So, here's what we know about Ohio rock band Starset:
•Per the outfit's record label, Razor & Tie, frontman Dustin Bates formed the band in 2013 "after being contacted by an organization called The Starset Society and its president, Dr. Aston Wise. Bates was asked if he was interested in forming a band to promote the organization's message. At its core, the message is a warning that involves a scientific discovery that is currently being controlled and manipulated by an elite few."
•Bates "boasts some serious scientific credentials. A Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering from Ohio University, he has done research for the U.S. Air Force and taught at the International Space University."
•"My Demons," the band's single from debut album "Transmissions," recently climbed into the top 5 at mainstream rock radio. "(It) has been on the Billboard chart for a record-setting 41 weeks. This marks the longest chart run of the year at the format and the longest chart climb to the top 5 for any artist since the launch of the chart in 1981."
So, what do we know about Starset? Well, the band has a message. We just aren't clear what it is yet.
"Currently, to be honest, we aren't providing any answers - or even a lot of the questions regarding that," Bates said in a recent phoner. "What is coming out quite soon - this winter; this year - is a novel that begins to explain that philosophy. Currently, we're sort of just spreading the awareness that there's more information coming soon.
"In addition, there are graphic novels, as well. So, we're just getting started when it comes to that. There's multiple novels that will come, and hopefully both raise those questions and provide at least our answers for them."
The Starset Society, meanwhile, "is a group dedicated to that - dedicated to asking questions of a scientific nature that might not be in the public eye," Bates said. "Currently, the campaign is spinning the future and technology and how it might affect our lives. We are part of their public outreach campaign in multiple ways, publicizing their message. ... We're happy to be a part of it."
What else do we know? Well, we are convinced the top 5 rock radio status is reflective of the band's growing popularity. Fans have raved about live shows.
"We try and make the show immersive and bring people into our world," Bates said. "Part of what a rock show is, or a show in general, is an escape from one's normal life. We really try to get to the next level. We're always trying to improve that. So, the guys wear spacesuits, which harken back to our narrative. I have a 46-inch transparent touchscreen that I use to deejay the electronics. It looks like something from 'Minority Report.' There are LED screens behind us playing space content."
Starset will perform for the first time in Western New York on Friday, opening for Breaking Benjamin at the Agri-Center (Hamburg Fairgrounds Event Center).
"One of the really fun things is going to a new place where (they) aren't very aware of you, whether it be a band you've never toured with or whatever, and watching the reaction," Bates said. "There's usually a healthy dose of disbelief and maybe some judging eyes, or curious or questioning eyes in the crowd. And, over a 40-minute period, turning them into fans - it's a lot of fun.
"People watch our show a little different than most. We had to get used to people just staring as if they were watching a movie. It's just a different reaction. ... It's not the typical rock show reaction. We've learned to realize that that's a good sign. It means we're doing our job."
We also know Bates is a fan of the headline act.
"They're an established band that is doing fantastic, and we are sort of that new band that has some radio success," he said. "We're super-excited about (the pairing), because Breaking Benjamin was one of the bands when I was in late-high school, early-college, I actually, through osmosis, learned how to write songs from their records. They were one of my favorite bands.
"It's going to be a lot of fun to actually play with them."
If you're still a little bit confused about Starset, curious about what the band looks like in person or interested in its music ... that's to be expected.
More information will follow.
"There is, hopefully, a lot of understanding to be gleaned from this (future correspondence), but also we realize the forum that we're working in, as does the Starset Society, so whenever we put out videos as the band, or the Starset Society will put out the novel or the comic books, we're very careful to keep it entertaining. And also just have an entertaining angle to it.
"I've seen some of it and I realize that it ... actually sort of toes the line between fiction and nonfiction using certain devices to exemplify the philosophy at times. I think people can hope to be entertained and, hopefully, educated and radicalized into a new way of thinking about the future.
"I know there are a lot of goals with it. We just aren't asking ourselves enough questions as a society."
Watch the video for "Halo" below:
Starset (Photo by Jonanthan Weiner)