“Astronauts of Antiquity” is an electro/neo-soul indie band from New York. The band has two main members: India and B. Rhyan, but they also work with 4 other musicians, to get the most out of the instruments they want to play and to have the complex and worthy live performances their songs would suggest they have.
They have released an album in 2005 – AOA 1 – and have released their second work in February 2009 – “Rocket Science For Dummies” – with 13 tracks, including a remix at the end. You’ll recognize some resemblance to bands such as Zero 7, Thievery Corporation or Groove Armada and Air. They have been compared to Radiohead, as well. So the band is definitely worth listening to, not only for the comparisons mentioned above, but for the outstanding female vocals, the funky-catchy tune behind it and the most compelling groove.
We’ve decided to interview the band, to see how they present themselves through the music they make, to see what endeavours they have planned, to hear about their musical tastes and preferences and just to get to know them a little better:
ZME: Please tell us more about the name of the band. How did you come up with it? I can see the connection of the term „astronaut” for all your electro and neo-soul sounds. But why „antiquity” ? Just tell us the gist of the story behind it.
AoA: The first bass player and co-founder of Astronauts of Antiquity was reading “Chariots of Fire” when we were searching for a name. The book has the phrase “astronauts of antiquity“ in it. He was so touched by the overall message of the book and suggested that phrase for the name of the band. Also astronauts of antiquity can refer to ancient times when it is said that yogis used to travel planet to planet through sound vibration or mantra. Pretty cool!
ZME: Astronauts of Antiquity is represented by just two members. I am so curious to know how you can manage among just the two of you to take care of all the insturments that you use when recording a song, but especially when you have a live performance. I know that India is the name for the special, beautiful vocals that we hear. But does this mean that B. Rhyan takes care of everything else? Please explain how you divide your work.
AoA: First of all thanks for the compliment on the vocals @ ;^) Astronauts of Antiquity is (vocals, keys) India and (guitars) B. Rhyan.We are primarily the songwriters. We play with 4 other extremely talented musicians, (bass player) Mario, (drummer) Dan, (keyboards, sound design) Taylor, (sound design) DJ Fredo. We could not pull off a hot show without them. It’s a total team effort.
ZME: In the same order of ideas, I’m curious to know who writes all of the lyrics for your songs. Is it something that just comes together when sitting and writing a new song, or is it a clear „job” for one of you two?
AoA: We both write the lyrics. There is no set way. Sometimes just a phrase starts the creative process. Sometimes a whole tune with lyrics is conceived in one sitting. And sometimes it is hard work where you must focus and be determined.
ZME: I have seen that you named quite a few influences for your songs. And I was so glad to see that you names such as Air, Massive Attack, Portishead and Groove Armada when trying to describe how your music sounds like. Could you outline the exact influence that was brought by the 3 names mentioned just a couple of lines above? Certain instruments, a specific way of mixing these instruments into a special sound, a certain way of organizing your live performances etc. ? And also, I’m curious to know, why you mentioned Radiohead … What would you say, from your own music, sounds familiar to Radiohead?
Massive Attack – We’ve gotten so many “sounds like” comments that we use this reference. I suppose it’s the soft female vocals and some electro elements. The sensitive / introspective lyrics for lack of a better way of saying it have some similarities with AoA.
AIR – Again female vocals surrounded by some electronic sound design and some of the guitar approaches along with an acoustic sensitivity at times.
Portishead Head – For some reason people say we sound like them. The girl again when I sing more intensively. Beth Gibbons is such a cool vocalist. Really intense and dramatic. There is some sound design similar to Portishead that AoA likes to experiment with.
Groove Armada – There’s a little bit of funk in AoA that is heard in GA. Lots of electronic elements going on that are similar.
