Astro Children open up about the new album and the state of the Dunedin music scene

02 August 2017 by Fraser Thompson

music news interview astro children

Recently I caught up with Millie from Astro Children to discuss their new album, One Direction, and general feelings on the Dunedin music scene.

This is a boring question but how would you describe your music?

It might a boring question but I still don’t have an answer. Whenever I get asked that I’m like I don’t know, it’s loud?

It’s kind of hard as well because our new album is quite different to other stuff that we’ve put out. I mean live it’s still Astro Children and it’s still very loud and very aggressive and I do a lot of yelling and stomping my feet so there’s that… But I guess we’ve kind of lent into the much more discordant side of my songwriting. I think we’ve always been discordant but I’ve been really playing with these quite dissonant… dissonant melodies sounds like a really silly thing to so but yeah, I’ve been writing quite melodic pop songs but they’re still kind of quite jarring because I like to play really disgusting chords and try to make them sound not nice but catchy.

Yeah, I noticed that your live sound is pretty different from your studio sound. Was that deliberate?

Yeah I think so. I love recording. I don’t like recording myself but I like working with other people to record because I think other people can pick out really different parts of the song. When we’re playing it live for me it’s quite a visceral experience and I tend to try to feed off the crowd and feed off how I’m feeling on any given day, and it’s a huge release for me to play those songs so it often ends up a lot more aggressive and performative than it is on the record. With those records I can take more time and I have to think about how I want those songs to come across as kind of a permanent record. So the recordings have to encompass a whole lot more than the live recordings, the live recordings can change and kind of fluctuate.

So is this new album still Nick Graham producing?

This one we did with Jonathan Pearce up in Auckland. He’s in the The Beths, he’s in basically every band. He’s a great guy, really really amazing working with him. Very talented musician and producer.

Cool, Looking forward to hearing it. Are you still doing your masters on One Direction?

I finished it in February and I’m spending a bit of time turning it into a journal article, so I’m still working on that but I have for all intensive purposes finished my masters.

I think you’ve probably been asked this before, but why One Direction?

I mean they’re the band of the 2000s… Well I dunno if they’re the ‘band’, they’re the group of the 2000s and I don’t think there’s been anything like it before. We’ve had boy bands before and boy bands have produced really really interesting social phenomenon but nothing quite like One Direction. The way that they interacted with social media and that kind of massive social media response has driven the mass media response to One Direction, they just created this feedback loop between themselves and their fans and it’s fascinating.

I think they kind of influenced some of the most incredible literary works of the 21st century.. I dunno, a lot of academics don’t agree with me on that, but the fan texts that One Direction fans produce are fascinating. They’re so clever, and the grasp that these girls have on identity and how it’s shaped and how it’s constantly in flux and it doesn’t really mean anything so you can do whatever you want with it is just remarkable. Like I don’t think as an academic I understand identity as innately as these girls.

So yeah, I think for all that they are caught up in this kind of capitalist hetero-normative machine they’ve been hugely positive for their massive female fanbase. So yeah, that’s why One Direction. And also they’re just fun, they make me happy.

I still need to listen to One Direction… To be honest I feel like I need to get over the elitist “it’s pop music” thing

Yeah, I mean when I first started listening to One Direction it was 2014, so three years ago. It was really funny watching people respond to me saying that I was listening to One Direction. Like they were actually really upset about it. Like “you’re not allowed to do that, you’re an indie pop girl” and I was like I can actually do whatever I want, and I’m not indie I’m a my chemical romance fan.

But yeah, that kind of elitist response is so ingrained in alternative circles. I think people need to take a step back and think about why they really hate One Direction. And usually it’s because they haven’t really heard any of the songs and they just kind of assume the teenage girls are an indication that it’s stupid which, I mean, deeply rooted in internalized misogyny and lots of nasty stuff so…

Yeah… I’m trying to think if there’s kind of a male equivalent of One Direction which appeals to teenage boys? I guess like Skrillex maybe?

Yeah I guess… I don’t know if there is an equivalent really but I guess the kind of level of emotional response you can see that in football fans and I don’t know what grown men listen to but Nickelback? I dunno that’s probably mean, I don’t know if Nickelback has a particularly aggressive fanbase, but that kind of really intense connection when it’s coming from a male audience is taken a lot more seriously than when it’s coming from particularly young women. But people forget that it’s young women who gave us The Beatles. I’m not a Beatles fan but I can appreciate that a lot of people are, and a lot of men are. I got asked a lot when I started my thesis well why don’t you write it about The Beatles? I don’t care about the beatles…

This is kind of a broad question, but how do you feel about the music scene in Dunedin?

I think it’s dead at the moment. I mean there are some really sick highschool bands unfortunately I don’t get to see them basically ever but I know there are some like Painted Blind and really great bands coming up from highschool. I can’t think of names off the top of my head but going around the Amped project last year I was really impressed with young bands but I think compared to what was happening in 2015 there’s really just nothing going on. I guess there’s None Gallery which is picking up the slack with shows but with no venues it’s really hard in that sense.

Generally I think there’s a lot of really spineless musicians in Dunedin. I’ll get in trouble for saying that but it’s true, it’s very insular and you end up with little cliques of people doing things and there’s a tendency to think that because you’re recording demos and your friends are recording demos and you’re talking to each other about your music that that constitutes a scene and in my opinion it doesn’t. I think it needs to be more of a collective effort than that. And that’s why I think what None Gallery provides is great and we try to have things at The Attic but it’s difficult, and yeah. DIY ventures are difficult and I wished we had more venues but we don’t.

Did you hear about what happened to Social Morays?

No.

Yeah it’s more a sort of an art space than a venue but they’ve been really struggling with their landlord not being too keen on them doing shows.

Yeah, that’s the tricky thing. The council regulations are not working in our favour.

Sadly they might be closing.

That seems to be the way things are going.

And I guess it’s hard to support a venue without selling alcohol?

Yeah, sadly. I guess places like re:fuel can sustain themselves because they’re a student bar the majority of the time, and the crown can sustain themselves as a pub, but other places like Chicks really relied on gigs and if people weren’t buying food they weren’t making enough money.

I was going to ask if you have any cool music you’ve been listening to you’d like to recommend?

It’s always a hard question for me. I listen to a lot of pop music. It’s like comfort food for me. I find it difficult to actively seek out indie music I guess, although I’m really into the new Aldous Harding album. What a performer, what a vocalist. I love Melodrama, been blasting that for weeks. I’m closely following all of One Directions solo careers, slamming the Harry Styles album and the new Louis Tomlinson single. But aside from kind of obsessively listening to pop music I’ve been spending quite a lot of time listening to classical music and learning the Cello. So I’ve been immersing myself in quite a lot of bach and schubert, string quartets.

Are you going to work the cello into Astro Children?

Maybe not Astro Children, but it’s on the repulsive woman single.