It had been over a decade since The Lillingtons released a full-length album—and an anomaly of a record at that. 2006’s The Too Late Show proved The Lillingtons were just as powerful as they were in their initial run, even if the band wasn’t inclined to hop back in the van and be a full-time concern. But with recent spats of activity—touring sporadically and releasing the Project 313 7-inch on Red Scare Industries—*The Lillingtons* are once again giving this band thing a go.
Having signed to Fat Wreck Chords, The Lillingtons toiled away on their new record in secret, crafting an album that is both a continuation of the band’s legacy and a dramatic reinvention. It’s called Stella Sapiente (2017), a title that vocalist-guitarist Kody Templeman says roughly translates to “wisdom of the stars,” and that phrase proves apt given his claim that it’s “centered around secret societies, astrology, and the occult.” This kind of subject matter makes perfect sense for The Lillingtons, a band that has never— and likely will never—find much interest in the mundane. Their songs are pulpy vignettes steeped in intrigue, unraveling mysteries, conspiracies, and cloak-and-dagger operations while bashing through buzzy, pop-focused punk songs.
Stella Sapiente sees the band removing all preconceived notions of what a Lillingtons record should sound like, and it’s that approach that yielded them a classic record back in 1998. “It’s the same mindset we had when we wrote Death By Television,” says Templeman. “We were sick of doing what we had been doing and we wanted a change.” This time around, it’s less of a genre shift and more so a willingness to embellish every detail. Like a B-movie director blessed with the budget of a summer blockbuster, on Stella Sapiente the band is able to create worlds inside each song, allowing everything from guitar tones to vocal phrasing to be pushed to their fullest potential.
“We threw in a lot of elements that you don’t normally run across in punk rock. Some harmonic leads and bass driven songs with only accents on guitar,” says Templeman. And while these may not be hallmarks of their genre, the way in which The Lillingtons adapt them for their use makes them feel right at home. “Insect Nightmares” has the propulsive energy of a classic Lillingtons song, but there are palm-muted, chugging guitars flanked by uproarious leads, as if the band pillaged vintage metal records, taking only the best ideas and leaving the excess behind. Elsewhere, a track like “Night Visions” could easily pass for a Devo-like soundscape, providing the perfect soundtrack for traversing underground tunnels and for a Devo-like soundscape, providing the perfect soundtrack for traversing underground tunnels and thumbing through ancient texts.
Of these clandestine, occult topics, Templeman says it’s not just myth-making, it’s part of a much bigger picture. “If a person takes the time to look into these things they will no doubt find a parallel and a common thread that ties it all together.” In fact, it’s something imprinted into the record itself. “We realized there were other forces working with us on this project,” says Templeman. And if you want to find out what’s hidden in there, you’ll have to gaze skyway, giving yourself to the wisdom of the stars.