Radiohead – Our song “Beautiful Fate” is inspired by them to a large extent. The arrangement is minimal. There is a lot of space and the rhythm design is directly born out of the desire to challenge ourselves to make the space between the notes count just as much as the notes themselves. The vocals even though female and the phraseology is apparently different we feel reflect so much of Tom York, the sensitivity that goes into his singing. Some AoA reviews do site Radiohead as being a “sounds like” in regards to “Beautiful Fate”. Want to write more tunes like this…
ZME: Please mention 10 other indie pop/rock bands or electro-rock, ambient bands you like listening to when you’re at home, relaxing, working, doing chores, etc. Also, please mention a couple of other genres you enjoy hearing, because I’m sure there are quite a few.
– Little Dragon,
– Kings of Convenience,
– Zero 7,
– Talvin Singh,
– Bob Marley,
– Miles Davis,
– The London Radha Krishna Temple Album.
ZME: Let’s imagine the perfect party: mention 10 tracks you always want to hear, in order for the party to be a successful one:
– Living My Life Like It’s Golden,
– Constant Surprises,
– Beautiful Fate,
– Strangest Places,
– Don’t Panic,
– Vinheta quibrante,
– The Erasure,
– She Drives Me Crazy.
ZME: Who would you love to tour with? Mention 5 other indie pop/rock/electro-rock/ambient/other type of genre bands you’d like to see next to your name on a festival print advertisement. And let’s make it a little harder: you are not allowed to pick names from questions 5 and 6 ! But you can ignore time frames and you can pick bands even though they might not be singing/touring anymore:
AoA: Wax Poetic, Billy Holiday, Joni Mitchell, U2, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Coldplay.
ZME: My favourite songs are „Beautiful Fate” and „Strangest Places”. „Beautiful Fate” reminds me a lot of Air, Zero 7 and Ror-Shak and „Strangest Places” has a lot of early-Morcheeba in it, wouldn’t you say? They sound great! Could please tell us the stories behind these two songs? How did they come together, what instruments best characterize the two, what do the lyrics want to point out the most?
AoA: „Beautiful Fate” is a song about discovery of yourself without all the judgment and self-criticism. (“Take yourself on a blind date”) It’s about tuning into yourself in the present and reveling in that instead of always living in the future thinking that you will finally be that person you have always wanted to be or obsessing about your mistakes from the past. It started out as a beautiful guitar riff and then a melody built upon that. Lyrics were written simultaneously.„Strangest Places” was completely rewritten from it’s original. The storyline changed but the general theme remained. It’s a story about two unlikely, lonely people finding love in the most unlikely place (strangest place). Ultimately it’s about never giving up hope or losing faith in love. (“There are no closed cases when it comes to help from above”)
ZME: I also noticed on your MySpace page that you only have a couple of live performances in New York. When could we expect concerts in Europe and where? Do you have any fixed dates yet or has it not even crossed your mind to go over the ocea yet? Just tell us please about any plans you have in this direction.
AoA: In the past we traveled and toured Europe. Right now we are concentrating on playing NYC and building a residence here. Next year we plan to expand once again and get on the road. We are receiving a lot of International interest, which we are excited about! So with that being said we will tour where people want to see us. Hope to see you at one of our shows! We’ve got a new video in post-production that will be ready by the end of August.
ZME: You have already released an album – „Rocket Science for Dummies”. When can we expect the enxt one? Do you plan on heading back to the studio anytime soon?
AoA: We are planning to go into the studio to record a new album starting in the Fall. Very excited about it!
ZME: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview!
AoA: Thank you Alex for your interest in Astronauts of Antiquity. We really appreciate your questions.
Their second album has the following tracklist … (6 of them are available at their MySpace page for free listening)
2. Strangest Places
3. Supa Soul
4. Rocket Science
6. Beautiful Fate
7. Miss Caroline
8. Emo Healing
10. Soup Du Jour (feat. Cee Knowledge)
11. Love Is All Around
12. Dance Until Dawn
13. Love Is A Mantra (Dub Remix)
… and is available here for purchase: ENTER!