Little Independent Publication

Interview with Astronautalis

Andy Bothwell aka Astronautalis is an amazing musician, singer/songwriter and just a genuine cool guy. His music is this amazing blend of hip hop, trip hop, rock and break beats. Think about Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, hooking up with Eminem then having a child that looks like Mozart. That is the best explanation of Andy I could come up with.

 

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His music video for “Trouble Hunters” is a fun watch. Andy takes most of his inspiration from his family and friends and meticulously crafts the lyrics and beats around a story that can mean many things for a lot of people and still keep the core idea there.

Andy graciously took some time to answer some questions I’ve been dying to know.

 

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Adam- Where does your sound come from? i.e. What is your inspiration? and where does this music take you?

 

Andy- Well, i think there are a couple of questions in there really, my sound comes from my teenage years. I am pretty sure that i am still sharing an aesthetic with my 16 year old self, the kid in the winter camo and Lugz boots listening to Big L, The Halo Benders, The Band back to back to back. I, and my music, owe a lot to my friends and family who pumped me full of such wonderfully stratified music. On top of all of that, i wouldn’t have anything to show for that taste if it wasn’t for my friend Radical Face who really taught me how to make records…he and i grew up together, shared that same mixed tape culture, and he taught me how to make albums out of that. i owe him quite a lot. As for the inspiration of my records…that changes from every record. For “Pomegranate”, i got much of my inspiration from books, poets, and world history. To be more specific; the books of Mark Helprin, the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the history of the American Revolutionary War. My music takes me back to the library (digital or otherwise) and all over the world…both are nice things to have as an occupational hazard.

 

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Adam- I didn’t know you and Radical Face had been friends for so long. His song “Welcome Home” has been a lasting favorite among many of those who have seen Ben Gibbard as an idol.

Andy- I have known Ben for 12 years now…we worked at the same movie theater in high school (which was a great influence for my second record).

 

Adam- Speaking of poets, have any of todays poets i.e. Buddy Wakefield, Derrick Brown. Have they had any influence?

 

Andy- I don’t really gain much influence from modern poets at all…i am much more influenced by the structure of poetry, and, as a result gain more from Victorian poets like the aforementioned Manley Hopkins. Modern poets tend to take a more prosaic approach or they follow the slam poetry format, both of which are generally uninteresting to me anymore. There are exceptions, of course, but most of the time i feel like modern poets try to hard to be clever…it is like they can never stop elbowing the audience in the ribs long enough to actually say something meaningful or risky. I really get nerdy about things like scansion in sonnets and such…once i was turned onto that…there was no turning back. I do get a lot from modern songwriters, especially David Berman (who does dabble as a poet too), Bill Callahan, Joanna Newsom, and i just heard a girl named Jenn Gooch who blew me away with her song, “Jonestown Koolaid”.

 

Adam- Has the tour been able to expose you to more niches/scenes of people? And is “Skeleton” still everyones favorite or has “Meet me here later” gotten the attention it deserves?

 

Andy- this tour has been the most fun i have had on the road thus far…which is really saying something considering how great my job is to begin with. i have met quit a cadre funny folks this tour…may favorite so far has been the father and son who drove me to and from the Redskins game on sunday…they sang peter gabriel to each other. I don’t think Skeleton has ever been everyone’s favorite…something about hip hop ballads…they don’t really sweep the kids off their feet.

 

Adam- WHere did the story for skeleton come from?

 

Andy- When i first started off touring, our shows left a lot to be desired, there was many days off and many disasters…down time is the worst thing ever on tour. That is why i try to never have days off when i am tour now…i get crazy when i am not working. I was stuck in my friends house in Denton, Texas for about a week and change, and for some reason i couldn’t get my self together. Denton is the best town in america, and i am sort of a mini celebrity there, by all logic i should have been out every night drinking and causing trouble and for some reason i was sort of afraid to. At the same time, there was a big news story in Dallas about a man who threw his wife and himself off a highway overpass and i just piled my own feeling of failure with insanity of that story and came up with those images of subtle self-sabotage: asking a girl on a date during a hurricane and “accidentally” cutting your own hand while cooking. That is pretty loose when i read it back…the songs for that album were all so built on a foundation of just blood and guts emotion that a lot of the motivation gets lost over time. Old songs become like old friends, faces are burned into your brain forever, but names that are lost in some empty bottle somewhere.

 

 

Adam- It sounds like you’ve studied quite a bit of literature. Any formal education?

 

Andy- Got me a BFA in Directing for the Theater from the Meadows College of Art at SMU in Dallas. I had the good fortune of being given money to learn a lot about literature with in those wonderful walls.


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