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INTERVIEW: Astronomique

Hi folks, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Logan: Hello, thanks for having us! We’ve been a bit busy following the release of our first full length record, Sharp Divide.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Losing Our Control”?

Logan: I think this single has the deepest groove on the record, due in large part to Kristof Marden’s funky bass line. The synth and guitar arrangements left a lot of room for the bass to take the lead on this track, which really contributes to the overall vibe, making it more visceral in nature. This sort of sexy, chilled out groove lent itself well to lyrical content of a more intimate/lustful/longing nature, which I aimed to convey in the story told.

Sean: ‘Losing Our Control’ the first single off of our debut full length album, Sharp Divide, and it is definitely one of my favorites. When Logan and I wrote the demo, it originally contained white a bit more synth. After going into the studio, we ended up transferring a few of the synth parts to guitar. Once the lead riff was played super clean on the guitar (with a modest amount of reverb and compression), it really changed the overall feel of the song to the funky disco vibe it has now. It’s one of our favs to play live, and it always gets the crowd grooving.

Mitch: It’s one of my favorite songs we’ve ever done. It’s a really fun song to play live because it’s got a nice groove to it. With the drum part, I wanted to keep it simple, but also a little different. To get the sound for the cymbal on the chorus, we wrapped my ride cymbal up in a towel to create a dead metal sound.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Logan: Music-wise, we tend to just follow whatever path the music leads us down, essentially letting the song write itself. Lyric-wise, I decided to experiment with a cut-up technique for the whole record, using lines taken from sci-fi books mixed in with my own material. The lyrics for ‘Losing Our Control’ were generated randomly from cut-ups, but ended up telling a story about a person unexpectedly running into someone they had slept with and/or briefly dated in the past. Things didn’t work out so well then, and this brief interaction brought forward a rush of all those not-so-great memories, as well as the pull of attraction that was still there. So the situation becomes almost a test of strength for the main character, as they try to decide if they’re going to repeat the past or stick with their resolution to move on.

Sean: Nothing in particular that I can recall. Logan and I had been making a habit of sitting down to write and this was something that was spawned off of a synth idea I had been playing around with. Once we re-worked the parts to fit our band’s instrumentation, it really because what it is now.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Logan: Yes, indeed! Our friends at Hanco Studios filmed a late ’80s/early ’90s MTV throwback video for ‘Losing Our Control,’ complete with backlit fog and fish-eye lenses. Ha! It’s out now, and you can view it here: https://youtu.be/leEfeacaiWM

The single comes off your new album Sharp Divide – would you call this a conceptual record?

Sean: Musically, Sharp Divide is more cohesive than our previous releases, as all 10 songs were written in the quick succession over the course of a few months.  Sonically, they all gel together well, as we were in the same mindset while writing each of them. Whether that lends itself to being a concept record, I’d probably say no – but Logan may have more insight into the lyrics.

Logan: I’d say the lyrics on Sharp Divide were more conceptual than anything else about this record. I had wanted to experiment with tapping more into my subconscious rather than just picking a topic and writing about it, like I had done with previous releases. Using cut-ups allowed me to do that, and taking lines from a different science fiction book for each song was important in this process.

What’s the story behind the title?

Logan: The title track, ‘Sharp Divide,’ ended up being the most spiritual song on the record. It’s cut-ups were taken from a book on angels and energy healing, as well as from my own material. It talks about healing from pain, understanding death, and finding fulfillment through peace. Being a nurse and reiki practitioner, those topics are a pretty integral part of my life.

How was the recording and writing process?

Logan: I think not trying to chase after a particular vibe or genre has helped us perfect our own sound. We were very intent on writing “whatever came out” during a writing session, and just following where that led. Many of the parts were written spur-of-the-moment in the studio, or as accidents that turned out to be cool. Working with other talented local musicians/producers, like Knol Tate and Kristof Marden brought in new ideas and elements that really took the music in a surprising and awesome direction.

