NYC based R&B electro duo ASTR released their debut EP Varsity on Neon Gold Records, delivering a unique sound that intricately combines the best of pop sound, R&B beats, and electronic vibes together. The duo is composed of Zoe, lead vocals, and Adam, the producer behind her echoing and enchanting vocals.
ASTR made a stir this summer with their hit single, "Operate," following up the hit with a series of hype machine hits including a cover of Drake's most popular tune in 2013, "Hold On, We're Going Home". The duo met through a mutual friend from the music world and began writing music together, slowly developing the sound into what is ASTR today. Heavily influenced by their musical roots and current personal taste, ASTR finds a way to seamlessly merge sounds from UK dance music & old school R&B/
We sat down with ASTR and discussed Disclosure, Aallyiah, TLC, dance moves, and how the dynamic duo found their incredibly unique sound. After chatting with ASTR, it is clear they are the captains of cool with the new sounds 'Varsity' delivers.
EARMLK: I am the captain of ASTR team since this summer. I found Operate on my friends Soundcloud this summer and when you guys started playing the Neon Gold Popshops, I always found myself there. Let’s talk Varsity…
EM: How about we start with “We Fall Down” and “Blue Hawaii” because those are the two newest tracks. “Blue Hawaii” is my favorite, super dope, there is TLC swag just dripping from it.
Adam: [Both Laugh] That’s good, I like hearing that, we love that track.
Zoe: Blue Hawaii is the newest of the bunch and I think that could be probably most telling of the direction in which we are going. A little bit more house in that track that the later stuff we have put out and definitely a sound were putting towards the album we’re going to release.
Adam: I Think “Blue Hawaii” is secretly, well, not so secretly one of our favorites. Maybe because its newer, because it was an ‘AH-HA’ moment for us. Maybe unintentionally at first, but we merged some ideas we had been messing around with. The sort of house-y thing mixed with this sort of trap element. It’s very cool, and got this very seductive lyrical component to it that
EM: You already mentioned a ‘AH-HA’ moment, but do you guys have on epic ‘AH-HA’ moments from the making of this EP?
A: I think "Operate" would be that song for us. Maybe not so much of an ‘AH-HA’ moment, but that song was just so effortless for us. It was very immediate and it was a very pivotal song for us, really helped us develop our sound. It was very cool.
EM: How did you guys start making music together?
Z: Our mutual friend that is in music also actually introduced us a while back, and we started hanging out a bit and making music and together we carved out this sound over about a year. We made a lot of good stuff, and some stuff we will never hear again [both laugh] and then started getting to our roots of the mixture of R&B, hip-hop, and house music. All of that UK stuff we were just talking about we are really into and very connected to and its almost our NYC answer back to all that stuff.
A: Its funny, I just learned from Zoe that when we first met she had premeditated our meeting. Not necessarily that we would be friends or our writing together, but that she would be the front woman of some cool thing, band whatever you want to call it. (you can hear Zoe roll her eyes at him through the phone). What? I didn’t know that! I thought song by song we’ll figure this out.
Z: Yea, but every songwriter that wants to be an artist thinks that. No one believes that you can perform until you go on stage and show them, I have confidence. How are you supposed to know that?
EM: Adam, women always have a plan, we’re always premeditating things…
Z: This is true, this is very true. [Both laugh]
EM: So let’s talk about your first show – to now and how it’s changed. I saw on one of the various social media outlets that you were super excited that people knew all the words to the tracks. Tell me what that felt like for you.
Z: [Laughing] The first show we did together was, um wasn’t it at Tammany Hall?
A: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! So technically, the Neon Gold Popshop was our first show at Santos Party House. But we had a couple of non-advertised, no body at the show, working out the kinks type of shows. Our first real show doing what we’re doing now was at Santos at the Neon Gold Popshop in June maybe? So its bee a 6-8 month period that now people are SINGING ALONG is crazy!! It’s so satisfying. We’ve really stuck to what we set out to do, performance wise since the beginning, but since then its all been about refining.
EM: I love the way you guys work together on stage, Adam, you’re so calm cool and collected in the back there just makin’ your beats and Zoe is dancin’ in the front singing her butt off. It’s an awesome vibe, you balance each other out so nicely.
A: Nice. She’s trying to get me to start comin’ out and workin’ on my footwork. Match the energy if you will….
Z: He’s got some FANCY footwork! You’d be surprised. I’m going to push him out one time and be like, “show ‘em what you got”
EM: You guys clearly draw a lot of inspiration from 90s R&B and the electronic Music from the UK, who are some of the artists you draw inspiration from in your music?
A: Who do we draw inspiration from in our music? There are Allyiah and some TLC to some extent from the writing, stylistically. And I really liked Portishead back in the day, I don’t know if you can hear them in our music. But there is something really dark and spacey about it that definitely influences some of our music.
EM: Who are some artists that you LOVE, but maybe not necessarily incorporate their sounds into your music?
A: We both love hip-hop. We listen to a lot of hip-hop still, we love older hip-hop. Zoe is big into Diplomats, Cam’ron, Julez Santa (Zoe in the background: HELLYEAH). We both love big pop stuff, end of the 90’s Puffy, Mase, Britney…. Who doesn’t love Britney.
EM: What are the top 3 albums you’d bring to a desert island?
Z: Mmmmm….wow…wasn’t expecting that right now.
EM: To help you guide your way, I would bring Dr. Dre Chronic: 2011, TLC Crazy/Sexy/Cool, and Grateful Dead Live in Europe ‘72’
A: I might have to bring… Michael Jackson, ‘Thriller’ or ‘Bad’…. Questions that are like what’s your favorite food or album, I ALWAYS draw a blank and I’m like wait I don’t know, what do I like? And then when its over, I think…ahhh I should have said THAT.
Z: I agree with you on the TLC & Dr. Dre, super influential to me as well… and THAT A No Doubt album Tragic Kingdom
EM: Who are artists you’d love to work with? Tangible and dream and some artists you’d love to see remix your tracks now?
Z: I would love to work with…Future, Rich Homie Kwan, ahhh and so many British DJs I want to work with.. and Kanye West, sorry if that upsets anyone, but he’s an artist! Shlohmo could remix something, that would be really cool.
A: Rudimental and I’d like a Cashmere Cat remix
A: I want to go back to something you said before. The thing has come full circle about where music has been. All these British kids have been sampling all that late 90s/early 2000s R&B and its been all in the club music over there for a while, since the garage scene. So its this natural thing for them to have all these awesome R&B singers on their tracks, it's the perfect fusion for us. We grew up on that music and its such an exciting point to where these worlds are converging.
After reading this, it's pretty understandable why ASTR is the captain of cool and why all of you should get on their team now. They have developed an incredibly unique sound that can only be associated with them. No need in trying to describe them as a mixture of other bands because they are 1 in a million.
New York Homies – Head to Brooklyn Brown tomorrow, Saturday 8th to get down the swag-tastic duo & cheer Adam on to show some fancy feet during their show! Purchase tickets here. If you're in the big apple, be sure to check out their SXSW schedule!