STARRY EYES: Ciao Bella – Turning tragedy into hope with California grit and dreamy melodies

STARRY EYES from sunny California infuses their grunge-inspired music with bittersweet optimism and tackles difficult subjects with hope and redemption.

STARRY EYES may hail from sunny California, but their musical roots are steeped in the overcast gloom of the 1990s Seattle scene. Like many of their grunge forebears, the band’s lyrics explore the darker side of human experience, grappling with the pain and heartbreak of addiction and self-destruction.

In a world where tragedy often inspires creative expression, it’s difficult to know how to navigate the fine line between honoring those who have passed and capitalizing on their pain. But for STARRY EYES, a duo formed from the ashes of a devastating loss, the answer lies in their EP Ciao Bella – dropping May 5th-  and the power of rebirth.

Credit: Preston Thalindroma

Guitarist John Shippey and drummer Matthew Scoggins spent two years honing their sound before finding the missing piece in vocalist Kyle Tekiela. But just as their dream was beginning to take shape, tragedy struck. Matt’s sudden death due to drug-related causes left the band in a state of limbo, unsure of how to move forward without their beloved friend and collaborator.

Yet, somehow, they found the strength to keep going. Today, STARRY EYES stands as a testament to the power of perseverance in the face of unimaginable loss. With John and Kyle at the helm, the duo has transformed their grief into a celebration of life, creating an EP that tackles difficult subjects like addiction and loss, but always with an eye toward the future.

For Kyle, Ciao Bella represents a journey of both farewell and rebirth. As he explains, the EP is “a somber goodbye to the beautiful things in our lives that have passed, and a jubilant hello to the beautiful things to come.” Through their music, STARRY EYES has found a way to turn tragedy into hope, proving that even in our darkest moments, there is always a glimmer of light waiting to guide us forward.

Credit: Jay Carey

But what sets STARRY EYES apart from their peers is their uniquely Californian approach to the sound. Rather than wallowing in the angst and despair that characterized much of the grunge era, the band infuses their music with a bittersweet optimism that speaks to the endless possibilities of the Golden State.

Guitarist John Shippey’s salty air rock riffs provide the perfect counterpoint to frontman Kyle Tekiela’s powerful vocals, which range from seductive gravelly lows to honeyed falsettos. Together, they create a sound that is at once gritty and dreamy, an intoxicating mix of low-slung grooves and shimmering melodies.

And while the band’s lyrics may address heavy subject matter, there is a sense of hope and redemption that permeates their music. As they sing on “Ciao Bella,” their uplifting debut EP, “These songs are for people who’ve been through some shit… but we always try to balance the negative with the positive and keep looking toward the future.”

There’s a certain warmth and intimacy that can only be achieved through the analog recording process, and STARRY EYES’ debut EP Ciao Bella is a perfect example of that. Tracked on 2-inch tape and mixed on analog boards by the legendary producer Phil Ek, the EP exudes a crisp fidelity that draws the listener in from the first note.

Guitarist John’s partner, the talented artist Natalia Zofia, lends her talents to the STARRY EYES’ debut EP cover art, serving as a captivating visual accompaniment to their sonically rich compositions.


The EP opens with the explosive “Jetlag,” a rousing anthem that takes a satirical look at the often-hollow promises of Hollywood dreams. With ringing power chords, grungy riffs, and infectious sing-along hooks, it’s a track that demands attention.

Kyle’s disillusionment with the industry is palpable, and lines like “I wanna die in California/I want a desert funeral/blow my ashes off a mirror, with a hundred dollar bill” are filled with a simmering frustration that’s hard to ignore.

But STARRY EYES is far from a one-note band. The immersive “Trip” showcases their subtle mastery of dynamics, moving seamlessly from jangly guitar passages to shout-from-the-mountain-tops emotionality and a groovy blues-inflected bridge.

The stately “No Show” offers dreamy vocals that paint a vivid picture of a nightmarish and unforgettable Christmas when a huge fight around Kyle’s father’s drug abuse ended their relationship for nearly a decade. And then there’s “Crush” – a haunting but hooky track that explores Kyle’s punk and emo influences, while delving into the experience of trying to help his father through rehab.

Ultimately, STARRY EYES’ music is about something much deeper than just catchy hooks and clever lyrics. It’s about opening up and talking about difficult experiences, in the hopes of finding healing.

As Kyle himself puts it, “there are so many people out there who can intimately relate to these experiences. I hope that by opening up and talking about them, we can find some way to heal.”

In an industry that often prizes surface-level glitz and glam over real emotional depth, STARRY EYES is a band that’s unafraid to confront the tough stuff – and in doing so, they’ve created something truly special.