May 24, 2019

Sci-Fi Romance’s Jody Stark ‘Dreamers & Runaways’ Album and Growing Up Jewish in Texas

Photo courtesy of Graham Nolan for Sci-Fi Romance

An independent folk band from Los Angeles that blends unique arrangements and a dark, percussive take on acoustic music, Sci-Fi Romance has interestingly been described as “steamfolk.” Founded by singer-songwriter Vance Kotrla, Sci-Fi Romance released its debut album— titled “…and surrender my body to the flames” — in 2010. Its most recent full-length is 2018’s Dreamers & Runaways, which came paired with a special edition comic book.

The band – which also includes drummer Mr. Mike and cellist Jody Stark – recently helmed a thought-provoking song and accompanying music video for “Voices,” the first single off “Dreamers & Runaways.”

Jewish Journal: “Dreamers & Runaways” is Sci-Fi Romance’s new album. How long did you spend recording it?

Jody Stark: We recorded a few songs at a time over the course of a year. I think Vance had all the songs already written the year before and was very anxious to get in the studio. Schedules and life were a bit crazy for everyone, so I suggested spreading it out and recording one or two  songs at a time. I think it turned out even better!

JJ: Do you have a favorite song on the album?

JS: I like “Beautiful Prison.” I think of it as kind of a bittersweet song about change and isolation that really underscores our need for connection.

JJ: “Voices” is a song from your new release that has people talking. What does the song mean to you personally?

JS: We live in such divisive times. I see people unfriending, or unfollowing, friends and family on Facebook or other social media. Some are deciding not to have Thanksgiving dinner with their families. It seems we are unable to come to the table and have a civil discussion about what is going on around us. The culprit is that so many of us get our source of news from a limited number of social media or news outlets that may not offer a balanced view or even vetted facts.  As a result, so many only end up reinforcing their current world view rather than expose themselves to a different point of view. This is so dangerous when the chosen source of news chooses to infuse a message of fear. For me, this song is about combating that fear and never giving up on each other. As humans, we aren’t all so different. At the core, we want the same things, but we stopped listening to each other. That’s what fear does. It stops you from seeing things from other points of view and drowns out the compassion that is within all of us.

JJ: When and where did the concept of including a digital comic as part of the album’s creation come from?

JS: This would be a question for Vance. The digital comic was entirely Vance’s creation.

JJ: Was cello your first instrument?

JS: Does the recorder in fourth grade music class count? Anyhow, I was very good at playing that recorder and was encouraged to pick an instrument and join the string program in school. My first choice was bass to which my mom responded “We can’t fit that in the car!” Cello was the next best thing and turned out to be a great fit for me.

JJ: As I am speaking to you for the Jewish Journal, I must ask: What do you remember about your bat mitzvah?

JS: Although a bat mitzvah is an important rite of passage, my family did not have the financial means for me to take that journey. I grew up in Carrollton, Texas. Although it is a suburb of Dallas, it seemed so far away from Dallas. That said, Carrollton did not have much of a Jewish population. I knew of one other Jewish girl. Since I did not grow up around a Jewish community, my family was it. When I think of the high holidays, for me it is all about the family coming together with all the food and traditions.

When I left for college, I wanted to learn more about Judaism but felt very out of place at Hillel. It became harder to identify as Jewish in the same way others did. Then I had an opportunity to take a free organized trip to Israel with Birthright Israel. This helped me tremendously with my doubts and questions about Jewish identity. Now I feel comfortable identifying as Jewish even though I’m not religious.  

JJ: Judaism aside, what do the next few months look like for you and SciFi Romance

JS: I think we’re gearing up to shoot another music video in the next few weeks.  

JJ: Finally, Jody, any last words for the kids?

JS: It might seem a bit cliché, but never let anyone discourage you from doing what you love.


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