Interview - Dead Astronauts

Hello! First I wanted to thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions. The NRW community loved your album and would love to learn more about you. 

 Hayley: The pleasure is ours! We're thrilled to be here.

 Jared: Likewise, we are both followers of NRW, so honored to be a part.

 Let’s start basic: Who are the members of Dead Astronauts and how did you form?
H: Dead Astronauts is made up of Jared and I. He approached me a few years ago through Soundcloud to do some vocals on DA's very first single, Favorite Lover, and immediately after asked if I wanted to be a permanent member of the band. We were still experimenting with different roles and debating if we needed another person on board, but we ended up sticking to just the two of us since we seemed to work so well together. Soon after, my role as vocalist turned into vocalist and producer, and it hasn't changed since.

J: Yeah we had struggled for a bit with another producer early on, but it didn't seem to be the right fit. Hayley took a stab at producing "In Disguise" and it worked out nicely. Although I do a bit of the production, I just normally serve to help direct some of it, Hayley has all the technical aspects of it nailed down.

How would you describe your music? What genre or genres would you classify yourselves as?
H: Hmm, that's a tough one. We're definitely 80s inspired, but it shines through in some songs more than others. I think it's somewhere between neo-80s synth pop and coldwave. But then there's songs like our remix of Unhappy Woman that totally goes against that, ha ha. Our sound definitely shifts shape a little bit each time we work on a new track. Our music is usually dark, vocal, and fairly danceable.

J: I use to want to fit us into a specific genre, but I like how we've been able to sort of mutate these different sounds to become a mash-up of a few genres. I like the diversity in that because we can explore the darker side of things on one song, and then the next get into this synth-pop sort of vibe.

Who would you say are your biggest influences musically?
H: I think that some elements of Joy Division, New Order and Depeche Mode have definitely influenced our sound. Junior Boys, too. Both Jared and I have similar taste so it's bound to come through at some points, although it definitely changes here and there. 

J: Hayley said it.

What is your recording set-up?
H: Jared and I both record everything in our respective "home studios" (I use quotations because mine is literally a Blue Mic in front of my computer). I work on the production in Logic, usually while chatting with Jared in Skype and broadcasting the audio for what I'm working on. When he needs to record, I upload a little bounced instrumental file to our Dropbox, he records, sends me his files, and we continue on like this. It sounds like a lot of steps, but it all happens pretty simultaneously. Sometimes he'll have vocal ideas along with a basic skeleton of a track, and I will rework the track around his vocals.

J: Computer, Blue mic, Sennheisser HD 380 Pros, M-Audio speakers, Ableton, and FL Studio. I'm far from pro at this music thing, but man I do enjoy it. 

What is your songwriting process?
H: Jared is pretty much the go-to guy for that. He usually has lyrics ready that he wants to use, so I build a track around it - although the opposite happens quite often too. Every now and then I will come up with a few lines to add to the tracks, but for the most part they are based around Jared's writing. The man has a stockpile, I tell you!

J: Like Hayley said we normally toss ideas back and forth a few times. They are either built off an instrumental idea that Hayley had, or a vocal idea that I had, but again, at times it works differently. I remember for "In Disguise" I had a beat, bassline, and this eerie bell sound laid out with some vocals, sent them to Hayley, and what I got back was this georgeous, polished song. If it could work that seamless every time... we'd have 4 albums by now.

What is the origin of the band mascot, Persephone?
H: Persephone was a brainchild of Jared and Glenn Arthur. Maybe I'll let him answer this one. 

J: I had used the Persephone character in a number of personal (illustration) pieces years back, so the character just stuck with me. I'd approached Glenn Arthur about re-envisioning her, and he came up with this darker side of her I hadn't seen yet. The crystal antlers, partial skull mask etc. were all these additions unique to the Dead Astronauts version of Persephone. We fell in love with her, and I'm hoping she'll stick with us through the years as DA.

The way your band embraces art and animation makes it seem as much a media project as a musical project. Was this an intentional direction that you have taken?
H: Definitely! Both Jared and I work in visual fields (Jared with Illustration, myself with photography) so it's always on our mind when thinking about what we can do with our band. Since we're so far away from one another geographically, it's a little tricky to do live shows - so we have to add a little something extra. It's been great to collaborate with artists who are so talented, even when we were just starting out and no one really knew who we were, ha ha.

J:Yeah we really wanted to make listening to our music an overall "experience". Naturally that would be achieved through a live show or music video, but since we are fairly new to this, we had to start out a bit more simple. We were both surprised when so many artists agreed to take part in the project, I think there are over 30 now. We owe them a lot.

In less than a month the physical copies of your Constellations have sold out. I still stand by it as one of my favorite releases of the year regardless of genre. Did you anticipate Constellations to be as well received as it has been?
H: Aw, thank you so much! I was definitely pleasantly surprised - I honestly didn't know what to expect. Most of our fans knew us from collaborations with artists like Perturbator and DJ Ten, who are so unbelievably talented and ooze the 80s, so it was intimidating since the album is pretty different from some of those sounds. It felt like this secret project Jared and I had been working on for years without very much insight into how people might receive it. I am so thrilled that people seem to like it though, especially since looking back there's always things you want to change, ha ha. I think we're excited to move forward and see where our next projects take us.

J: "Not knowing what to expect" was a big thing for us. Being artists, you always have that nagging feeling in the back of your head that what you are doing isn't good enough. I think it hit us half way through the album, maybe even sooner, that we wanted to make music we were proud of, music we would listen to, something that was unique, no matter the public's reaction. I think we achieved that. Both Hayley and I are proud of the album. Like anything, looking back there are things we'd do differently, but overall we are very happy with both the response we've received from the public and of course the overwhelming support for the album. Also, it was a big surprise to see you enjoyed the album so much. I stumbled across the review one day and remembered reading it twice over with a smile on my face.

What are your favorite non-musical things to do?
H:  An obvious one for me is photography - I haven't been updating my site very much, but I've been doing a lot of work recently that looks at identity and different subcultures. On a less pretentious note, I have rekindled my love of sewing, ha ha. Recently that's translated into working on cosplays. If we're getting real casual, an ideal night for me involves some friends, a cat, some gin, Super Smash Bros, Settlers of Catan and really stupid videos on the internet.

J: Besides time spent with my wife and 2 dogs (Apollonia and Persephone), I'm a Footwear Designer and Graphic Illustrator/Designer by day, freelancer illustrator by night, and "musician" anywhere in between. Besides those though, I'm an avid video gamer, Lego builder, classic anime robot collector, and all round space travelling mega playboy... yeah that last one is a lie, I'm more like an intergalactic lumberjack.

What’s your favorite Dead Astronauts song?

H: Probably Parallel Universes. My favorite track right now is actually one we're working on that we haven't finished yet. ;)

J: Honestly, I love the simplicity of "The Ocean Owns Your Body", but that's kind of cheating because it's a bonus track, so official album, I'd have to say either "Parallel Universes" or "Taking Control". Taking Control mainly because it holds a special place in my heart as I wrote it for my brother.

Check Dead Astronauts out on Facebook, Twitter, and their website.

- Joey Edsall

Joey Edsall

Joey Edsall was born and raised near Scranton, Pennsylvania. He has always immersed himself in art, being an avid fan of film and music and an amateur creator of both. In addition to the electronic production aspect of music, he is the lead guitarist of Scranton-based post-hardcore band Give Us Your Bones. It was his love of film that initially drew Joey to NRW and the unique sounds of the genre, through modern classics like Drive and retro classics like Big Trouble in Little China. He is also a middle school English teacher. Email: