Interview: Astragal Make Music To Excite Themselves

Posted: by The Editor

The Houston-based three-piece Astragal’s work is shimmery and hazy, in the likes of Launder and Remember Sports. Part dream-pop, part shoegaze, the band fuses skittering guitar solos with taut vocals and an overall plushness. It’s coasting, but it’s still choppy. Lead vocalist Jimmy Bent and I dove into the band’s name and his transition from being an unsure musician who followed predetermined paths, to gaining the confidence to experiment and strive for self-fulfillment.

The Alternative: You named your band after Albertine Sarrazin’s novel, “Astragal.” What made you decide to do so?

I found the book a year prior to the band’s formation, when I wasn’t playing music as much. I was sad about that. During that time, I was trying to experience new things and be more spontaneous. It was during an uncertain time of my life. The main character of “Astragal” deals with uncertainty in an optimistic way. It’s about escaping the norm. I found a lot of solace in that book.

How did you get your start in music?

I come from a family of bluegrass musicians. I started playing violin when I was five or six. I was in a couple emo bands and one synth-pop band before Astragal. Someone in the scene asked me to play synthesizer for his emo band. I wasn’t even into emo music, but I said yes anyways because I looked up to him so much. I said yes to anything music-wise during that period of my life, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to do.

Were you a people pleaser?

I’m very much a people pleaser. I’m trying to change that. Astragal is the music that I’ve dreamed about playing since forever, but held off on because I had that attitude of not doing what I want. With Astragal, we like to make music that’s exciting for ourselves first and exciting for other people second. When I was starting out, I joined a band with my friends and modeled it off of Tiny Moving Parts. I didn’t listen to any of that music, so I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t feeling a sense of completion at all. But I can’t discount all the great experiences I had in those other bands. I became such a better player because of it.

What do you like about Houston’s scene?

Houston doesn’t have zoning laws, meaning there’s less red tape for people looking to open businesses. It’s one of the most diverse cities in the state. There aren’t just corporations; there’s also a lot of things that are made with people’s hands. That culture exists in the music scene, too. New bands and venues arise frequently. The scene becomes refreshed all the time. Amazing bands pop up, but in a year, they’re gone. It’s prone to change.

How did Astragal form?

I went to a Beach House show and saw this guy in an Animal Collective shirt. We complimented each other’s shirts, but didn’t talk much. A couple weeks later at a DIIV show, I saw the same guy in the same shirt and recognized him. Then, we got to talking about music. I told him that I was bummed about not playing in a band at the moment and even considering selling my gear. He said that we should meet up to make music. He met someone named David on craigslist, who became our third member. We all bonded over a shared love of Sonic Youth. 

How did you craft the concept for the “Moderne Luxury” video?

We had really grown as musicians stylistically and emotionally since our first EP. We became more mature and introspective. The cover for our first EP was a window pane with a rose. The video shows the rose with the knife. And that’s kind of what we were doing—cutting off anything from our past and moving forward.

What’s your favorite dessert?

Key lime pie. I go through phases where I’ll eat a dessert over and over until I don’t like it anymore, then never eat it again. In the past, my favorite desserts have been caramel Ghirardelli chocolates, cheesecake and plain white cake without icing.

Bineet Kaur | @hellobineet

The Alternative is ad-free and 100% supported by our readers. If you’d like to help us produce more content and promote more great new music, please consider donating to our Patreon page, which also allows you to receive sweet perks like free albums and The Alternative merch.