Hailing from London, Calling All Astronauts are an electro-punk force to watch for. The band was founded by JJ Browning (guitars, formerly of Caffeine), and David B (vocals and programming) of US:UK after a random meeting at a Fulham petrol station. After establishing their vision, they added Croatian-born Kristi Bury on bass.
Calling All Astronauts fits an up and coming new model for rock that involves bringing in more electronically engineered elements. Loop tracks, metal and punk style guitars define this band's composition and arrangement signature. Add lyrics that are culturally, socially and politically charged, a nod to punk influence, and they are unique in their own right. There is a lot of dark power behind this music and yet you still want to dance to it.
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How did Calling All Astronauts come about? How long has this line-up been together?
David: JJ and I bumped into each other about 18 months ago. We were old friends from when I managed his old band, Caffeine, and we just decided to see what we could come up with. We put it to Kristi and she was well up for it, and we’ve never looked back.
Many current electronica or electronic-inspired alternative rock artists are admitting to their throwing back to or reconnecting with the 80’s. What were your feelings about that music when it was current? Does 80’s music bear the same stigma in the UK as it does in the U.S.?
David: People only need to listen to us to hear that we are inspired by traditional alternative rock acts. We’ve kind of taken bits from NIN, Killing Joke, PIL, Sisters of Mercy, Pop Will Eat Itself, Psychedelic Furs, and Joy Division etc. and tried to mash it all together, having the vibe of that era but making it sound modern. Cheese 80’s like Duran Duran or Wham has just the same stigma here as it does over there, but proper alternative 80’s is still considered cool.
As a former member of the punk pioneers Caffeine, guitarist JJ toured with AFI. What was his impression of the band? What other artists inspire you?
JJ: Yeah, we were touring with AFI and The Offspring at the same time. They were all very cool guys, I’m inspired by good music, whoever makes it. Have some big guitar hooks and catchy melodies, and they’ve got me.
Have you all always shared a love of industrial, techno and punk? How did you get to this point musically?
David: We’ve always been into the same kind of scene, but isn’t that what you do in life? You don’t hang out with people that you have nothing in common with musically or politically.
You mention there are a lot of political influences in Calling All Astronauts. Care to share your feelings on the riots in England? On the American Occupy movement?
David: Whilst we don’t condone the riots, and it has to be said that there were a lot of people out there profiteering, it’s the underlying current of a society of haves and never will haves that is the problem. A large percentage of a whole generation has nothing to aspire to. When The Pistols sang “No Future, No Future for you” I doubt they realized just how prophetic they were. It all started going wrong in the UK when Thatcher (who was probably the most evil woman in the world at the time) sold off public housing, which in itself was fine. However the money raised from selling the properties, rather than being ploughed back into public housing was used to bank roll tax cuts for her friends and supporters. She also privatized all the nationalized industries, the effect of which is plain for anyone to see every time they open their gas or electricity bill. The Greed society that has been the effect of consecutive right wing governments, and I’m including Tony B-Liar’s “New Labour” in that, has in the long term destroyed the very fabric of the society they purported to be trying to benefit. I’m right behind the occupy America movement. It is time people took to the street and said “enough is enough.” It was ace seeing NOFX playing at one of them.
U.S. alternative rockers seem to do very well in the UK. Any thoughts as to why? What is your band’s reception like in your homeland? The rest of Europe?
David: Why, now isn’t that the £1,000,000 question? I think there was a time when all you needed to be was American to get press here. However you have to bear in mind that there are 4 times as many people in the US, so there should be 4 times as many bands. Plus, it’s easier in the US for alternative rock bands to sign to major labels than it is in the UK and have the machinery behind them that signing for a major provides.
Things are building very nicely for us here. It’s all very organic. We do all our own recording, producing, mixing, press, radio, just about everything. The really gratifying thing is when somebody writes about us, or plays our songs on the radio. They do it because they like us and not because they are doing a favour for a PR or a plugger. We’ve had loads of radio shows worldwide getting behind us. If I’m honest it makes me feel really humble that people will give over 3 or so minutes of their life to us.
You’ve spent twelve months creating your debut album “Post Modern Conspiracy.” Did taking a year to make the record have any positive or negative effects on the group?
JJ: It only has a negative effect when David runs out of biscuits in the Studio.
David: We are family and we all just want to make the best records we can with the limited resources we have.
David, you’ve been doing a lot of the remixing and production for your album. What has that process been like?
David: It’s been a massive learning curve for me. I’ve taught myself to engineer/produce by a mixture of trial and error; watching videos on YouTube and ringing several producer mates of mine and screaming “help, me” down the phone. One of them now answers the phone to me with the words “Production helpline, please enter your credit card now.”
What are your thoughts on the current state of music? What would you like to see changed?
David: We are all told that the music industry is in difficulty. Isn’t that just because they force feed us crap? They try to dictate what people should listen to rather than release records that people want to listen to, plus bands all jump onto bandwagons. They see band X having a hit with one type of music so they try to make music like Band X rather than doing what they want to do. Hence, we now have like a million “indie” bands that sound like some sort of composit that falls somewhere between Fleet Foxes and Mumford & Sons.
Who are your current musical obsessions?
David: I’m getting very into the new school dubstep. I like Rednek a lot. It’s all very punk rock and I think that’s what I like about it.
If you had to name one thing as the proverbial glue that holds you together as a band, what would you say it is?
David: It’s very clichéd, but we are like family. Well, Kristi and I used to be married, so we are family. hahaha
You bring a lot of intensity to your live shows? Is that a product of the intensity of your music in general or are you all pretty intense people in general? What do you enjoy most about playing live vs. the recording and production process?
David: The message in our music is very intense, so I think that comes over in our live shows. Plus there always seems to be a fight as to whether the machines are louder than the guitars live, and I think everyone just keeps turning up, until ears start bleeding. The advantage of playing live is that you find out instantly if people like your songs. I love that.
Any possibility of touring in the U.S. in the near future?
JJ: I toured the US a few times with Caffeine. We played the Bamboozle Festival several times. I have some great memories of playing over there and I hope that we can get over there soon.
If you could send one message for everyone on earth to hear, what would it be?
JJ: Get the kettle on.