Thanks to the success and national visibility of Jill Scott, Eve, Beanie Sigel, and the Roots (among others), Philadelphia enjoyed a reputation for being an R&B/hip-hop city in the early 2000s; people in other parts of the United States tended to associate Philly with R&B and hip-hop more than rock. But in fact, there were plenty of noteworthy rock bands that emerged on the Philly scene during that period, and one of them was One Star Hotel. Although the first half of the 2000s didn't make them huge international superstars, One Star Hotel did acquire a small local following and received a lot of favorable coverage from Philly-based music critics -- many of whom have commented on the melancholy, world-weary nature of their alternative pop/rock/adult alternative/indie rock output. A lot of that melancholia comes from lead singer/songwriter Steven Yutzy-Burkey, whose lyrics and warm, expressive vocals convey a lot of hurt and disillusionment. Melodic and rootsy, One Star Hotel's material has drawn on influences that range from Neil Young and Steve Earle to REM, the Beatles, Wilco, and Big Star (a gem of a band that -- like the Velvet Underground -- didn't achieve tremendous commercial success in its day but continued to influence countless indie rockers long after its breakup). Some reviewers have described One Star Hotel as alternative country/No Depression -- and while they aren't a country band in the strict sense, some of their work does contain hints of country (or at least country-pop) and folk.
One Star Hotel was formed in 2000, when Yutzy-Burkey (a native of Lancaster, PA who plays guitar as well as organ and acoustic piano) teamed up with drummer Alec Meltzer (drums, percussion), keyboardist Daryl Hirsch (electric keyboards, acoustic piano), and Daniel Putrino (electric bass). Putrino was with the foursome until 2003, when he was replaced by Rick Sieber (who has helped with the background vocals). Mike "Slo-Mo" Brenner, a Philly-based steel guitar player, has performed live and recorded with the band quite a bit, and while he isn't an actual member of One Star Hotel, some Philadelphians like to think of him as an unofficial fifth member. At first, the outfit was called "Stereo Field," but that name was abandoned when the Philly residents were getting ready to provide their first album. Asked what motivated the name change, Yutzy-Burkey told writer Jeff Royer, "We just wanted to be a little more intentional about how we come across" -- and in fact, One Star Hotel is a much better, more revealing and appropriate name for the band. It's a name that captures the hurt, pain, disappointment, and loss in their songs. But Yutzy-Burkey and his colleagues didn't do away with the name "Stereo Field" altogether; they ended up calling their small label Stereo Field Recordings. One Star Hotel's self-titled debut album was released on Stereo Field Recordings in early 2003; that CD was followed by their sophomore album, Good Morning, West Gordon, which came out in late 2004 and is also on their Stereo Field label. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi