Album Name: Echo Birds
Band Name: Astra Via
The Sound: Psychedelic pop-rock
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Sounds Similar To: Black Moth Super Rainbow, Metric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
From the first song of DC duo Astro Via’s EP ‘Echo Birds’, the driving rock-based guitar riffs, EDM inspired drums and under-processed outsider pop vocals will draw you in. The instrumentation is so mesmerizing that you may overlook the complete lyricism of their music. The lyrics work to express a frustration living in “an era that is either too late to the party or the first guest to arrive”, and still manage to maintain a dream-like vibe. Astra Via’s vocals are coffee and cigarettes, Dark Side of The Moon and The Wizard of Oz, cats and the internet.
Jarrett Nicolay and Olivia Mancini are musical soul mates. Their album will be available on iTunes on September 24, 2013. Give it a listen, you won’t regret it.
How did you originally get into music?
Olivia: My earliest memory of music is singing along with Judy Garland's Live at Carnegie Hall. So, I guess I could say "Judy Garland got me into music." Later, there were loads of French horn lessons, and, ultimately, the Beatles.
Jarrett: My dad is musical (he has a handful of killer party pieces that are still in regular rotation). I clearly remember being around 11/12 years old and sneaking into the living room of my parents’ house after everyone had gone to bed to steal his guitar. I knew I had no idea how to play and didn't want anyone to hear me until I at least knew a few Buddy Holly songs. I think I obsessed on Holly because I could actually hear what the guitar was doing and the songs were pretty simple. Great place to start...
What goes into the songwriting process?
Olivia: A lot of sitting down and getting up, mumbling, humming, whistling, scribbling, typing, strumming, and some cursing. Most of the time, the song seems to want to write itself, and I get in its way with all my second-guessing.
Jarrett: That's changed over time. I used to write most of my lyrics walking my dog. The tedium of daily dog walks forced my mind to pleasantly go elsewhere I suppose... Since Rudy's passing I've had to find other outlets for writing... It's funny how you can't easily recreate the mind-numbingness of a dog walk tho.. It's a special modern zen place...
How has your musical style changed over time?
Olivia: I'm not sure it has changed very much over time. I'm still driven by the same things - melody, beat, lyrics - that I was in my earliest days of songwriting. But working with Jarrett, our two styles converge to make Astra Via sound different from something either one of us would produce on our own.
Jarrett: I've always felt torn between "guilty pleasure" and "artistic merit" music... With "Echo Birds" I feel like we're starting to figure out how to do both at the same time.
Your band interests on Facebook include shrooms. This isn't a question. Just wanted to acknowledge that.
Olivia: Thank you.
Jarrett: Can we keep that on the down low? or not...
You’re originally from NYC, now you’re in DC. How do the two scenes compare?
Olivia: I'm originally from DC, and moved to NYC, like so many people before me. In DC, audience members tend to talk about the music and the performance. In NYC, they tend to talk about how many people are in the room and whether the band has representation. It makes sense that there's more of an industry vibe in New York. But the musicians are the same in either place - they just want to be able to play.
Jarrett: Olivia and I are from DC. She lives in NYC now. I've only played NYC as a touring musician and always feel that by the time I've acclimatized I have to leave.
Note: Let's just pretend that I have the slightest amount of reading comprehension.
Are you politically active? If so, how?
Olivia: I'm pushing in favor of the 4-day work week. The words of an early 20th century union worker still apply today: we need "time to eat, time to live, time to be happy, time to be a person." So much has been documented about the negative effects of chronic work, especially in our tech-happy work world, and there is a growing body of evidence supporting the benefits of a shorter work week. As it turns out, people are more productive when they know they'll have time to run errands, hang out with family, travel, work on their living spaces, or, even, wait - pursue a hobby or two.
Jarrett: I'm not overtly political. After a few drinks (shrooms) that tends to change but overall I take the agnostic view on politics. I have no idea if we should get involved in Syria. Seems like we should help the Syrian people but I'm certainly not qualified to say how. Is that a copout?