On the night of the late Aaliyah’s birthday, baby girl was still a huge influence on Zoe of ASTR, just as most style icons are. The night felt right. It wasn’t too cold or windy outside, but walking towards the Hudson River wasn’t the best idea for any young woman fighting a hormonal war. Naturally, most women’s feet and hands are colder than the rest of them, so as one can imagine, when I saw what Zoe was wearing for the night I knew that they were going to put on a good show. I thought: Only women with balls and a few yoga classes under their belt could don a revealing black top and loose-fit pants, and I was right.
ASTR is a New York City based Alternative Pop duo that lives, works and writes dreamy, mesmerizing music in New York City. After meeting three years ago in a Manhattan yoga class, they discovered they shared a musical and artistic sensibility informed by cinema noire, Miami Vice and urban dreamscapes. Soon, ASTR was born.
During our interview, on a shoddy reddish brown sofa located in the grimiest corner of the dressing room, this fan girl got her chance to know the creators of her new favourite song “Operate”. Check out my interview with the next best group in Alternative Pop music.
Like most girl-guy musical duos, people often wonder if the two are seeing each other. So I posed this question as politely as I could:
I want to know how you two met and what’s the relation?
Quickly and with laughter, Zoe said “We’re just friends. We are just friends. We met at a yoga studio. We had a mutual friend that was also into music and stuff, and also into yoga. So, we just met and talked about writing and stuff. I think we met a few times then started getting in.”
A.D.A.M. added, “Yeah, you know. You have to work into it. I am a very guarded person so I don’t really necessarily invite people over to work on music too easily, but she was cool. She passed the test so, we got together.”
So, where does the name come from and why did you want to spell it that way?
Zoe: Oh, the spelling? You know, like fuck a vowel right? What’s a vowel? Who needs a vowel anyway?
A.D.A.M.: We actually made a list of like, top bands with no vowels in their name(s), but there is an “A” at the front of it, so I don’t know how we got put into that list.
Zoe: ASTR plays like New York all day and there is some connection to mythology and like has to do with astrology and stuff like that. It can get pretty heavy. I’m sure it would bore all of you.
I love astrology.
Zoe: Oh, do you? Okay, so then maybe we would have a fun time. We could geek about it. Asteria is the goddess of the stars, so that kind of was it for me. That was enough for me.
Tell me about your song “Operate”. How did that come about?
A.D.A.M.: I remember the day that it came out. I remember exactly what happened because sometimes when we go to the studio she’s like, “Oh, I have to go to the… I have to go to this dinner or do something later” and I was like “Alright cool” but we came over and it was in the Summer and we sat down and I just played this bass line and just like sometimes you get in and things just kind of happen. I remember the melodies were all written before she had to dip out to her dinner. I was like I didn’t really realize what had happened but basically, we spent a couple of hours on it and it just happened – that day.
Zoe: The leader was like, “Operate, ohhh ohhh”. Like nothing. Like oh, that’s easy. That’s it.
It is such a cool song, though.
Zoe: It’s like so funny. It’s like we didn’t even think about it. I think that is the best shit, when you don’t think too hard.
And you’re from New York, the both of you?
Zoe: I’m from New York and he’s from Boston. But he’s been here long enough. He’s certified.
How has New York and Boston inspired your sound?
A.D.A.M.: I think the city… Yeah, East Coast Hip-Hop is like one component. There is definitely some components in there. There is just something about being in the city that has at least sculpted our perspective a little bit. I couldn’t tell you exactly how that has influenced us but yeah.
Zoe: New York City is like the place that you don’t want to be but you can’t leave. Like, I could never live anywhere else. I’m so influenced by the style here, everything. The streets, the art, the culture, it’s like top-notch which is a little over the top and overbearing. Abrasive, if you will.
A.D.A.M.: There is no personal space here. You walk out of your apartment. You get onto the train. You’re in there. You don’t know anybody and you’re in their space. Like, right in their face. So there is something to be said about.
Like, look at where we are right now!
Zoe: We’re in a corner. It’s a strange breed.
Exactly. So, what are some of the rappers that you both like as far as East Coast Hip-Hop goes?
Zoe: I’m like a Biggie girl and I like Dipset. I listen to Dipset so hard, and Cam’ron. I was on Jim Jones’ video shoot when I was like 16. Like, I literally love that shit. Busta Rhymes for sure, and Missy Elliot.
A.D.A.M.: When I started making beats, I wanted to make DJ Premire type beats or Dr. Dre but “He’s West Coast”. Primo… Yes, Primo was the East Coast guy.
What was the last rap lyric that you tried to learn, or remember? Has there been any?
Zoe: It’s Biggie Smalls: The pussy smoker, MC provoker, chakata smoker…” That whole song I literally memorized Biggie and Tupac’s rap. You know their infamous rap battle? I memorized both of theirs, word by word. I can sing the entire thing, And I do. Like, at the crib with Pro Era. It’s my favorite shit.
A.D.A.M.: Me? Ah. When we went down to Mexico and I had to DJ and I had to make sure that I had Big Pun’s “Still Not A Player”. So, I got the whole record right and there is this one line. I forget the name of the song but he’s like
Little did we know, Little did we know little liddley li li liteldy dittely” And I still can’t get it after all these years.
Zoe to A.D.A.M.: You like, wrote it out!
A.D.A.M.: I’m literally looking on RapGenius.com
Rap Genius. Yes, those are the homies!
Zoe: Yes, they are cool. They’re cool.
So, the name of my publication is “GrungeCake”…
Zoe: Yes, I saw that. That’s awesome!
What comes to mind when you think of it? Like, what are the words or images that come to mind?
A.D.A.M.: Courtney Love… cigarette butts in a birthday cake.
Zoe: I see like a disheveled birthday cake with a big leather boot in the middle of it. Yeah, that’s dope! We should do a photoshoot and creative collab on that.
I like that, I like that a lot. So what is next for you guys, and do you have a tour coming up?
Zoe: We are doing a bunch of one-offs right now. You know, we are putting out this EP in 5 days, so that’s exciting. We will be in L.A. and we’ll be in London, Boston and SXSW. Then after SXSW, we will probably put together a real tour. Hit the road!
If there is a new fan that is listening to your music for the first time, what would you want for them to take away from listening to it, if anything?
A.D.A.M:. I think it is an updated version of soul music kinda masked with a lot of nostalgia. There is a lot of nostalgia.
Zoe: Like, everything you grew up liking. Hopefully, it’s repackaged in a modern way and hopefully, you want to dance. If you don’t want to dance, I don’t think we did our job. That’s like it.
And my last question: For any aspiring artist that are going to read this and hear this, what speckle of advice would you give them?
Zoe: Be fearless. Literally, banish fear. if you have any doubt in your head at all, it’s not going to happen. So start doing shit that’s fearless. Like go naked down the street or something, and literally get over it now.
A.D.A.M.: I think you need to embrace whatever it is that you’re bringing to the table and don’t try to be anyone but yourself.
Zoe: Be yourself. That’s it.
Thank you so much.
Jazzlyn Kirkland (Transcriptionist)