Texan Born, Florida raised and Minneapolis based, alternative hip hop artist Astronautalis is headed to Australia.
Recently announced to play on The Smith Street Band’s Pool House Party Astronautalis has added a bunch of Australian dates which will also see him visit Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast for headline shows and join The Smith Street Band in Wollongong.
Previously in Australia to tour with Tegan and Sara as well as playing at Tasmania’s epic Dark Mofo, this will be Astronautalis’ third trip to the country.
Having started in music over 20 years ago as a battle rapper, Astronautalis’ roots are planted firmly in hip hop. However, the sounds and styles throughout his discography are an animal not so easily caged. At any point, Astronautalis touches upon shoegaze-laced indie rock, pulsating electronic, swampy Southerninfluenced blues, and more. He’s worked with Grammy Award-winning producer John Congleton (Modest Mouse, Bill Callahan, St. Vincent), Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Tegan Quin (Tegan & Sara), members of The Riverboat Gamblers, P.O.S. (Rhymesayers) and more to help craft his undeniably unique style.
Astronautalis’ latest release Cut The Body Loose may seem like his most aggressive album to date but to call it angry or pessimistic would be to miss the point. Named after an aspect of a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral when the music guides grievers from heavy, insurmountable suffering to a full-on raucous celebration in the streets, Cut The Body Loose is the sonic equivalent of that same liberating process.
Alongside this announcement, I was fortunate enough to get to ask the man himself a few questions.
Hey! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. How have things been going for you?
Well! Just got back from vacation in Mexico with my wife. Lately, I have been in a creative boom with my own music, and Spring is creeping around the corner here in Minnesota, which is always feels like a damn miracle to make it through another winter. Things are off to a nice start in 2018!
This is your third trip to Australia. What are you most looking forward to? Both related, and unrelated, to the music itself.
Going to a bunch of new places this go around, which is always the most exciting part of any tour for me. The travel is as much a thrill as the shows, and seeing new towns on a tour route, still brings me a thrill, every time. Not sure what Wollongong is like, but damn, I am stoked to find out! On top of that, seeing friends I never see, and drinking tons of perfectly made flat whites. That makes a great top 3, I think?
What differences can we expect out of your shows since last time you were here?
Doing a lot more tinkering with the way I play shows lately. For years and years, I wanted my shows to be like a theatre piece, that the audience absorbed, and dissected. An intellectual and emotional exercise … now, I just want to make everyone fucking dance and sweat. Sooo … wear comfortable shoes and get ready to yell?
It seems that you’re most notorious for your vast range of genres/styles that make their way into your music. Did this progression come naturally, or was it something you needed to do to remain interested?
I think it has a lot to do with how I grew up, with a cool older brother with diverse tastes, and my being a teenager watching tons of skate videos in the late 90s and early 2000s. My brother had me listening to house music, The Clash, De La Soul, and Pulp. While Girl and Transworld videos were teaching me about Three 6 Mafia, The Halo Benders, and Squarepusher. The people I looked up to when I was young always had diverse tastes, and that still feels right to me today. I try to make whatever I want to make, whatever excites me, and hope it excites other people in the process.
Are there any styles you haven’t experimented with yet that are on your radar?
Lately, I have been listening to lots of music from places out my knowledge depth. Saharan blues from Mali, wild techno from Chile, a great afro-cuban electronic group from Puerto Rico called “ìfé”, the rapper from Calle 13, “Residente”, and this weird dark genre of dance music from South Africa called “Gqom”. I am super excited about the way these musicians are applying their local musical history to styles of music born out of my musical history, and that is really starting to come out in my new work. I still have a lot to learn, but needless to say, my drum patterns are sounding A LOT different lately!
Each of your projects can easily be labelled as a concept album. Does the music influence the concept, or does the concept influence the music? Which part do you love creating the most?
The concept always shapes the music. But, I am not a huge fan of the term “concept album”. I feel like all art is conceptual, or else it is just entertainment. I don’t mean that in a negative way, I love to be entertained, but I think art requires a concept, a goal, a thesis, a motive, or objective. And with my own records, I really want to make art. Whether I ACHIEVE that goal or not … I am not always so sure? But, the concept always has to come first for me. I have to have something to say, before I can really write anything. I need a focal point. If I don’t have a thesis, I just stare at the wall. As for what is most fun? Coming up with the concept! Conceptualizing is easy! We can sit around all day, drink whiskey, and come up with cool ideas! Making an actual, finished product? … that is hard as hell, at times, impossible, and literally drives people mad. Myself included.
What are your top three most important, or favourite, music projects? Why?
That is so big to answer, and so broad, so … I am going to hit you with a broad response (in no particular order):
- The Big L freestyles from the old Stretch & Bobbito show: those played such a huge role in my desire to be a rapper, and still thrill me to this day. I still know every filthy fucking word to them all.
- The opera “Einstein on the Beach”: been thinking about this one a lot lately. Phillip Glass and Robert Wilson’s giant masterpiece changed my life when I learned about it in college, and it always comes back to my brain, in weird ways over the years. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much it has shaped me, and how much I love it.
- The Life of Joe Strummer: The Clash means so much to me, and Strummer’s solo work hits me too, but it is his life, and his growth, as both a musician, and a man, that really ended up being the most important to me in the end. I could talk about this for hours, have toyed with making whole albums about it, and can’t ever shake him. Everyone should listen to much of his music, all of his old BBC radio shows (which you can find on podcast now), and watch the movie about his life “The Future is Unwritten”. He is hero, in a great many ways, and I think about him a lot.
Any tips for aspiring musicians?
You had better really fucking LOVE making music, because in all likelihood, it will never love you back.
Huge thanks to Astronautalis and Danae from Little Giant Agency. Be sure to catch Astronautalis on tour, dates are below!
ASTRONAUTALIS AUSTRALIAN TOUR
Saturday March 17th – Pool House Party, Coburg
Sunday March 18 – Laundry Bar, Melbourne
Wednesday March 21st – Ed Castle Hotel, Adelaide
Thursday March 22nd – Wollongong Uni Bar w/ The Smith Street Band
Friday March 23rd – Factory Floor, Sydney
Saturday March 24th – Miami Bar, Gold Coast
Sunday March 25th – Crowbar, Brisbane
Tickets on sale from www.astronautalis.com