Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Music journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
Zoe Anna and A.D.A.M. were languishing artistically, working on music tailor made for the mainstream, but creatively unfulfilling. A chance meeting at a yoga studio would bring the two together, at which point ASTR was born, and rules were broken.
A.D.A.M. describes the musical transition the electronic soul-pop duo were happy to make, saying, “If you’re signed to a record company, or you’re writing for some sort of big artist, or trying to do that, you set up all these rules, and these guidelines.” Adam has experience with those rules having worked on movie scores (Final Destination, Mirror Mirror), and written for Taylor Dane. With ASTR, however, he notes, “We got rid of those rules, and just ended up trying to write songs that we were really into, without any sort of guide. That allowed us to just sort of be ourselves.”
The first taste of ASTR came in the form of their single “Operate,” which is off of their recently released EP, Varsity. Zoe describes the writing process for the song, which is a dark track, featuring distorted vocals, saying, “I think I just said ‘operate’ in the studio and we were like oh, this is some psycho thriller shit, and we were inspired to go down that path.” She adds, “We definitely tend to make darker music. There’s also the bubbly end of the spectrum, but the darker stuff is deep. It feels good to be in.”
The darker stuff is also a completely different direction for Zoe, who is the daughter of Tommy Boy Records founder Tom Silverman, and once experienced life as a member of a teen pop group. The latter being something she’d rather forget.
Embracing the darker side of music, Zoe says, “I think a lot of art comes from darkness, and you just feel a lot. When things are good all the time sometimes you don’t appreciate the depth, and the good, as much, so it’s a lot more feeling.” She continued, adding, “Everyone has their own struggle, and I think that’s where it comes from. It’s not dark towards others, it’s more like internal suffering, a little struggle. If you don’t have that struggle it’s hard to make anything that’s really deep, (it’s) like you haven’t lived.”
Zoe and A.D.A.M.’s mainstream backgrounds were actually what helped them discover their appreciation for darkness and struggle, and along with throwing out the rule book, Zoe says their individual pasts inspired them to set some unique goals for themselves.
When it comes to the music of ASTR, Zoe explains she and A.D.A.M. wanted, “To not be so contrived, and methodical, and thought out,” adding that the creation of their Varsity EP was, “Super minimal ... just like DIY all the way, stripped down, and rather than having an idea, don’t have any idea, and be yourself.”
In an ironic twist, their desire to work without a plan came about as a result of a very concrete plan Zoe had that A.D.A.M. was completely unaware of. After the two initially met at the yoga studio, A.D.A.M., who notes their meeting did not occur during a class, and did not happen mid-pose, says he felt, “It wasn’t right off the bat like here we are, we’re this band, let’s go write our songs.” According to Zoe, however, “That was always my master plan, that we were gonna be partners, and this was gonna be this.”
The sweat of the yoga studio has translated to the stage, and the crowd, at ASTR’s live shows, as Zoe states, “If your makeup is not sweating off your face, I haven’t done my job.”
A.D.A.M., however, admits he had initial worries before their first show, saying, “I didn’t know how well the songs would translate live because we weren’t coming from hey, we’re playing this bar every Friday night. We came from the studio, basically, so for us to take the songs live, and see them work, and have them work in that way where we basically do a dance party, that’s pretty awesome.”
A dance party is how ASTR operates live, as their darkness turns to sweat, and after toiling for years in an industry that wouldn’t allow them be the artists they always knew they were, Zoe and A.D.A.M. are reveling in proving rules are meant to be broken.
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.