Former classical musician at UC Berkeley Anthony Ferraro and his band Astronauts, etc. begin their nationwide tour at the Rickshaw Stop starting June 30.
Since Astronauts, etc. broke out in 2012 with tracks “Mystery Colors” and “Coldboy,” the band has continued to evolve following the release of last year’s Sadie EP. Their new LP, Mind Out Wandering, will debut in September, which mixes organic, late-’70s-style soft-rock with lite-funk vibes in addition to some blue-eyed soul elements. Astronauts’ crooning vocals are accompanied by shimmering piano keys and subtle percussion, enhanced by the luscious guitar riffs and ambient synth splashes. Their style exhibits an exceptional yacht-rock vibe, frequently harnessing a strong yet easy groove that’s very easy get lost in.
Ferraro’s serendipitous meeting with Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi in 2012 helped catalyze his introduction to mainstream music. Over the next year, the two solidified a creative friendship that eventually led to Ferraro joining Bundick’s touring band. Encouragement and feedback from Bundick proved instrumental in Ferraro’s choice to continue with Astronauts, etc. Inevitably, Mind Out Wandering projects some funk-laced rhythms that Toro Y Moi has been known to create.
We spoke to Anthony Ferraro about living in the Bay Area, the formation of Astronauts, etc., and his balancing act between different music projects.
When did you make the transition from classical piano to modern electronic?
I was always interested in something more modern in the world of popular music. I was exploring that before I made the exit from the classical music world. It seemed liked a natural transition to make since I had a head start making that transition in college.
When health issues prevented me from being able to move forward in pursuing a classical career, it seemed like a less taxing way to physically continue making and performing music.
What type of health scare?
I have a rare form of arthritis that ultimately got to my fingers and made me not competitive enough to be a concert pianist, which is where I was hoping to head.
Did you eventually graduate from UC Berkeley?
Yeah, I dropped out for a year in the middle but I was able to graduate in 2013. I got a degree in Musicology, if you want to be specific but that kind of sounds like a made up word.
Do you still live in Berkeley?
No, I actually live in Oakland now close to Lake Merritt near downtown Oakland. I don’t make it over to Berkeley quite as often.
Where are your favorite night spots in the Bay Area?
I’m totally a hermit. I don’t go out a lot except for shows and stuff. I love Rickshaw [Stop], which is where we’re playing. Phenomenal venue. Phenomenal crew. I sing their praise whenever I get the chance. Outside of that – Great American, the Independent. Nice sized rooms before 400 – 700 cap where you get the intimate experience with the artist and not have to stand a football field’s length back. I like catching artists on their upward swing at those venues where they’re just starting to come up playing rooms that are bigger than dive bars but aren’t quite that large yet.
How did your form Astronauts, etc.?
I started releases tunes under the Astronauts moniker before conceiving of playing anything live. Before the end of college I started putting out a song every month. Once I started getting offers for shows, I decided to put together a band. I tried one show solo and it was abysmal failure. I need my buddies along for the ride. They actually ended up playing with me on this new record we’re putting out this year. We’re all recording together now. It’s been great to get them in on that process. It’s for a record to be released this year. It will be our first full-length. Not an EP but rather a full-length release.
How did you get the idea to record using fully analog technology at Tiny Telephone studio in San Francisco?
We recording our first full-length, we did a reaction against the electronic spin of the first two EPs. I wanted to make a statement that Astronauts is not to be pigeon-holed in any sort of genre or world. One of the clearest ways to do that was to go full live instruments in a studio rather than all electronic music in a bedroom. I just wanted to set the precedent of doing something different or trying to learn something new with every record or any new recording.
How have you been able to juggle your responsibilities for your other band Toro y Moi, as well as your solo EP and Astronauts etc.?
The difficulty mainly comes down trying to schedule shows because there’s only so many days in a year. If you tour without a record then of course of that release year is gonna be spent with Toro.
In terms of creating music while still being part of the long touring schedule and Toro. I don’t know. I feel like I’m sort of neurotic, If I’m not making something, I go a little bit crazy. I end up with a bunch of demos and its a process of deciding which ones are worth bringing to the band and trying to record the paper or recording tape. I don’t find a lot of difficulty in making time to record and stuff, but when it comes time to schedule tours and that sort of thing, it’s gonna be a challenge because there’s limited real estate on the calendar.
On that point though, it’s being announced today incidentally that we’re opening on the fall national tour with Toro y Moi. It’s kind of a super one-time scenario that mitigates that whole scheduling conflicts thing. You’re the first person I’m verbalizing that to. I’ll figure it out at some point. As far as endurance and all that goes, energy drinks may be the best way.
What is the Non-Market Collective and how did you get involved?
It’s basically a group of friends, bands in the Bay, primarily in Oakland, that wanted to band together and support each other in any way that they can. Whether that be cross promoting shows, attending shows, or helping bring attention to each other’s music. It’s approaching the world of the music industry in a really united type of way. We feel something special is happening in Oakland.
I think everyone part of the non-market collective has a different meaning. The name itself, non-market, has to do with our idea of being removed of trying to provide a place for ourselves and each other to be creative outside of an economic framework. On the one hand, if there’s any sort of Oakland renaissance, that’s great. On the other hand, we’re all dealing with the necessities of the economy. There’s a clash of new creative energy in Oakland and the cost of living starting to skyrocket and push people away. Trying to reconcile that gap I guess is one of the purposes for Non-Market.