Close your eyes. The overwhelming black fades into a light show of hypnotic and psychedelic shapes and colors behind your eyelids. Welcome to Stars of the Lid. Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride started Stars of the Lid, an alternative drone band, in Austin, Texas, in 1993. The two find happiness in going against the grain, keeping their eyes on innovation and not following the pack.
“In the summer of 1990, I was at a party, and they were playing some bad Seattle grunge music, so I took the liberty to change the record and put on Erik Satie solo piano favorites,” recalled Wiltzie on the moment when the droning duo met. “The party goers screamed in blasphemy, but Brian just smiled in enjoyment. We have been friends ever since.”
With this chance meeting and a love for the sounds of musical obscurity, Wiltzie and McBride of SOTL have finally found their niche in a world consumed by monotonous rap, rock and hip-hop fanatics.
“Of course, growing up, [drone music] was always a bit of a dark secret at school. You had to pretend you liked KISS or you would be treated as if you had contracted the bubonic plague,” said Wiltzie.
Alternative drone music is the underground of musical tastes and is created, produced and performed sans rhythmic instruments and vocals. While this may not sound like a band to many, the stereotype of bands and music is exactly what SOLT is trying to re-evaluate.
“I always hated the Beatles,” said Wiltzie. “I reckon they have destroyed music in such a way that we are all left with the feeling that music has to fit in this format in order to have any validity. This is fundamentally wrong.”
Their line of music focuses on a mix of droning guitars, piano and volume changes to create different effects and dynamics. It has successfully avoided the mainstream sound but has also been used by bands such as The Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth.
Stars of the Lid has released eight albums and one EP, most recently Stars of the Lid and Their Refinement of the Decline, and they have no plans to slow down. SOTL finds beauty in its creations of the unorthodox and unconventional.
“There is always a certain pleasure when composing and mixing a piece of music you have created,” said Wiltzie. “But the mental girth required to compile two hours of quality compositions is a vast undertaking, so I suppose I am always quite relieved and a bit spent emotionally when it is finished.”
As inventors in their own right, Wiltzie and McBride are used to the constant battle for fresh sounds. The innovative electronic mixers know that creating variation in their minimalist music is difficult due to the slow tranquility of droning sounds. Keeping their music unique is a task in itself, and they admit it is a daunting climb up the hill to victory.
“Quiet music is the most difficult music to create and especially to mix,” said Wiltzie. “There is such an extremely fine line between pushing the envelope and just repeating yourself.”
Churches, planetariums and empty swimming pools with couches are among Wiltzie’s favorite places to showcase SOTL’s craft. The sounds of their inspired music might be soothing or foreign, but each experience is unique.
“Maybe it could be your own personal movie that only you can see,” said Wiltzie about the colors seen when your eyes are shut. “No one knows if what you see is what somebody else experiences. Everyone has their own idea, so maybe it is best to leave it up to the listener. Oh, how I loathe the obvious.”

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