The Tiny Plastic Stars are calling it quits on Friday, after a four-year (feels much longer) run through Missoula’s music scene that saw them playing at nearly every local festival, opening for probably a dozen different touring bands and playing the Top Hat twice.
Their third Top Hat show, scheduled for Friday, will be their last, for the time being.
“I think we’re calling it a breakup,” lead singer Riley Roberts said. “We’re ready to see new people, do other things.
“In reality, it’s time to set it down and try something new.”
Drummer Dan Miller and Roberts have played together since 2014, and Miller was one of a few musicians brought in by Shmed Maynes to back up Roberts’ acoustic folk tunes during a recording session.
“It ended up working really well and opened my eyes to all these things I could do,” Roberts said.
The group played together live a few times soon after, playing Roberts’ acoustic material, before deciding to pivot sounds. Roberts retooled some of those folk-rock songs to fit the electric guitar and wrote new material as well. Even then, it took the group a little while to feel comfortable with who they were as a band.
By the time they were ready to record their album "Sleepy Eyes" in early 2017, Roberts said they’d fallen into their now-familiar sound: groovy, krautrock-esque rhythm section, with overdriven guitars and Robert’s high-register voice leading them to psychedelic territory.
The psych-rock trappings came fairly naturally, as Tiny Plastic Stars aligned themselves with Ghost Carrot Records and Joshua Bacha, whose affinity for DIY psych shaped Missoula’s music scene. Roberts as well played in the original lineup of fellow psych rockers Charcoal Squids.
Their old-school psychedelic leanings were strengthened working with Jacob Chadwell at Levitation Studios, who uses analogue recording methods and vintage equipment.
“We were all comfortable enough in what we were doing,” Roberts said. “It’s really cool that we got to be a part of that.”
Tiny Plastic Stars’ main members have been Roberts and Miller, who have played with a rotating cast of bass players (including Bacha, Ballengee and current member Elliot Richter) and the occasional second guitarist (Alex Smith).
Roberts saw the upside in all the lineup changes, which is a fact of life for small town bands.
“There’s been many high points,” he said. “Every time the lineup changes, getting to work with a new person and learn from them.”
Even after their breakup, there's a high point, Roberts said. An EP with Fuuls has been recorded, but isn’t quite ready to be released. That EP will be played in its entirety during Friday’s show.
“We’ve been wanting to do that for a long time,” Roberts said. “That was a really good experience.”
The members of Tiny Plastic Stars aren’t disappearing, Roberts said, and they will play together again. There’s a few projects in their “infant stages."
Roberts remembered a message from a college student who saw the group at a Free Cycles event and wrote to let them know it was one of the best concerts they’d been to — a combination of great music and new independence mixing together in a euphoric cocktail.
“That means a lot,” Roberts said. “It’s not always easy being in a band, but it’s great to be a band in Missoula. It’s just a wonderful community.”