Workin’ it out with ASTR

by Ashley Kolpak

New Yorkers Adam and Zoe make up the “Noir & B” duo, ASTR. Stemming from varied and kitschy influences, their sound encompasses elements of ’90s R&B diva mixed with moments of house, pop and dance. Appropriately enough, I caught up with the duo just after Zoe finished a morning yoga class (that’s where they first met). Adam is laid-back and Zoe bursts with energy and has a really giddy, personable sense of humor. It was easy to pick up on how they balance one another.

Ashley Kolpak: So, you and Adam met at a yoga studio, that must be an interesting story…

Zoe: I don’t even remember the first time we met, honestly. How we met is through a mutual friend at a yoga studio. One time we talked for more than 5 minutes in the cafeteria of that yoga studio in Union Square and it clicked. Normally, you’re meeting a writer through your publisher. You don’t know if they are legit or whatever, outside of that environment. It was organic, over time we got into a groove which over time became ASTR!

AK: Can you talk about how the Varsity EP came together, some highlights and challenges of the process?

Adam: You know, like Zoe was saying, when we hooked up to try to make music, we didn’t have any sort of game plan. So when we thought, “Let’s put out a record”, it took us a while. We were working on music that we thought was really interesting, and it took us a long time to get to that point. On the EP, some of the songs were newer and some were older. The whole process was very natural. We didn’t have any deadline. That’s pretty cool and the music sort of speaks for itself. The Varsity record encapsulates a first chapter of our experiences together.

AK: You recently toured some universities – what is the college crowd like, any different from urban shows? 

Z: You’d be surprised! Some of these colleges are big spaces and it’s actually a lot of fun. It really depends on what college you go to. A lot of these cooler schools, Duke and Syracuse, have such dope fan bases. Syracuse has the bad ass student community! They really get it. That age group has a huge influence on culture.

A: If you think about it, they want you to be there, they are searching you out and booking you for their school.There was that one time…oh, it was so bad, we were playing at a college at the same time as a basketball game and no one was watching us. So, don’t play at the same time as a basketball game.

AK:  Love that “Blue Hawaii” has a sample of Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody”… it’s a totally fun throwback. How do other 90s sounds influence your style? 

Z: Have you heard of Jock Jams? [AK: Yes, yes I have]. We are Jock Jams babies, we grew up on that stuff! That influenced us, and all that fun, cheerleader- dance, upbeat ’90s stuff that is already re-circuiting into the house music that’s coming out to today.

A: I mean, I still love that Crystal Waters jam…and CeCe Peniston! CeCe Peniston! [both start to giggle a bit in their fit of ’90s disco-soul singer nostalgia]

AK: Do you see your sound changing with the next album?

Z: I feel like the next album will be a complete package of the sound that we’re working on tight now. It will change over time… everything builds to this evolution, to find whatever’s inspiring .That’s why working on records can be so hard, you have this sound, this style that becomes so formulated like a machine with no soul. We want to keep it alive, keep it feeling good, so who knows what we will sound like on the next record!

AK: What can we expect from ASTR next?

Z: Expect some really fun glow-in-the-dark merch, a bad-ass tour with The Knocks on full length album in the next year.

AK: OK, a few quickies. Dream stage and artist to play on?

Z: I think Phil Collins. Bring him on tour!

A: Robyn

AK: Favorite song right now that’s not yours?

A: I really like Chris Brown’s “Loyal” [Laughs, still supports his choice]

Z: James Young, “Moondust

AK: Favorite song on your album?

Z: “Blue Hawaii“. It’s just fun, it’s never not fun. We’re putting out a music video for that soon, and that’s going to be extra fun also.

A: It’s a toss up between “Blue Hawaii” and “Operate” – “Operate” because that’s the one our fans love.

AK: Anything else you’d like to tell your fans?

Z: I hope they’re excited about the tour! We’re taking a look at the “Blue Hawaii” visuals today. I want to have a “Blue Hawaii” screening party in NYC, going to work on that today!