Living in Boston, Massachusetts, Astronaut 9 is a genre-fusing artist who tackles subjects of trauma, mental illness and family, as featured on new EP ‘Everything Like It’s The Last Time’ (Out Sept 13th). When not playing music, Astronaut 9 performs poetry on themes of climate change, society and justice. We talked about the many challenges and opportunities of music as both an artform and an industry.
Lewis) Tell us about yourself, both outside and within music.
Astronaut 9) The first thing you should know about me is that I struggle with ambiguity, so this question is tough – but I’ll try my best.
In my musical life I strongly identify as a lyricist and poet and have always had a strong pull towards writing. Over the past few years I’ve been challenging my skill and craft on guitar to live up to my vision and musical imagination. It’s always been a catchup game for me: my mind starts writing on its own and I'm constantly trying to figure out how to get my guitar chops good enough to keep up with it.
Outside of music (though I’d argue it’s all ultimately connected) I’m pretty focused on social justice issues and currently working on applications for law school. On a daily basis I read a lot, I’m an amateur power-lifter, I drink a lot of coffee, go to therapy. Those are the constants.
How does being based in Boston affect your writing?
I’ve been here for three years now but I'm a frequent road tripper and find myself all over the place. The songs/poems on this project were written when I was younger and moving around a lot, and I think that’s when I really started to focus in on post-rock as a genre. I don’t know if you’ve ever done a long road trip by yourself but, for me, it’s a time of deep introspection and learning to sit with discomfort. When I was living in San Diego I would often drive to Colorado and there’s something about that route specifically that always felt like the stages of grief to me. But right at the end you get a few hours driving through the Rocky Mountains and if that doesn’t feel like the epic build-up of a tragic post-rock instrumental, I don’t know what could.
What are the key takeaways from the four tracks on ‘Everything Like it’s the Last Time’?
This is my first ‘solo’ project. By ‘solo’ I mean that I took lyrics from when I was younger and wrote music for them in a practice room by myself for months at a time. However, when it came to actually recording it my favourite part of this entire project has been finding musicians who I love both as human beings and the way their musical brains work, and letting them do their thing. My key takeaway is to find people I connect with and trust them. Ultimately so much of it was collaborative and it wouldn’t have turned out the way it did if I didn’t have different musicians adding pieces of themselves to the space. Find people different from you and trust them – that’s the main takeaway.
What is the hardest challenges you've faced within the music industry?
I think the idea of marketing is hard for me in a few different ways. The idea of asking anyone to listen to something is tough. There’s an element of imposter syndrome or wanting to be humble. Challenging that, what’s the point of creating if you’re not sharing it with anyone? It feels complicated but it probably doesn’t need to be. It’s one of those things that a lot of us were taught – to not take up space.
On top of that, I wanted (specifically with this project) to not have to compromise any of my artistic vision for the sake of ‘accessibility’. Really all that means is that I know a nine-minute incredibly personal and blunt poem about my best friend’s death isn’t going to make it on to the radio anytime soon. But I’m OK with that.
Which other artists are you listening to right now?
Lately I’ve been really into post-rockish electronic music. Which I guess might be called dream synth-pop or shoegaze electronic or something like that! I’ve fallen back into one of my favourite albums, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, by M83. But also an artist called Dark Rooms and bands along those lines. I’m interested in leaning into electronic soundscapes in the future, so we’ll see how that turns up in my writing.
If you could curate a festival, who would the headliners be?
I love the idea of festivals but have found in a lot of my experiences going to them that the crowds can be pretty chaotic and not as focused on the music as they could be. I think a dream festival would include a really intentional and calm large space that focuses on atmosphere and really being present in the show. I think Bon Iver is doing some really good work with that so let’s make that one of them. Also Boygenius, or some combination of the members playing their own music individually. Lastly we need some post-rock so let’s get Mogwai there too.