By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jun 05, 2024 at 12:01 PM

Recently, I stopped by a Sunday night practice in Riverwest of a new, all-female, queer-friendly band called Vox Starling. 

I knew a couple of the members already, mainly Renee Luna Bebeau, Vox Starling's drummer, with whom I was in a Pagan punk band more than a decade ago called Cackle. I also knew stellar cellist Janet Schiff of Nineteen Thirteen fame – a chamber rock trio featuring founding drummer Victor DeLorenzo from the Violent Femmes. 

But the three other members of the band I only had vague Smallwaukee connections to. I liked them all immediately. Especially when within a few minutes of the interview lead singer and guitarist Jen Janviere said, “We play a lot of murder ballads.” 

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Noel Clark and Ace Christie complete the final two sides of Vox Starling's musical hexagon. Clark plays guitar and offers vocals – including lovely harmonies with Janviere – and Christie is a seasoned pianist who quickly learned to play bass because she wanted to be a part of the band.

“I’m always creating. I’m always working on something. I’m always trying to put something out in the world that makes it better,” said Christie.

This genuine and succint positivity resonates in Vox Starling’s music and juxtaposes the delicously dark and ethereal aspect of their sound. When asked for their influences, musicians from just about every shade of the spectrum were called out: from Portishead to Patti Griffith; Sinead O’Connor to The Cure; Khruangbin to Radiohead. At times, they laid out a Mazzy Star vibe, and other moments nodded to Janviere’s background with power punk and ’90 riot grrls. They refer to themselves as "emo," "ghost core" and "indie."

“We're inspired by the emotive and raw,” said Janviere.

A gossamer of spirituality hangs in Vox Starling’s music. Although Christie grew up in a fundamentalist religious family in Florida which restricted her from listening to grunge music in the early '90s, she – like the other members of the band – are not rooted in conventional religion.

"We're into earthy, witchy, arty," said Janviere.

Vox Starling loosely formed last fall as an experimentation project, but it quickly became clear they were going to, at some point, take the show on the road. They also plan to work on a record in the not-so-distant future.

Schiff was the last member to join the band, saying she heard the band play their dreamy song “Mycelium” and immediately wanted in.

“Adding cello really put us over the top,” said Bebeau. “We were thrilled to hook Janet.”

Vox Starling’s next gig is Saturday, June 22 at 7 p.m. in the lower level of Great Lakes Distillery, 616 W. Virginia St. The free show is open to the public and part of QWERTYFEST MKE.

They’ll also perform on Wednesday, July 11 in the Washington Park bandshell during the Washington Park Wednesdays series (6 p.m.; free) and Saturday, July 20 at Bremen Cafe, 901 E. Clarke St., with Romantic Assassins (another musical project of Janviere’s). 

After an evening with Vox Starling, it was crystal clear this pack of talented musicians were truly friends.

“Being in this band is art therapy,” said Clark. “All five of us have strong communication skills and get along really well. For me, it’s a vehicle for self expression that lends itself to catharsis and purging the demons."

Follow Vox Starling on Instagram and Facebook

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Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.