Joshua Jenkins (@_alfieparker)
A vibe unmatched, the crew at Astro Nautico delivered a progressive way in showcasing artists deservingly seeking an audience. I got the feeling that the background of those in attendance come from garage rock and when boom bap ruled hip-hop before 808’s. For those who’ve experienced the Bonnaroo’s and Coachella’s of the world, you might’ve felt slight remembrance on that Saturday event, but something without a doubt felt different.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Kuhn of Astro Nautico, and chopped it up about the event’s course in operations. I couldn’t help but notice the movement and interaction with everyone felt like a reunion for those unsettled by whatever is place in front of them. The confidence in this type of event lies in the faith that it’s shaping a new concept in how to showcase musicians. Clashing shoe glaze, trap, synth-pop, acid house or all other miscellaneous titles would be irrelevant for what these guys wish to prove; more so that these artists in their respective areas can show out and enjoy each other’s music.
It started off with a outdoor chill session on the patio of Trans-Pecos, a venue in Ridgewood, New York. Standout sets included RDBN and Paxico Records with this period serving as an area for artist exchanges and grilling out. Moving inside left us with some variety after Astro Nautico, Sam + Dave and Tomboy started off round two, while the basement floor opened up with Michael Jukeson and others. The versatility between the sets were like no other. The upstairs vibe slowly worked into a band embodied atmosphere with live instrumentation while the basement had a classic after hours feel. There was a standard dark, grungy setting with electrifying sounds from each producer/DJ that stepped up which gave you the feeling each track was meant for you, personally.
The show at it’s highest moment needed to be strategic having IGBO and Swim Team sharing set times. Hearing IGBO on Soundcloud and then seeing how exotic that cast looked made so much sense. It appeared every band member's outfit was complemented by a suede jacket/boot combo and a raccoon tail hat. Of course, they rocked out but it was a necessity to head to the basement for the Swim Team set. Luckily for me, I showed up right as Izy got on the mic, which was the perfect segway from the more spiritually enlightened tunes from IGBO to what might have been the rawest rap performance taking place in West Queens this summer.
To headline were the sounds from Sonnymoon where Anna Wise and Dane Orr were very patient in making sure that sonically, their performance matched their expectations. Wise wasn't shy in slightest as it wasn't surprising to find her dancing in the crowd throughout their set. To cap off the night, AceMo + Photay merged for a set and had everyone left at the venue moving before we all stumbled our way home from exhaustion. One can only think how exciting the turnout for Space Camp this year was and how quickly all obligation will be dropped after discovering what the guys at Astro Nautico have scheduled next.
As the show progressed, I had a chance to chop it up with Kuhn of Astro Nautico and Sara of Tomboy. Check out the brief sit down with both artists below as well as a few photos.
AP: How you say this atmosphere or event caters to you guys compared to other opportunities?
Sara: Well, I think that for us, we're not a band that really rides well with a rock scene and playing electronic with other producers and stuff. It really melts well with people dancing and people want to dance to our stuff too, even though it can be outside of that world because we have live instruments and vocalists and things like that. But also, I just like this group because everybody wants to listen to everybody else's music, ya know? In New York, sometimes you play a show with five people back to back and you're ready to leave by the time you've already played and that community is not as strong. But I feel like with these guys, everyone's trying to help the other person out. And I really like that [especially] in a big place like this.
Not to box anything in, but how you describe your sound and movement in terms of music right now?
Kuhn: That's a great question. I would say Astro Nautico is definitely not into boxes. We have a circular logo for a reason. I think Astro Nautico is all about things coming full circle [and] things come back around. Like reaching back into the history of music to ideas that were important and brought back to life in new ways. So that's what were always trying do - interpret the past. We inherited the history of digging in hip-hop. We inherited the history of communal gathering from house music and I'd say were just right now hovering through all of the amazing offshoots of those historical tracks of music, which those themselves comes out of so many other ones back back [then]. But I find that as we reach back, we also reach forward.
I'm curious as to how the movement began with you guys, from how you came together and how you feel this particular event still embodies the festival idea but still caters to a different crowd and atmosphere?
Kuhn: Astro Nautico began between myself - Kuhn - and my two friends from Huntington, Long Island who I grew up with: Sam Obi, who goes by Obey City, and Paul Jones. The three of us, because we grew up together, the bond is the foundation of our musical projects. It's not like a music business type of bond. It's not even just an aesthetics bond. Like these are my two really close friends. I was hanging out with them long before we were doing this. We used to play in bands long before we were doing this. We used to play in bands going all the way back. That kind of camaraderie is the foundation of Astro Nautico.
And what has happened over the years is that it's grown outward, and it's the kind of strange, oblique gravity that just keeps on pulling in a very beautiful way. All these other people, in an enticing way, to make that decision to join that family. It's like not a network - it's a family of people.
Yeah, I was talking to Ace earlier and he was saying how him and Swim Team had their first gig here with you guys. That's pretty dope to hear.
Kuhn: Yeah to put on for younger artists and be in that position, it's amazing. There was this shift at one point. We were like, "Well, it's not our first time anymore". We've been throwing parties for seven years to get to this point. So like an event like this celebrating our five-year anniversary of Astro Nautico, and to see so many faces that are friends and new faces that are coming in [is great]. I always worry about the people I don't recognize, like, "who's that dude in the corner with his laptop", or "who's that young women in the corner and what's on her brain right now and what's she's gonna do?" Like it might not even be music. We're trying to inspire people to be creative. It's an intense thing for us - a real personal thing, a political thing. We're gonna be branching out a lot in the next year and be like a bigger representation of what we're coming from in the community here.
How do you feel about that in terms of shedding light on the underdog and the non-traditional elements of music, but still finding the balance where it caters to people who may not be familiar with this sound?
Kuhn: It's funny being in the music business where you're trying to sell someone a sound. That's not how we got into it. We didn't get into this selling sounds. We put out 17 releases of free music just straight up and those artists have gone on to work with labels such as Domino, Triangle, Lucky Me, Civil Music - you know, all these big labels. But what we were trying to do was not force our music on anyone. Just put it out there to see what would happen like a signal shot out into the ether. And we don't even know what that signal means. Like a signal shot out into space, and hopefully there's some life form out there that's gonna receive it and understand it.
And what we've found is that people are sending signals back and crazy other languages that we could never speak before. So that's what's keeping us moving, and that's how we're drawing new people into our sound. It's like this crazy feedback loop where they discover that they themselves are already apart of that sound and that's part of where I'm coming from with already living the past everyday in so many ways, especially musically. That's the way I view this growing decentralized project. It's not a wave, it's not a movement and it's not a record label at the end of the day in some ways. I really think it's something special. And I don't mean that in an egotistical way. I think that anyone who works from their heart [and] who works with friendship in mind and has some perspective about what they're doing can do this in any art form, any medium and even outside of traditional art forms.