Astronomique: Our lyrics are more honest than they are emo

Categories: CD Release
Photo by Logan Andra Fongemie
You've heard synth-pop before, but never like this. The folks in Minneapolis band Astronomique don't take themselves too seriously, and that joviality shows through on their debut EP Burning Stars Fade. The band is comprised of former members of the New Monarchs and Satellite Voices and built an album that contains sounds that suggest humanity and heat, whilst retaining the essential delight of a house party.

Gimme Noise spoke with the band before their album release on Friday at Cause to catch up on Dr. Who and to see how this project compares to their past ones.

Band Members: Logan Andra Fongemie - Vocals, Keys, Lyrics, Artwork, Sean Hogan - Guitar, Backing Vocals, Sax, Mitch Billings - Drums, Luke Parrott - Bass

Gimme Noise: Obviously Astronomique's music is different from the New Monarchs, but can you explain to me how you feel it's different?

Logan Andra Fongemie: Well, the most obvious difference is that I front the band instead of Sean. Ha! But really, I'd say that the New Monarchs' music is more punch-you-in-the-face electro rock with an emo edge, while Astronomique writes more chill, dancier synth-pop with a darker/sensual vibe. And I feel like Astronomique's lyrics are more honest than they are emo.

For this band, we started with an idea, and then wrote music to fit that idea. We wanted to create a sound that would emulate the psychedelic/1960s space age-inspired drawings and paintings I make, and also embrace my French heritage in some way. So this sound was going to be spacey, synth-driven, and sensual with a French vibe. We wanted it to sound dark and ethereal at the same time, and be something you can move to. We came by our band name in a French picture book from my childhood, where an illustration of a telescope was labeled with the words "lunette astronomique."

Sean Hogan: As Logan mentioned, having a female vocalist is a significant difference between Astronomique and the New Monarchs, as well as having a full band (live drums and bass) rather than a two-piece electro setup. Astronomique is more grounded in an idea/theme, while the New Monarchs were playing together for so long (eight years) that our writing style and approach to music changed with the times. There was never any central theme or style.

Gimme Noise: How do you think all of your other projects have influenced this new band?

Logan Andra Fongemie: My most recent other project was playing synth in Knol Tate's band, Satellite Voices. Through this role, I learned to build and shape synth lines in a piece of music, kind of like adding layers of paint to a canvas. Writing and performing with Satellite Voices was actually my intro to synthpop, since I was a pianist/vocalist prior to that project. I found that making the switch from piano to synthesizers really opened up a whole world of creativity, and I wanted to start a project that was built around intricately crafted synth parts artistically arranged in a piece -- so Astronomique is that project. I play two Dave Smith synthesizers, the Prophet '08 and the Poly Evolver.

Sean Hogan: Years of guitar playing has steered me in different directions sonically, and I feel like on this EP, you are finally hearing me for the first time. It's been refreshing to collaborate with someone new, and Logan and I approach song writing differently than previous groups I've been a part of.

We also bring out the best in each other, in that our strong suits seem to compliment each other. Since I'm not fronting Astronomique, it was initially a huge change to not be writing lyrics and vocal melodies. However, I am now able to put all of my energy into writing the song structure and guitar parts, which is cool.

Gimme Noise: Why only an EP right now? Do you have other things in the works?

Logan Andra Fongemie: We're a brand new band, and were still in the process of figuring out our sound while writing and recording these songs. We thought that at this point, an EP would probably sound more cohesive than an LP. It also took us a year to write and record this record, so if we were aiming for a full-length, we'd probably still be working on it. Ha! We have been starting to write some new material, which we'll be taking to back to the studio at Signaturetone after our release show. It will likely turn into another EP.

Sean Hogan: Burning Stars Fade is a great introduction to our sound, and the songs were all written within the same time frame. It made the most sense to have it be our first release. At this point, we plan to stick to the EP route, as well as releasing singles, B-Sides, and remixes available for digital download. Sloslylove, who will be performing at our release show in between bands, just completed a remix of "Pretend We're Stars," which sounds amazing.

Mitch Billings:
We wrote and recorded this record before we ever practiced anything just by passing stuff back and forth. The songs we wrote work well together and putting these five on the EP just made sense. We actually didn't have our first official practice until after the record was finished -- so we did things a little backwards.

Gimme Noise: For this project, was the writing collaborative or did everyone bring in their own ideas?

Sean Hogan: Initially, Logan and I wrote all of the songs on our own and had intended on just being an electronic duo. When we completed our demos and brought them to the studio, we decided they needed something more. At that point we recruited Mitch and Luke, who then brought their own style and talent to the project.

Logan Andra Fongemie: Now each song typically begins with Sean and I collaboratively writing/recording a skeleton of a demo, usually on a drum machine and keyboards. Then I will add a vocal melody and lyrics, and send the demo to our other band members so they can write their parts. Each person writes their own parts, although we all provide input and feedback to each other.

Mitch Billings: Logan and Sean wrote a rough version of everything to start. They would send it to me and I would get a drum part ready. After that, we'd head to the studio. It was an interesting way to do things because each of us comes from a slightly different musical background. What came out sounds exactly like what we wanted, but there is also a hint of our own individual taste throughout the EP.

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