Interview: Astronoid

There are people who like us for who we’re the metal band they like, and then I’ve been surprised that hardcore metal guys, people with battle vests and patches, have come up to us after shows and said they really liked us too.

2016 was an excellent year for metal. It was also a great year for expansion of the genre. More than a few top-ten lists included albums by The Body, Alcest and newcomer Astronoid, all bands that are classified as metal, but have in their own way pushed the boundaries of what constitutes the genre. Astronoid’s Air was probably the least expected of these. Their black metal themed blast beats married to vocals that almost gush positivity came at a time when a bit of optimistic vibe was exactly what a lot of people needed.

Tim Porter caught up with the band as they wrapped up their first US tour and so he started the conversation with the band sharing some good road stories. Two members had been hit by cars, albeit very slowly, when unloading gear. Both survived. Everyone agreed that parking in major cities like NY and DC was a horror show. And there were some interesting lessons on how much stuff to pack for a two-month tour. Too much: “enough to sleep on Everest with”. Too little: “one member’s shirt became so unbearably stinky it was banned from the inside of the van.”

The band consists of Brett Boland, Casey Aylward, and Mike DeMellia on guitar, Daniel Schwartz on bass and Seamus Menihane filling in for Matt St Jean on drums.

(((o))): So…you guys are “dream thrash”?

Casey: No. We did not coin that phrase.

(((o))): White metal?

Casey: Umm…I think it might be a bad time to use that term.

(((o))): You don’t want to make metal great again?

Brett: Isn’t white metal a Christian thing? Isn’t that Christian black metal?

Casey: Christian black metal? How does that even work?

Daniel: Our label came up with ‘dream thrash’ when we submitted the final mix of the song Air.

Brett: As long as we are not defined as black metal or post black metal, I’m happy. But the music is definitely sourced more from blackened shoegaze or black metal than thrash.

Casey: I’m thrashing all the time. I need a chiropractor!

Brett: The early stuff we played was definitely post black metal, but the newer stuff and Air was pulled more from dreampop and shoegaze.

Casey: I think when you see us live, there are a lot of staples of metal, we have blast beats, tremolo picking and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, we’re just a fucking rock band.

Daniel: Yea, we’re just doing something different with metal.

(((o))): How did you define your sound?

Brett: For Air, we experimented a lot and tried tons of things. I wrote the song ‘Tin Foil Hats’, which is on the album, a few years ago, right after our first EP. It ended up being the basis for how the album would sound. As we kept experimenting I felt like we were stumbling on something that was meaningful to us. There were times when I was working in the studio…my garage, and was like ‘is this stupid? Can I do this?’ And everyone else was like ‘yea, why not? There is no metal rule book’. Once we overcame that, it became much easier. In essence, we took a progressive metal band and stuck Jonas Bjerre from Mew or Anthony Gonzalez from M83 in there as the singer. That’s where I’m pulling from on the vocals.

(((o))): Que? M83?

Brett: His early stuff is really different from the pop stuff most people know him for now. Digital Shades Vol 1 is literally him going ‘ahhh’ for the whole album. It is so strange. I just thought it was so well done.

Casey: Yea the only thought we really had going into this is that Air was going to have only clean vocals, and once we had that, we felt like we could write the heaviest songs.

Brett: Enslaved is a perfect example, they write the lushest songs, but scream over it and it’s metal. We’re doing the opposite. I really didn’t want to scream live. It kills my voice for the set. Either way I didn’t think the music needed it.

(((o))): How did you guys find each other?

Brett: Well Casey and I grew up together.

Casey: We went to elementary school, high school and college together.

Brett: And Dan, we met at Umass Lowell. We were in the same classes and did a lot of projects together. Astronoid actually started as Dan’s senior thesis. He was also in our old band Hetfield and Hetfield, which was more akin to Fall of Troy or Dillinger Escape Plan. We met Mike because we knew his cousin. We needed another guitarist and he’d moved here from Austin. Matt, our drummer, unfortunately he doesn’t do tours with us because he has a wife and kids. So, Shamus does tours with us…and half of us are in his band so we are all good friends.

(((o))): The guitar sound is super layered. How do you do that?

Brett: We have three guitars playing all the time and 90% of the time they are all playing something different. All the guitars are distorted, but we have a lot of definition. Casey and Mike do the leads and harmonies and I do the rhythm parts. We kind of wrote the album as we recorded it but never really dictated who would play what. But since I was singing there were a lot of parts I couldn’t do and sing at the same time so we literally had to sit down with pro-tools and go through every part and divide up who’d play what. So, everyone ended up playing a different part from what they were playing before.

Casey: It was like assigning homework.

Brett: But we take a lot of liberties live, especially with the pinch harmonics.

Mike: And the reception has been great. We’ve had people drive for 2-4 hours to come and see us, so for me personally, it’s really important that they come away happy. It’s actually more nerve wrecking to play for people like that than it is for a large audience where you don’t know anything about them. We’ve had shows where only 20 people came, but six of them drove for two hours to see us, and I really want them to be happy. And they have been, so far.

(((o))): How would you describe your fan base?

Casey: When we went into this we would have thought our demographic would be 21-35-year-old males. We could not have been more wrong. It is really mixed. It has been 12-year-old boys all the way to 60-year old men and girls singing along.

Daniel: We’ve had people in their 50-60’s at almost every show, and they come up to us after and tell us they love the record.

Casey: We’ve had people tell us they haven’t had a new favorite band in 20 years.

Brett: There are people who like us for who we’re the metal band they like, and then I’ve been surprised that hardcore metal guys, people with battle vests and patches, have come up to us after shows and said they really liked us too.

Mike: We might have to make back patches…

(((o))): With all the touring have you had much time to write?

Brett: Yea we’ve been writing a bit.

Mike: No pressure, but pressure.

Brett: Yea, as I was writing the other day it just hit me that the next album has to be its own thing. We have to write another album, not the follow-up to Air. We have to approach it the same way we did Air, with no preconceptions about what it should be, and write what needs to be written here and now. When that hit me it was a huge mental lift. We just have to have that mentality that we can do whatever we want and stand behind it and have the room to change and grow. We’re still figuring things out.

(((o))): Your music is pretty happy. Are you guys happy? If so, why?

Brett: Well the lyrics really aren’t that happy…if I were to sum it up they are this: you are in the shit, but you can see a way out of the shit. So, it’s more hopeful than anything. And I really love huge epic music so the lyrics reflect that. A lot of the album is about people being addicted to technology or addicted to things that don’t matter and getting out of all that. Nothing on Instagram gives me joy unless it’s something like seeing that a friend just got married or had some great thing happen. But I’d still rather have my friend tell me personally. For example, I would much rather get a text message or call on my birthday than see a Facebook post.

Casey: You didn’t call me on my birthday.

Brett: I was with you…

Astronoid will be on tour for much of the summer with TesseracT and Ghost. Don’t miss them!

JUL 1 SAT – The Emerson Theater – Indianapolis, IN (W/ TesseracT)
JUL 5 WED – Exit/In – Nashville, TN (W/ TesseracT)
JUL 6 THU – Hi Tone – Memphis, TN (W/ TesseracT)
JUL 12 WED – The Waiting Room – Buffalo, NY (W/TesseracT)
JUL 13 THU – Revolution Bar & Music Hall – Amityville, NY (W/ TesseracT)
JUL 18 TUE – College Street Music Hall – New Haven, CT (W/ Ghost)
JUL 20 THU – The Fillmore – Philadelphia, PA (W/ Ghost)

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