of de Wilde’s, rounded out the unlikely foursome in 2016.
“We’re all very unique but we mold into one sound, which is cool,” says Cash. But it’s not just their singular sound that sets the band apart for fans—dubbed “Crawlers” by the members. Of equal note are Starcrawler’s adrenaline-driven live performances (“We want to be loud, high energy and in your face,” says Smith), dominated by the lean and limber de Wilde’s presence.
“I was watching live videos of the Runaways and that made me want to perform,” explains de Wilde, who also takes cues from the likes of Iggy Pop and the ’70s glam-rock scene for her performances, complemented by her boundary-pushing ensembles. “The first outfit I wore on stage was a hospital gown that was inspired by mental patients. It’s all based on videos I’ve watched of people in mental asylums,” notes de Wilde, who amplified the element of shock by spewing fake blood.
Off stage, Wilde’s sense of style and authenticity are no less mesmerizing, as evidenced by her personal Instagram account, which has attracted a celebrity-studded following that includes actors Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Mindy Kaling as well as fashion darlings Kate and Laur a Mulleavy of Rodarte. “I like fashion, I guess, but I kind of find the whole high-fashion thing to be weird. Like, all these bands wear Gucci, but then they still profess to be called a rock ’n’roll band. It’s kind of contradicting themselves in my eyes.”
As they prepare to hit the road for a European and U.S. summer tour to promote their pending album, the bandmates offer their hopes for Starcrawler’s future: “Tour in a big bus, play Madison Square Garden and meet Ozzy. And go triple platinum!” offers de Wilde. “Play more shows and travel the world,” says Smith. “And then we can finally make one of those docudramas about fighting and throwing things at each other.” Just don’t expect to catch it all in your Instagram newsfeed anytime soon. “I don’t even have our password,” says Franco.