Young Astronaut release debut album as free download and reply to our questions
Young Astronaut originated in the suburbs of the New Forest as a collaboration between brothers Chris and Pete Boakes in 2007. Whilst at different universities, they’d return home for the holidays and spent their time experimenting with their harmonious blend of music that is the foundation of the bands delicate tonality.
In early 2011, the melodic explorations of the acoustic ideas and lyrics were refined and evolved until 10 tracks were formed, creating the basis for Fawn. During that summer, drummer Niko Battistini joined the band adding a strong percussive shift to the band’s dynamic. This new sound was then complimented with a score of rough cellos and violins before being taken to The Ranch and produced by Geoff Swan, after which Paul Meeson joined them on bass guitar.
Young Astronaut release their debut album as a free download from 12th March 2012.
The 10-track LP, mastered by Jon Astley (The Who, Bon Jovi & The Rolling Stones), demonstrates a fusion of acoustic, folk and indie with lyrical content ranging from eternal innocence and sofa surfing to a love story between an artist and a villain.
The resulting record is an emotionally charged debut from Young Astronaut, blending influences from English night folk to post-grunge with a maturity and finesse that falls somewhere between Ben Howard, Frank Turner and a young Radiohead.
Here’s our interview with lead singer Chris Boakes and guitarist Pete Boakes.
How did the band form? How did you meet?
Chris: Pete and I are brothers. We’d already written the album before we added any of the other members. We wrote all 10 songs for about four years, then we added our drummer Niko and recently our bassist Paul.
Pete: We actually found Niko online; we needed a drummer and he needed a band to play with! It worked out really great, he was only 17 then and we’re really surprised at what he can do; he’s a really talented drummer.
What made you choose the name “Young Astronaut”?
Chris: We wanted a name that sounded cool, with no negative connotations. We brainstormed and we really like the word astronaut, and we just added young to it. Unfortunately there’s no real story behind it, it just fits well with our music, and it’s the same with the album name Fawn. It just sounds really nice.
What made you form a band?
Pete: We both play the guitar, and we’re from a musical background; both our parents play. We started playing when we were about 12 years old. Chris had been in a band beforehand, and I was experimenting with music. So we had some song writing behind us, and Chris was always from a singer-songwriter background.
Chris: The music that I was playing most of the time was more melodic, and it didn’t have much emphasis on guitar skills; it was more singing and writing melodies. When we started, Pete had a really strong talent on the guitar, and the combo of the two is how we got ourselves together.
Pete: We do music just because we love it; we always listen to music and we love playing. It sounds cliché, but we really enjoy playing together. It’s nice to be able to play; it just takes you away. A lot of the time when we’re playing, we’re just jamming for an hour or two, and you just lose yourself in the music, and you have a product in the end, which you can make into a song.
What genre do you consider your music to be?
Chris: It’s kind of an Indie-Folk-acoustic mix. When we wrote it, it was purely acoustic, but when we went to the studio we used a lot of different instruments; we used a lot of electric guitars, and with the drums it sounded quite Indie. A lot of the songs have folkie roots as well.
Who are your major influences?
Pete: When I was younger I listened to a lot of Metal and Rock, and as a guitar player I love musicians like Randy Rhoads; he’s my all time favourite guitarist. Chris started making me compilations of music, which opened me up to a lot of new music more aligned with our style. Nowadays I get a lot of my inspiration from albums by the Manchester Orchestra and the Gaslight Anthem, artists I really love.
Chris: For me, the band Say Anything’s album …Is a Real Boy has really honest and diverse lyrics, I hadn’t really heard anything lyrically like that before, and it make me consider the importance of good lyrics. That album made me think I need to write good lyrics for Fawn.
What are rehearsals like? Explain the music making process.
Pete: When we started it was quite fun, Chris and I wrote for about 4 years, so we had an idea of the sound we wanted, then Niko came in and added the drums straight away. He completely took it to a new level. So when we all started playing together it sounded great! We really enjoy doing it.
Chris: It’s pretty good fun! We all take our music seriously, but we all have a great sense of humour and like to have fun at the same time, so we’re always joking around.
Who writes your songs?
Chris: Pete and I wrote all the songs on the album. Niko writes all his drum parts. We give him the sets, and he works out the beats.
Pete: We hadn’t met him before so we thought we might have to change some of it, but he completely understood us straight away. Since our bassist just recently joined us last month, he hasn’t had a chance to do much in this album, but hopefully we’ll hear more from him in the next ones.
Are there any musicians you’d like to work with?
