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An Interview With Astronautalis (Who Is In Town)

Before you do anything, head over to Daytrotter and download the Astronautalis session. It’s excellent. Ok, let’s do this.

Astronautalis is Andy Bothwell. He’s in town prepping his new band for their first tour together, which kicks off tomorrow with a show at SPACE Gallery. Buy tickets here. His new single, Midday Moon, is out today. We talked about the new band, style, and getting frozen.

You’ve had some great collabs – Portland’s seen you onstage with P.O.S. and Bleubird (as Boyfriends, Inc.), and now we’re about to get a taste of Astronautilus with a full band. Even better, two of the members are regulars from the local scene here (Oscar from Gully and Derek From Haru Bangs plus Nobs) and you’re taking them on the road. We know that started back at the SPACE Gallery Halloween when you took the role of Joe Strummer for a Clash tribute with them (and others), but can you tell us a bit about how you decided to take them on as your band? Have you performed with a live band before?

I have performed with a live band on several occasions, but it is sadly, pretty expensive to take a band on the road and expect to make a living. After 7 years of grinding two deep in a Honda, we have finally carved enough of a career out of all of this yelling to afford a few upgrades to the live show. After the show at the SPACE, i was talking to Oscar and Derek, and they said if i ever needed a guitarist and a drummer to take on the road…give them a holler. Shortly there after…i did.

Was this something you’ve been planning to do for a while – giving up the laptop and getting some live musicians to back you?

The laptop shows have been great…but limiting. I felt like i had milked every drop i could out of that show and it would be unfair to fans and totally boring to me to continue any longer. I had been wanting to make the change for years now…finally…it has happened.

Alright, I watched the Midday Moon preview and took your advice to do some searching to figure out why that shirt was just so awesome. Where’d the Cryonics inspiration come from? Do you want to be frozen some day?

The song is less about the actual cryonics and more about the hopeless devotion of people who wish to be frozen when they die, in faith that someday…we will find a cure for…death. It is a beautiful desperation, and a fitting start to the over all theme of the album. As for me, no, i have enough beautiful desperation in my life…I don’t need to cling to it in death. Bury me in the backyard.

What is Maxx Moon (which I learned about while looking for Midday Moon vids)? How many more personalities/bands are kicking around in that head of yours that we may not have heard yet?

Maxx Moon is a band i am in with an amazing producer named Picnic Tyme…it is sort of a weird pop dance project. I am still dreaming of starting a punk band…plus i have a few other aces up my sleeve.

Is this band just for the current tour, or do you have bigger plans for it?

If everything goes according to plan…this will continue forever. Growing bigger and bigger till i can tour with the Boston Pops (in keeping with my borrowing musicians from New England).

Being a seasoned touring musicians, do you have any advice you’re giving your new bandmates, since this is the first time (as far as I know) that they’re going on the road (correct me if I’m wrong on that).

I believe they have all done some touring…but nothing as full bore as this. We are playing 31 shows in 31 days. The best advice I can give them is this: always bring a towel.

The Daytrotter session you did recently is incredible. You may be beefing up your sound now with the band, but the simplicity of backing tracks and your vocals is pretty striking, especially with your unmistakable voice. It sounded like that came at a particularly weary moment for you – are you feeling re-energized and ready to get back out and at it now? Did you even get much of a break – at least long enough to remember what your own sheets smell like?

My sheets smell like lavender and bleach. I never get enough rest. My break was good…but any longer and it would’ve made me depressed…it is not that i am ready to go out on tour again…it is just what i must do. i am compelled to drift and sing…till the day i die.

You’re going to SXSW, which show should we catch you at? Are there any other artists that you’re psyched to see (if you’ll even get the chance/free time)?

Oof, I have 5 shows at SXSW. some with the band…some with my side project with POS called “Four Fists”. It is going to be a busy week. If anything, I would come see me with the band at the Partyends.com party…there is free beer and it is a a god damned bowling alley! As for other bands…I haven’t looked at the line up. This is my 10th year doing SXSW, I think. The first few years I really worked to see tons of bands, but now…it is just a great place to see all of my friends at once. For fans, it is a great music fest. For musicians [ed. and music bloggers!], it is like a high school reunion.

On one of your recent trips to Portland you did a show inside a van – it looked pretty tight in there but you and the 15 kids crammed inside to watch seemed to be having an awesome time. Do you have any plans to try and squish your new band into a tiny space to play a show?

I will happily squish my band in anywhere they will fit!

You’ve gotten pretty stylish since we first met. What prompted that? Did you get a hookup from Gilt or something?

I love that site. Most of what I wear now, I have had for sometime…I just have never taken it on tour. It just seemed sensible to keep it to jeans and t-shirts on the road, but i have always been a bit of a clothes horse and i finally got fed up with sensible. So i have made the commitment, and I am done with t-shirts. I am trying to dress like a WWII tank captain from here on out.

Have you found any LoPT (Ladies of Public Transportation) in Portland that you want to say something to?

I haven’t ridden the public transit here…so…technically no. However, I would like to say thank to the LoHS (Ladies of Hot Suppa), they are as charming as they are beautiful, and the Lo158 (Ladies of 158), anyone woman with access to bacon that good has the keys to my heart.

Anything else for the readers of HillyTown?

A firm handshake, with direct eye contact…and my middle finger tickling your palm

Just how we like it. Read on for some behind the scenes photos from Astronautalis and his band practice in preparation for their upcoming tour. Photos and interview by Bryan Bruchman.

See Astronautalis (and band) on tour this month. We’ll be checking in with them at SXSW in Texas to see how the road is treating them!