|Retro-synth is a genre that seems to really gaining a lot of momentum in the last bunch of years. If you are not familiar with it imagine Depeche Mode and John carpenter working with Kraftwerk to score an 80s horror/sci if movie about a haunted spaceship called the Cocteau Twin. Being a child of the 80’s I am a fan. There is such a wonderful feeling of nostalgia that takes me back to my “wonder years”. One of the bands at the forefront of this movement is the duo known as, Dead Astronauts. They mix both male and female vocals with giant, moody synth driven orchestrations that are as catchy as they are complex.|
Dead Astronauts released their newest album, Arms of Night, last Nov. One look at the cover art and you know what you are in for. A slick and sexy ride through the dark cosmos, ripping through the night electric, sipping on space vapors all the while destroying alien invaders and protecting astronauts on the landscape from abduction (want a great review, head here, this article is going in another direction).
With Arms of Night Dead Astronauts see the release of their most ambitions album to date. A few months after the release of Arms of Night, one of the founding members, Hayley Stewart, left. While the departure was on the level and there is no bad blood (check out Hayley’s solo endeavor Mecha Maiko) I’m always curios how bands bounce back from a big low following a huge high.
Jared Kyle (the other half of Dead Astronauts) was kind enough to let me dive into his world of ups, downs and new beginnings.
1. How much of the writing, concept and lyrics of Arms of Night was split between yourself and Hayley?
Now that she is gone how much of what she brought to the table do you have to absorb or hand of to other people?
Arms of Night was a labor of love from both of us for sure.
Hayley took lead on the production and I took lead on the writing etc. We try to split the efforts as much as possible, so the album felt like it was something from both of our minds, some sort of music love child.
We of course would switch off of certain roles on certain songs, but as a collection I feel like you could hear both Hayley and myself in each track.
Now that Hayley is gone. Slade will handle most of the production with me as his sidekick. I’ll still primarily tackle the writing, but Celine will also have a hand in writing and of course vocals. It’s important to us that we don’t “replace” or bastardize what Hayley did for DA, but we want to present a different side of DA for our future releases. We really want Hayley’s time with DA to be unique and stand on it’s own.
2. Do you take what you have done and re work it around new members (at the time of this article they have added long time collaborator Slade Templeton and the talented Celine) keeping it as close to what you had built with Hayley, or do you let it grow organically letting the new members add their musical ‘flavor’ and influence?
I want DA to evolve with the new members. It doesn’t feel right to try and fit them into this mold that Hayley and I created. It’s important for us to keep the 80s influences and the essence of what DA was, which of course includes both a male and female vocal presence but also production elements and instruments direct from that era. We do though want to add a more modern spin to what we’ve been doing both in the energy and atmosphere. We are going to get a bit rougher with the production and try and introduce a few more rock elements into the process.
That’s all I can say with confidence at the moment, we have a lot of experimenting in the works to really find that sound.
Maybe we’ll have something to show soon?
3. I recently saw you all are doing your first live performance. Was this always in the works or is now more doable with an extra member? Will you add extra members for a live show?
Great question, one I don’t have a full answer to just yet. Yes though, it’s something I’ve wanted to work towards. For now we’ll keep the shows to DJ sets and later introduce live vocals into the mix. It’s just tough because Hayley and Celine both have different styles, and I don’t think it would be fair to either of them to try and have Celine replace Hayley or try to force Celine into a style or approach maybe that she isn’t comfortable with.
We still have a lot to work out with in terms of live shows, but you’ll be seeing them popping up more and more over the next while for sure.
4. What does the future hold for Dead Astronauts? Will you be writing by yourself or with the addition of new members will there be a collaborative effort?
It’ll be collaborative. I’ve tried to always keep DA an equal parts every member sort of deal. Hayley and I would never release a song unless we were both happy with it, and I tend to take that same approach with anything going forward. It’s important to me that the members feel like they have a stake in each song no matter how much they contributed. Hayley and I worked a similar way. You can hear who had a bigger part from song to song, but it always felt like each song was “ours” and not just “oh that’s Jared’s song that he did” or “oh, that’s Hayley’s”.
4b. Will you hope to see a shift/addition/growth..call it what you will, of new sound and direction? Or do you try to keep everything as close to what was before, as you can?
As mentioned above. We’ll have a similar feel, but really want it all to evolve based on the input and talents of the new members. I can’t predict exactly what it’s going to sound like, but I promise it’ll still be recognizable as “Dead Astronauts”.
5. If you could go back 10 year and share any lessons you’ve learned with yourself, what would they be?
Wish I’d have stuck with those piano lessons years ago. And along the lines of the first point, I’d be a bit more patient with the process and myself overall.
When you have an idea you want to make it happen right away, and that sometimes forces you to cut corners or to not take the time needed to really perfect something.
In the end though, that’s always the artist’s crux.
6. What 5 bands/albums are currently peaking your interest?
I hate to say it, but I haven’t listened to a ton of new music as of late or at least much from the last 6 months or so with the exception of smaller scene releases here and there, I’ve been in musical hibernation. It’s tougher too now with streaming etc. the art of the album has been lost to an extent. Everything is just “singles” now… and it has been and will always be hard for me to get behind that, not saying I won’t, but I’m not ready for it just yet. There is a certain craft to building out an album. I feel like artists that just release singles or 3 track EPs, they lose a bit of the artform by doing that. So this had steered me away from certain artists that I use to enjoy or I’ve even missed release from because they’ve switched to this format.
I am though looking forward to Unkle’s new album “The Road: Part 1”. And bands like Massive Attack, Chemical Brothers etc. I’m always enjoying new music they put out. There are a handful of electronic bands from the late 90s and early 2000s that I still latch onto when they have a release. And of course from the 80s; Depeche Mode of course has been steadily releasing solid music, Underworld (even though their first major release was in 91’, they had earlier stuff under the name, so I still consider them an 80s band) New Order, Pet Shop Boys… the list goes on really.
I actually drew a lot of inspiration from the bluegrass influenced band, Midlake. They’d actually switched out lead singers for their “Antiphon” album back in 2013, their drummer moved into the lead signer position, and the album still felt like it was “Midlake”, but was still fresh and new and an evolution of previous titles. It’s just one of a myriad of examples of bands that have taken a step in a different direction but still maintained their core.
I’ve really tried to pull inspiration from all of these places, and they continue to inspire me to this day.
If I had to pick specific releases though it seems like back in 2014 and 15 there was a slew of solid albums released, namely;
I’m about to give Wild Beasts – Boy King and the Kills – Ash and Fire a listen though, so this list could change easily.
Yes, that’s an idea of how behind I am on newer music…
Thanks for this opportunity and of course support!