Friday, 24 March 2017

KBPS Interview: Young Astronaut

Young Astronaut are a diverse indie outfit. With stark soundscapes, storming percussion and mesmerising guitars we spoke to co-founding member Chris about their new music

Could you tell us a little about your new single?
We’ve put two out. The first one is ‘Chasing El Dorado’ which is actually the opening track to our new album which is going to be called ‘A Gold Frontier’ and the second track we put out is called ‘The Chronicles of Fall and Glory’. The first song (Chasing El Dorado) is like a travelling song, and the first song we recorded for the album. It was one of those songs where we had an idea of how we wanted it to sound before we went into the studio. We were working with our producer Jack Swan and he had a few ideas to make the chorus really percussive so we focussed on that when we were in the studio and it came out as this blend of indie and strong percussion.

Do you have a preference over either single?
We released ‘Chasing El Dorado’ because we thought it was quite representative of the album as a whole, in terms of the sounds of the tracks, and the sounds we were making on the album, so that’s why we chose it as the first single. ‘The Chronicles of Fall and Glory’ is poppier and a little simpler than our other songs. We tend to write more complicated songs but on this one we stripped it down so there’s a heavy melodic piano that runs throughout, and we left it quite sparse. We wanted to release that to see how people would react as it’s different from what we did on the last album, so we picked it as it was quite approachable and with a different sound.

Your album ‘A Gold Frontier’ is out on the 7th April. What was the recording process like?
It was interesting. It was very different to our last album. We actually recorded it in two halves, starting 2014. We finished off the second half last year. A lot of the instrumentation was done in the studio and I did my vocals in our drummer’s cupboard. He recorded all the vocals so we could spend a bit more time getting the vocals how we wanted them to sound and spend more time doing over-dubs and harmonies, and doing some experimentation.

We also had a choir as well which was cool. I think there were about fifty of them that we recorded. We used brass and strings as well. It was a little bit more relaxed than our last album. We didn’t go in with a set number of days that we had to record things in. By splitting it up over a couple of years we actually took time to listen back to the tracks to see if we needed anything more, and to listen back to the tracks. So there’s a lot of layers on the songs.

Has having that time and freedom helped with making the album like you’d want it to be?
Having time to reflect on the songs [helps]. After you’ve been in the studio and you initially do the tracks, and hearing them after the demo phrase, and hearing them quite big, it can sometimes trick you into thinking that you’re completely happy with how everything sounds. But with time to reflect back and listen to them, you can think ‘actually if we try this or do something like that’ it was a good way to go.

For ‘Chasing El Dorado’ there’s a great roller disco themed video. What was that like to make?
That was a really fun video to show. We rented the roller rink for the entire time. It was shot in Essex; we didn’t really have a huge budget. Everything we did was self-funded. But they let us have the entire place for the day. But we’d also read online that it was Europe’s largest roller rink and at that time we basically had no one to be in the video. So we had this giant roller rink and this concept for the video, but we didn’t have anyone to be in it!

We were concerned at first then we actually put an advert out on our Facebook page for roller-skaters who wanted to be in the video and we got a massive response. All the local papers picked it up and the local roller skating communities picked it up and advertised it, and we ended up getting lots of people down. We sent about 200 e-mails so it was way more than we thought for a small band advertising a music video, and a lot of people wanted to get involved. We should have put on the advert we didn’t want any children in it as we had a lot and couldn’t account for their safety with what we wanted to do; it would be tricky in terms of insurance. So we decided to send a lot of generic ‘we know your child is probably a great roller skater but they can’t be in our video’ e-mails. The response was incredible.

We had a choreographer down (called Ady). He’d choreographed the MTV awards just before that and he’d done lots of really interesting things for the Post Office, and had been in Starlight Express so was a competent skater himself. So he came down, and we didn’t really think we needed to choreograph it so we were really glad to have him down. That was a really interesting shoot, and was a really fun experience.  We did it all in around six hours and we had the song through the actual roller disco speakers and the whole place was like it was stuck in the 90s. It was so authentic, so visually our director was really happy as there were so many exciting things to film.

You have live dates coming up in April including your album launch party. How would you describe your live sound?
I’d say it’s bigger than we’ve ever had before, as on our previous albums we were more on the folky-side of our music. We played a lot of acoustics. We’ve now got an electric set-up so it’s a lot punchier, and we’ve integrated a lot of the electronics we used on the album into our live sound. We have tried to portray that as best as we can, so it’s basically a punchier performance than what we were doing before.

Finally what are your big ambitions for the rest of 2017?

We’re going to try and play as many songs as we can; get as many people to hear the album as much as possible as we’ve put a lot into it and get it out there in whatever ways we can. We have a festival date at Teddy Rock festival – a smallish charity festival – but there’s some big headliners like Twin Atlantic and Scouting For Girls. We’re going to play that festival and hopefully do some more shows over the summer.

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