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San Jose’s Star 99 Blossom from Their D.I.Y. Punk Beginnings

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Star 99 members Thomas Romero, Jeremy Romero, Saoirse Alesandro and Chris Gough stand side by side in a black and white image.
San Jose punk band Star 99's latest project dives into tender memories with loud, cathartic sound.  (Myron Fung )

Welcome to Pass the Aux, where KQED Arts & Culture brings you our favorite new tracks by Bay Area artists. Check out past entries and submit a song for future coverage.

Before performing together in backyards, sheds and basements, the members of San Jose band Star 99 spent their younger years exploring the South Bay’s small but sturdy indie punk scene. Saoirse Alesandro, Jeremy Romero, Thomas Romero and Chris Gough attended shows, danced and headbanged together to the loud, energetic songs of their favorite bands Shinobu and Algernon Cadwallader.

Now, years later, they make their own music—emerging into the punk archive they grew up admiring. On July 10, they released their latest project STAR 99, featuring three songs titled “Born to Run,” “Vegas” and “Wyoming.”

Upon first listen, Star 99’s songs start and end in a flurry, reading like jumbled diary entries set to blaring instrumentals that swell to satisfying resolutions. “All of the lyrics are from my journal,” Saoirse, the band’s lead vocalist confirms, describing the song making process as an “exorcism.” She pulls from her most personal thoughts and, with her bandmates, tinkers with them to various chord progressions until something clicks.


Like much of the band’s discography, “Vegas” builds on the melodic qualities of ’90s pop punk and indie rock, with fast and hard drums, a deep, hypnotic bassline, cranked-up guitar riffs and angsty lyrics that transport listeners to their teenage years.

“And beautiful as ever, you’re the smell of the air in December / And everything got fucked up but school starts again in September / And no one’s allowed into my room,” Alesandro sings.

While this single retains some of the playfulness of Star 99’s 2021 debut EP My Year in Lists, “Born to Run” experiments with slower melodies that emphasize the wistful tenderness of past relationships: “T-shirts huddled in corners in warehouse rooms / Pick through a pile and find it soon / Reno’s got casinos and I’ve got you / The morning when we’re waking up / The coffee grows cold in the cup.”

Alesandro attributes this newfound slowness in their songs to the growing comfort between the bandmates as they learn how to work together musically. While their first EP was about travel, uncertainty and movement, Star 99’s evolving security in playing with each other led to more reflections on stillness and connection.

“Now, I feel like we can butt heads and still love each other,” says Saoirse. “And, I think how much we love each other kind of comes through, which is fun.”

The band’s love for punk extends to the greater local scene, as they hope to continue playing shows accessible to all ages. Once free-spirited teen punks themselves, they aim to nurture newer generations of people with love for the music that raised them.

Star 99 begins touring this August, with shows in Corvallis, Seattle, Portland, Fresno and Los Angeles. 

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