Chris: Since this is all quite new to us (it’s our first album!) we’re just happy playing together at the moment. In the future we’d love to work with some artists. It’d be really interesting to collaborate with someone who has a completely different musical angle than us, someone that is not in line with our style.
Pete: We’d love to collaborate with some artists, and we’d love to tour with certain bands. If we get the opportunity to tour with bands like Manchester Orchestra or Say Anything, and basically anyone else on my iPod, just to see how they are live.
Do you perform cover songs?
Pete: Before the album, we hadn’t actually done any gigs, since we only had the two acoustics and drums, so we went straight to the studio, and played gigs after that. We have so many ideas coming along, so when we do get the chance to play, we concentrate on our own material rather than covers.
Which band would you say you are most like?
Pete: Other people have said we’re like a young Radiohead, and in some parts slightly like Mumford and Sons. Apparently in the songs, when they are breakdowns with just a lyrical splurge, they’ve been compared to The Levelers’.
I understand you released your cover song as a free download. What was the reason behind this?
Chris: When you’re a new band who hasn’t played any live shows or doesn’t have much of a following, the best way to get one is just to give it away for free. Initial interest was going to be from our friends, who we didn’t want to charge as they’ve been supporting us anyway, and we just wanted people to hear it. I think the music industry is really competitive at the moment, especially for bands, so for people to give it a chance, they won’t really want to pay for it.
How do you feel about music censorship in general?
Chris: I don’t think music should be censored. I think when you start censoring things you begin to lose the honesty of the music. We have a complete right to freedom of speech, and I think we should be allowed to apply it to our music.
When you’re not working on music, what does the band like to get up to?
Pete: Chris and me get along really well. When we’d come home from uni, we would just hang out, go for a run, and things. Niko has very similar interests to us, so we’d all go out and get a drink.
Chris: Well since I work full-time, any free time the band has together we like to spend making music as it’s something we all enjoy doing.
Pete: Well, I’m job searching! And I’m learning to play the piano. Niko’s at college and he spend most of his spare time on the drums. He’s also really into martial arts.
What’s the most embarrassing experience the band has faced?
Pete: We’re from a little village near New Forest, and we went to a local pub to play a gig at an event. When we got there everyone was just doing top 40 chart covers; the charts were just being played over and over again. We were singing our own material, and I’ve never seen a less enthusiastic audience before. But as a small band, you have to have those kinds of gigs.
Chris: We haven’t had many embarrassing experiences, but when we were recording we would prank out producer Jeff a lot. We’d do stuff like go on his Facebook page, and mess around with things. It wasn’t really as embarrassing for us as it was for him.
What are the best and worst parts about being in a band?
Chris: I think the best parts are just doing what you enjoy, and definitely seeing people enjoy it as well. For me, the most rewarding part about recording this album was seeing people’s reactions when they’re listening and enjoying it. The worst parts are just the admin work we have to do, which is really tiring.
Pete: Admin work is really time consuming, just sending emails out, and trying to push the band forward. We love people listening to our music, but spending hours sending out emails isn’t much fun when we could be making music. We originally made this album for ourselves, but when we get positive feedback from people who have genuinely enjoyed it, it really means a lot to us; we really appreciate all the positive comments.
What are your hopes for the near future?
Chris: We can’t wait to get started on a new album
Pete: We recorded Fawn, so we have studio experience, and we’ve learnt a lot musically by playing live shows. I think the next album will probably refine our sound a lot more.
Do you think you’ve changed as musicians over time?
Chris: Definitely! We’ve progressed as musicians. We’re more comfortable with writing together. At first we spent a lot of time working on the lyrics. If you look at my lyrics from when I was 16-17 years old, compared to now, there’s a dramatic difference. Like I chose not to use the word love in the entire album, because I thought it’s been done too many times before.
Pete: We do have a song about love in the album The Artist and the Villain, but we’ve taken a different angle than regular chart songs.
What are the lyrics based on?
Chris: I write all the lyrics because I think it’s easier this way; if two people are writing them, they could have different opinions on the same topic. The album has a lot of themes, like the song Broken Teeth is literally about when I broke my teeth.
What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?
Chris: Give out your album for free! If you’re genuinely serious about making music, then you should do it. Realistically you’re not going to make a lot of money on your first album, so giving it out just so people can hear it is always good.
Pete: When you start out, people expect you to do a lot of things that have already been done. Just play music you enjoy! We don’t write songs because we think they’ll be in the charts, we play because we enjoy it.
Thank you Chris and Pete!
Listen to Young Astronaut’s debut album in full here.