This past weekend’s Escape Music Festival out on Governor’s Island brought an array of musicians to the newly renovated island. While most of the artists came from the electronic side, there are enough cross-genres and mixed styles coming from an electronic foundation that you sometimes forget that you’re there standing in the cold watching some dude perform via laptop.
Not every electronic artist fits the laptop-playing stereotype however. Believe it or not there are still those artists out there who carry the craft of showmanship and true performing and musical ability in their art. Like rock music, electronic is a very generic term for all the sub-genres that have branched out from the new(er) foundation that became big in the late 80s. ASTR is one of those groups that is helping push electronic/dance music forward by adding in their own electric ingredients to form a potent mixture of styles to the fire. Most impressive to me is they still have that human performance element to their live show, which can be a big hit or miss in electronic music.
ASTR is of course made up of Zoe leading the way on vocals, while her partner in crime Adam handles the instrumentation. Together the two have formed a unique sounding combination of two musical abilities that makes you dance and catch along to what the two have started.
After an electrifying set which included songs off their January EP Varsity, and a crafy cover of Drake’s ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’,We were able to catch up with the duo somewhere in the madness of the greenroom/party and talk about their unique performance style and how people wanting to dance to their music changes their writing style.
P&W: When you two first got together did you talk about the type of style or sound you wanted to have?
Zoe: All of that just naturally came together. You know what it was, chipping away at what we didn’t like in music was our strength. Going we don’t like this, or this, or that, but Oh! We really like THIS, which was our roots in house music, hip-hop, and a blend of pop music structure. That’s how we defined what we do have in common, so after doing that we just put it on stage and realized it would work. When we were writing the music we didn’t mean for it to go up tempo or dance-style, but when we got on stage we felt like dancing so that’s how our show ended up.
P&W: How does your songwriting process work?
Adam: It depends. I produce and play the instruments and she plays the instruments but we come from a number of different angles. Sometimes I’ll send her a track and she’ll say ‘I like this’, so we’ll get together and work on it. Sometimes we’ll work on an idea for two or three months and let it evolve. Honestly we always have a bunch of balls in the air with it, but it’s pretty much a 50/50 writing experience.
P&W: With electronic music and the style that you guys do, it really comes to life in a live setting, with people feeding back energy and dancing to it. When you’re working on a song together do you think about whether or not a song you may like would even work in a live setting or not?
Zoe: Pre-EP, no. Now totally. We’re working on our next EP at the moment, and now that we’re performing and seeing that the live aspect is a part of it, we’re realizing that in this part of a song idea that people wont really be moving or there’s no drum fill. But we also make live performance versions of our songs also.
Adam: It’s too gimmicky if it’s all just a dance production though. I’m really conscious of it. When writing I like to stay clear of trends so for us that’s never been the focus. After playing for a year though we’re much more aware of the idea of rhythm and how it can work live. It doesn’t have to be a 4/4 beat every time though.
P&W: You last album has been out since January
Zoe: That sounds about right (laughs) your guess is as good as mine!
Adam: You know some of the songs off it have been around way longer though. The reaction has been fantastic though. The one thing that makes me nervous is having niche pockets of people into it. People are still discovering it yet we haven’t heard many haters on it though, there’ve gotta be some haters out there right?
P&W: There usually are. You just gotta look hard enough.
Random Girl: Hi!
Everyone: Hello! Random Girl: What’s your name? Adam: Adam Random Girl: (realizing she’s interrupting) Oh no sorry
P&W: That’s okay
Adam: You’re on tape forever now
Random Girl: Well I just have to say hello, my name is Stephanie Everyone: Hi Stephanie
P&W: Steph where are you from? Stephanie (Formally known as Random Girl): I’m from Washington DC, originally from France. I just want to say you guys were amazingggg
P&W: Well you’re not wrong
P&W: So going back to new material, how’s progress on that going?
Zoe: We’re really exciting about what’s coming out. A lot of it has been ready to come out but you know, the date has to be right and you want a tight marketing plan to go with it. It’s different; it’s not operated 2.0 ya know?
Adam: I think our songwriting has definitely sharpened. I think it’s an evolution of where we’re at for sure. It’s definitely not a carbon copy of the last EP, our music is always a progression, always an evolution, and it’s well represented in newer material.
Article by: Tom Shackleford
Photos by: Lesley Keller