Ellensburg native Star Anna has a distinctive sound to match her hard-to-forget name. See her at ZooTunes in Seattle on July 18.

Share story

Star Anna is not messing around. No, sir. This girl is here for the long haul.

You can tell from her distinct sound, which is a little like whiskey: Warm and mellow one moment, wisecracking the next. It’s a voice full of bluster that will slam the door behind you, then find itself alone to take in the loneliness, the quiet, the beauty.

Another hint: Star Anna, 24, is a trouper, playing everywhere from coffee houses to L.A. clubs to Seattle’s signature ZooTunes, where she will play Sunday evening.

It’s a long way from Ellensburg, where Star Anna — her given name is Star Anna Constantina Krogste Banford, not so much a nod as a long, deep bow to her Norwegian and Native American roots — started playing drums at age 11.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

She was part of two punk bands in high school, “but then I realized I couldn’t write songs on the drums,” she said recently.

So she picked up her grandfather’s Fender, an old thing with the strings far off the frets, and started playing and writing.

“At first, I wrote about God, but that was during a Christian phase,” she said. “After that, my songs were about the way I felt. I would go up on stage and get all the sad and depressing out of me. People loved it, and I felt better.”

There’s a tenderness to Star Anna’s alt-country sound, but under that is a steel rod of strength and seen-it-all that sets her apart from the girls who play and pout. She’s not trying to impress anyone, and in the process, she stops you in your tracks.

Her drummer, Travis Yost, remembers the first time he heard Star Anna: She was 16, playing guitar outside the Valley Café in Ellensburg, where her mother works.

“For being that young, the way she was singing … I walked away wanting to go back and ask her if she wanted to start a band,” Yost said. “When you hear something like that, you want to participate.”

Years later, Yost saw Star Anna performing in a coffee shop with a mutual friend, Frank Johnson, who was helping her start her career. Yost and guitarist Corey Dosch joined them soon after to form The Laughing Dogs. When Dosch left to pursue his Ph.D., he was replaced by longtime friend Justin Davis.

In the beginning, their audience was made up of family and friends. Now, Star Anna looks out at bigger and bigger crowds, and makes longer trips to gigs: Phoenix. Montana. Los Angeles.

Back home, she lives in a trailer on her mother’s property, wading every day through dogs, cats, pigs, ducks, geese and chickens. She watches the Food Network, loves cooking “more than I love eating,” and listens to Tom Petty and Patsy Cline.

“She portrayed heartbreak really well,” Star Anna said of Cline. “Still, to this day, she brings me to tears.”

Along with touring, she is writing songs for an album that the band will begin recording in September.

Much as she loves her life in Ellensburg, Star Anna is ready to take the next step.

“It’s always been about moving forward,” she said. “And I’m hoping that people feel the same way about our music as we do when we play it.”

Nicole Brodeur: 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.