Astronomique is ready for its first full-length.
After a pair of EPs released two years apart, the synth-pop foursome has paired down and honed in on a more cohesive sound for Sharp Divide . The dark, danceable, disco stylings of Logan Andra Fongemie (lead vocals/synth), Sean Hogan (guitar/vocals), Mitch Billings (drums/vocals), and Preston Sari (bass guitar) on these 10 new sexy grooves make this LP the perfect house party soundtrack.
A few of the band members chimed in on the new album’s inner workings ahead of their performance at Day Block Brewing this Friday.
City Pages: How would you compare your sound on Sharp Divide to Astronomique’s previous releases? What’s remained consistent? What’s changed?
Logan Andra Fongemie: Sharp Divide is more organic and down to earth than our previous releases. When Astronomique began, we initially relied more heavily on electronics, like arpeggiators and electronic drums. In each record, we’ve been bringing in more of the human aspect and trading programmed parts for musicians playing instruments. I think it’s made our sound more “real” than computer-y, which is a better fit with the lyrical content. I feel the energy and intent we put into the music has remained consistent over time, as well as the honesty and introspection of the lyrics.
Sean Hogan: There was a big difference in overall song writing and mood between our first and second EPs, and I think we’ve solidified and perfected the feeling of what we did on our last EP on Sharp Divide: dark and moody vibe washed out with synths, delayed guitars, and dreamy vocals. Logan and I still sat down and put together the demos for this album together, but Mitch was more involved with writing the drum parts. Personally, I relied a lot on fuzz and distortion effects on previous releases – but stylistically chose to keep this clean utilizing more reverb, delay, and other modulation effects on my guitar parts to fit the mood of the songs and the lyrics.
Mitch Billings: I really do think you can hear an evolution in our sound throughout our releases. One thing that’s remained consistent is we do stay true to this synth-pop style of music.
CP: What takes precedence when making a song: danceability or lyrics?
LAF: I suppose lyrics would take precedence over danceability, although danceability is not necessarily a huge factor in our songwriting. Sometimes it’s a result, but not the main focus. In general, whatever turn the music takes when shaping a song is the direction we’ll go. So sometimes we end up with moody and introspective songs, sometimes groovier funky ones, and sometimes straight-up dance pop tunes. The lyrics are the final part of Astronomique’s writing process, but I’ve always felt lyrics are important even if they aren’t an initial part of our songwriting process.
MB: From the drum aspect of the music, a good beat definitely takes precedent to me, like: What can I contribute to the song in terms of the drum part that I’m writing? Especially when you are writing dancier songs, the drum beat can be a really big part of that.
CP: How do you keep songwriting and/or music-making fresh? Do you have any creative practices that get the juices flowing?
LAF: For this record, I decided to change up my lyric writing technique by using a cut-up method. I incorporated cut-ups from sci-fi books mixed in with my own material. I was curious to see what sort of ideas it would bring forth, as I’ve heard this method can tap deeper into your subconscious. It was cool because I’d arrange all the lyrics, start editing, and then realize somewhere along the way what the song was about. It ended up being quite a bit more interesting for me than just picking a topic and writing about it. More elements of mystery and surprise, I guess.
SH: We actually found for this record that getting in a consistent songwriting setting was far more beneficial than “waiting for a creative moment to strike.” A practice that was new for writing this record was that Logan and I would get together either once a week or once every other week for a few months so dedicate time to sitting down and fleshing out ideas or just trying to write. Whether it was successful or not in that particular session didn’t matter really – we were there and we were being creative. This practice led to us getting a whole lot of ideas completed in relatively short time frame as we released both the Mimic Forms singles and Sharp Divide in that time frame.
CP: What are the elements that go into a sexy song?
LAF: I’ve always felt that understated passion and honest emotion in lyrics are sexy. Nothing too over the top or cliché, which can come across as fake or cheesy. In terms of music, perhaps something you can move your body to in more of an easier, groovy kind of way.
CP: Talk about the origin of these lyrics: “This was the first time I had seen you since / We spent the night in your bed / You were better than the rest / If not for my mind / It could have worked out”
LAF: These lyrics originated as cut-ups, which have been edited to kind of tell a story. The song ended up being about the main character unexpectedly running into someone they’d slept with and/or briefly dated in the past, but things didn’t work out so well at the time. This brief interaction brought forward a rush of all those not-so-great memories, as well as the pull of attraction that was still there. So this situation ends up being almost like a test of strength for the main character, as they try to decide if they’re going to repeat the same situation again or stick with their resolution to move on.
CP: Tell the stories behind two more of the songs on the album.
LAF: The title track, “Sharp Divide,” is the most spiritual song on the record. It’s also the only song that didn’t take cut-ups from science fiction, but rather from a book on angels and healing. It talks about healing from pain, understanding death, and finding fulfillment through peace. Being a nurse and Reiki practitioner, these topics are a pretty integral part of my life. “Side of Your Mind” originated as this super hilarious jock jam demo that Sean wrote as a joke, like something you'd hear at a junior high school basketball game. Hilariously cheesy, completely unusable, and 180 degrees different from what the song is now. Ha ha. We decided, just for kicks, to see if we could turn it into something. And with some input from Knol Tate and Kristof Marden, it became what it is now - a dreamy, poppy, totally palatable disco song.
CP: Logan, are any of your nursing skills transferable to music or vice-versa?
LAF: A couple of the most important aspects of nursing are caring and honesty. Since I live these qualities in my career and daily life, I find that they transfer over to my songwriting as well—especially the lyrics. [Laughs] I suppose I could also patch up my bandmates in the event of an emergency.
With: Devan Mulvaney, Michael
Where: Day Block Brewing
When: 9 p.m. Fri. Aug. 24
Tickets: $5; more info here