Formerly known as The Joans, Dubstar were initially a two-piece band, with Chris Wilkie playing guitar and Steve Hillier singing and playing keyboards. Gavin Lee joined The Joans in the autumn of 1992 and played drums and, later, bass guitar before leaving to pursue a career at British Airways the following year. Performance artist and musician Mark Greenwood also played bass in The Joans for a number gigs in the summer of 1992. Sarah Blackwood was invited to join the band in August 1993, after her boyfriend accidentally left a cassette tape of her singing in Steve Hillier's flat in Jesmond, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Blackwood replaced Hillier on vocals in early 1994, though he remained a key member of the group.
Dubstar appointed Darlington-based record producer and talent manager Graeme Robinson as their manager after Robinson had seen them play in a sparsely attended Newcastle club in March 1994. Robinson renamed the band and provided studio time and produced independent demos of seventeen songs which he brought to the attention of former Sounds journalist, Andy Ross, who promptly signed the band to his Camden-based label, Food Records. Ross engaged the services of Pet Shop Boys and New Order producer Stephen Hague to co-produce a number of tracks with Robinson for their critically acclaimed debut album Disgraceful (1995), and commissioned an advertising campaign featuring Robert Steel's controversial "pencil case vulva" artwork.
The album charted well on release in July 1995, and by January 1996 Dubstar had arrived in the Top 20 of the UK Singles Chart with "Not So Manic Now"; (originally written and recorded by Brick Supply) followed by a re-released "Stars" which marked Dubstar's UK chart zenith.
In 1997, Dubstar contributed a cover of "Everyday I Die" to the Gary Numan tribute album Random.
The group's debut US album, also called Goodbye, was released on Polydor Records in 1998: it combined tracks from both the first and second albums. The third original Dubstar album, Make It Better, was released in 2000, with EMI releasing a best-of compilation in 2004.
Hillier quit the band in 2000 before the release of their third album.
Blackwood joined the band Technique to replace Xan Tyler as singer for a European tour with Depeche Mode in 2002. Shortly afterwards, Kate Holmes, the other member of the band, and Blackwood decided to write together and formed the new group Client.
Posts in 2008 on their official Myspace page stated that the recording of their fourth album was underway. However, in November 2008 they made a post to their Facebook group stating that Blackwood would not participate, and the future of the album was up in the air. Blackwood and Wilkie have worked together in the interim, as Blackwood's first solo album, 2008's Acoustic at the Club Bar & Dining, features Wilkie on guitar; the seven-track live recording was released exclusively online, and consists of acoustic versions of Dubstar and Client songs, plus covers of tracks by The Smiths and New Order.
On 12 April 2010, the band released a cover version of "I'm in Love with a German Film Star" for an Amnesty International project. Interviewed by Andrew Collins on BBC 6 Music that afternoon, Blackwood confirmed that the band were back together and would be going into studio to record tracks for a new Dubstar album, although she would continue to also record with Client. However, in December 2010, it was announced that Blackwood had left Client and a new member was being recruited to front the band.
On 1 June 2018, Dubstar, now consisting of just Wilkie and Blackwood, released a new single, "Waltz no.9". Via their website, they revealed that it was taken from a new album titled One, due for release on 28 September 2018. The album was produced by Youth and published by Northern Writes. The final release date was 12 October 2018.
Sarah Blackwood – songwriter, vocalist
Chris Wilkie – songwriter, guitarist
Additional live band members:
Rochelle Vincente – backing vocalist
Diid Osman – bassist
Paul Wadsworth – drummer, percussionist
Dean Crawley – melodica player (March 1998)
Stephen Hague – record producer (1995–97)
Steve Hillier – keyboardist, songwriter (1994–2013)
Jon Kirby – keyboardist, songwriter, session musician (1994–95)
Graeme Robinson – drummer, songwriter, record producer, sound engineer, band manager (1993–96)