Sean: It was good. Logan and I focused our creativity in a more scheduled writing routine, and intentionally kept our demos stripped down to a little more bare bones. We wanted to allow ourselves the room to change or alter parts during the recording process, as opposed to being locked into a demo version of a song that had a number of already “completed” parts.

Mitch: The writing and recording of Sharp Divide was probably the most structured, consistent process we’ve employed yet. Logan and Sean handled the main songwirting duties, then I would take the demos and write drum parts. They made sure to meet on the regular to write, so by the time we were ready to record, we had a set of cohesive songs ready to go. The recording process with Knol Tate was a blast.

What is it about the 80s that you find so fascinating?

Logan: I would say that the extensive use of synthesizers in music, the delightful cheesiness of much of the synthpop of the era, the over-the-top fashion, ridiculous hairstyles, and bright color palettes, and the overly simplistic means of conveying human emotion in lyrical content were my favorite aspects of ’80s music. It’s almost as if the world had a rose-gold tint, and people had a more care-free attitude.

Mitch: Gated reverb on snare drums. I read about how the wrong mic was accidentally used on Phil Collins’ drum kit when he was recording for Peter Gabriel, and they basically just ran with it. That same snare sound is used on basically everything in the 80s… Prince, Bruce Springsteen, New Order… It practically took over.

Sean: There’s just something about big fat synths and clean delayed guitars that I have always been into when writing music. Whether that was a personal homage to the ’80s, I’m not sure. But as I’ve continued to write and record, I’ve realized that a lot of my inspiration comes from ’80s New Wave groups that I’ve always loved, such as, The Cure, New Order, Tears for Fears, etc.

How do you balance the sound from that era with a much more modern one?

Logan: I feel we just take all of the aspects of music that we like, no matter what the era, and combine them together in a way that resonates with us. The end result seems to be ’80s-inspired synthpop with elements of funk, disco, goth, and even shoegaze.

Sean: We all have elements of the ’80s that we enjoy, and the way we write allows us to add flourishes of those elements without taking away from the modern sound we represent.

Does France influence your music aside from the name?

Logan: I had originally wanted to represent my French heritage in some way in this project, hence the band name. Astronomqiue is part of the French transition of the word, telescope – lunette astronomique. I think our first EP contained more influences from French electronic music, but we have gradually moved in a different direction over time.

Sean: France is more inherent to Logan, but it’s a place that I’ve always wanted to visit!

What aspects of life and love did you get to explore on this record?

Logan: I aim to be honest and introspective with my lyrics, as often they help me work through complex emotions or situations that have been difficult. For Sharp Divide, there was more of an element of mystery or surprise surrounding the lyrical content due to the writing method I used. I didn’t realize what the song was about until I started editing. I found that many of the topics brought forth were perhaps issues embedded in my subconscious that needed to be addressed, such as: how some aspects of modern society put so much emphasis on materialism and physical beauty, while ignoring the pain or broken person underneath; how we are often encouraged to believe at face value the information fed to us by the mainstream media rather than thinking for ourselves; contemplating the dynamics of a doomed relationship where the powerful feelings of both parties isn’t enough to save what they have; realizing that while you thought you had moved on from a past love who was detrimental to your health, instead you still harbor strong feelings for this person – so much so that they may still hold the power to manipulate if you’re not careful.

Any plans to hit the road?

Sean: We’re heading up to Duluth, MN in a few weekends for a gig at the Red Herring. We’re also looking at visiting a few regional college radio stations in the fall.

What else is happening next in Astronomique’s world?

Sean: We’ve gotten into a good groove of playing shows as well as continuing to write new demos, so I expect we’ll keep playing and probably release a handful of singles in the next year or so. Personally, I just finished a solo Synthwave project under the name, Night Audit, which I’ll be releasing shortly. It’s a pretty big shift from my work with Astronomique, as it’s entirely synth-based. I’m really happy with how it turned out.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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