The Story Behind Dustin Bates’ Science-Based Rock Band Starset

In the competitive world of music, where free downloads and streaming services have become the norm, it is challenging for a rock band to break through and capture global attention. Yet, Starset has managed to do just that by combining compelling music with a science-based backstory and innovative fan experiences.

Starset was founded in 2013 by Dustin Bates, a former vocalist for the band Downplay. Bates, who also serves as Starset’s lead singer, assembled the current lineup, which includes Ron DeChant, Brock Richards, and Adam Gilbert. Bates’ fascination with astronomy began during his time studying electrical engineering at Ohio University, where he conducted research for the US Air Force.

Bates has managed to merge his passion for both music and science in Starset, stating that he had always been involved in rock bands during his studies. The decision to focus on music came when he signed a record deal with Epic Records and later formed Starset.

Here is what Bates said about the formation of the band in a 2017 interview with the Rockpit:

“I was always in a rock band while doing my studies. In fact, there was a point where I had to choose one or the other, and it was when I got a record deal with Epic Records when I stopped my graduate program to focus on music, and then that record deal went away a year in before we got to release our first record.

So that was when Starset came around, and it was sort of the opposite, it was realizing that those two didn’t have to be mutually exclusive, and I think that’s how one of the reasons Starset encompasses both sides of my brain and interests.”

The band’s unique narrative revolves around the Starset Society, a fictional organization created by Bates. According to the story, the society discovered a mysterious signal from space containing ‘the Message‘ and formed Starset as a public outreach initiative to spread the message through their music. In interviews, the band members treat the story and the Starset Society as real, adding to the allure.

Their music has resonated with audiences, with their first two albums selling well and multiple singles reaching the top 10 of Billboard’s mainstream rock charts. By 2017, the band had accumulated over one billion YouTube views across official and user-generated videos.

The band has made a conscious effort to engage with their fan base through their website, offering exclusive content and accessories such as AR-integrated performances, a Marvel graphic novel, and online experiences that delve deeper into the backstory. Bates, who began a Ph.D. before leaving to tour with the band, believes that the integration of science and sci-fi into the project adds authenticity and provides audiences with a rich, immersive experience.

The band’s current record label, Fearless, acknowledges the importance of digital platforms in helping Starset form strong connections with their fans. They have utilized various channels, such as YouTube and their website, to cater to different segments of their audience and to create a hub for their core fans.

In addition to their music, the band has released a novel, ‘The PROX Transmissions,’ and collaborated with Marvel to produce a graphic novel. Over time, the band has grown to include Siobhán Cronin, Zuzana Engererova, and Cory Juba, who contribute to the cinematic and electronic elements of their live performances.

Starset’s popularity has been significantly boosted by the gaming and anime communities, as their songs have been featured in various fan videos and mobile games like Arknights. Songs like ‘Unbecoming’ and ‘Monster’ from ‘Vessels,’ as well as ‘Infected’ from ‘Horizons,’ have gained additional attention due to their inclusion in these platforms. The band fully supports this usage, even creating a fanart-based music video for their song ‘Trials.’

In their journey, Starset, as a science-based rock band, has managed to combine great music with an engaging narrative and innovative fan experiences. By skillfully merging the worlds of science, sci-fi, gaming, and anime, Starset has achieved to create a distinct identity that resonates with audiences worldwide.