Discover the magical world of Astrachan, where indie melodies entwine love and adventure, crafting pure lo-fi brilliance.
Ben Astrachan, the mastermind behind this solo recording project, takes us on an enchanting journey through heartfelt tunes that leave listeners tapping their feet and reminiscing about life’s delicate moments.
From his early influences, like Pink Floyd, to his love for creating energetic, yet introspective tunes, Astrachan’s music lingers in the minds of his audience, evoking a sense of meditation and joy.
With his latest single, “Emerald,” he seamlessly blends infectious beats with emotive lyrics, delivering a captivating musical experience. Proudly embracing his family history through the moniker “Astrachan,” Ben’s music becomes a heartfelt invitation to share in his own intimate stories and universal experiences.
Happy: What are you up to today?
Astrachan: Im actually on the road today with Smushie! We’re headed from Chicago to Davenport Iowa to play at Raccoon Motel.
Happy: Tell us about where you are from? What’s the music scene like in your neck of the woods?
Astrachan: I’m originally from New Haven Connecticut, the pizza capital of the world in my opinion, but I grew up in West Hartford Connecticut.
Honestly there wasn’t really a music scene in the same way I would think about it in my 20’s.
I was a theater and choir kid, so there was a lot of classical and jazz going on.
I didn’t go to my first house show until I was 18: I drove into Hartford and it was in this super dank basement.
There was a static TV playing and everyone was young and drugged out. It was a very weird vibe and kind of turned me off to the “indie music” scene for a long time.
Happy: Describe an average day?
Astrachan: I try to exercise and cook a good meal every day. I’m a baker and I love to cook so I usually knead some dough and when the dough is resting I’ll exercise.
When I’m done with that I’ll knead the bread some more and let it rest some more!
Then I’ll try and write and play some music, maybe head to the studio that I share with Austin Koenigstein of Smushie.
Then I’ll try and see some buddies at night. I also work a few days a week at a hospital as a counsellor for folks with eating disorders, so on those days I usually won’t write or head to the studio.
Happy: What about your ultimate day?
Astrachan: An ultimate day would be to wake up super early in the mountains and walk for hours. Just jumping and hollering in the alpine.
Anything involving being surrounded by conifers and extra clean air. Being in a place with no internet or service being next to your best friend or a close family member.
Doing some backcountry cooking, picking dandelions and nettles to put in a tasty pesto. Just something simple like that you know?
Happy: What did you listen to growing up that fuelled your passion for music?
Astrachan: I grew up listening exclusively to Pink Floyd. I was absolutely obsessed. I used to write very similar to them – super dark, energetic, brooding, progressive tunes.
I still love them, but I don’t listen nearly as much as I used to.
Honestly though I don’t know if they fueled my passion for music. I feel like when I went to college, listening to people my age or folks a little bit older than me when I was writing for myself is what really made me feel excited about music.
It made me feel like I was a part of community of artists, even with people I didn’t know or had never even met in person.
It was a special feeling. I’m definitely more jaded about that outlook now but I remember that being a lovely and innocent thought.
Happy: We are curious about your stage name, can you tell us about how it came about?
Astrachan: So it’s my last name. I’ve always been super intrigued by my family history. I come from a Jewish background, and I’m practising at this point in my life, but have very much reinvented what Judaism means to me.
There’s a town close to the border of Georgia right on the Caspian Sea called Astrakhan that my ancestors come from.
They were all living on a Shtetl selling furs and wools during the pograms. Astrakhan wool is a very special type of wool from a newborn lamb that’s very tightly curled.
It’s really beautiful. My family has nothing to do with furs and wool now, it was honestly a poor mans business for a Jew in Russia at the turn of the century.
But something about my ancestors, my family, just really interests me. My grandfather Boris and His brother Sam were both patriarchs in my family on my dad’s side, but I didn’t know either of them that well.
They passed away when I was very young. But I find myself having a huge kinship with Sam – he was a writer who went to Columbia during the beatnik generation and an expat who left America for the south of France, and wrote a few amazing books, two of which are “An End to Dying” and “Katz Cohen”.
I have a huge family and I spend a lot of time with my uncles, aunts and cousins. Having Astrachan as my stage name made me feel proud to share my history with folks who listen and dance to my music.
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Happy: What inspired the sound and mood of your latest single, “Emerald”?
Astrachan: I demoed the song a few times with different lyrics. It was originally a stripped down folksy tune.
But then I was messing around on Austin Koenigsteins bass which had a broken string, but it was still hanging on by a thread and it made this super cool sound.
He since has restrung the bass and I was really sad when I found that out. Then I was playing around with his nord, and I heard that marimba sound and it blended perfectly with the broken bass.
It then turned into a super upbeat indie pop tune.
Happy: Can you tell us about the recording process? Any stand out stories?
Astrachan: I actually recorded it almost 4 months ago and it was set to release in early June.
I recorded and mixed it super quickly because I wanted to get something out while I was out of the country.
I was travelling for a while in Nepal and India and when I came back to the states, I listened to the song out of mono speakers for the first time in a couple of months, and the drums and bass were phasing and it sounded so bad!
I then realised I never listened to mono so I must have made a mistake. I went back to Chicago and contacted my buddy Henry Stoehr from Slow Pulp to help me figure out the problem, and we figured out I had accidentally added some phaser plug-in in logic.
So it was a super simple fix that put me back a month. But we ended up figuring it out!
Happy: Can you delve into the inspirations behind the lyrics and the emotions you aimed to convey?
Astrachan: To be honest they’re nothing special. I really wanted to focus on something universal and make it as simple as possible – Love and infatuation happening at the wrong time in the wrong place.
Happy: Your music has the power to simultaneously tug at heartstrings and make people tap their feet. How do you approach blending emotional depth with infectious beats to create such a captivating musical experience?
Astrachan: I’m not interested in making music with sad lyrics and a sad droning tune. I love writing heart-wrenching (not saying that Emerald is) and nostalgic lyrics that go along with an energetic and happy vibe.
I think it messes with the audiences head and ear in a very fun way. I want people to dance while I’m really processing the bull shit that goes on in my life, because nothing makes me happier then seeing people dance to my music.
Happy: Astrachan’s solo project takes listeners on a heartfelt musical journey. Can you explain how this sonic voyage lingers in the minds of your audience and captures the beauty of life’s most delicate moments?
Astrachan: I’m interested in writing universal tunes. Earworms that I want folks to hear as moments of meditation, love, adventure, and friendship! Each song I write I want to take on the story of a moment that latched onto my heart with the tenderest of holds.
The songs themselves are how I was able to make visible the sense-experience of each flicker in time that I traversed! And I hope this is what folks are feeling and hearing.
Happy: Fav gear that you can’t live without?
Astrachan: My Tascam 388. It is the BEST. I also just came into a 1973 Gibson L6-S from my uncle Tony Fletcher and it is the best thing to happen to me!! Thanks Tonester!
Happy: What makes you happy?
Astrachan: I’m just going to list a few things – Community, bread, music, Judaism, my home, family, sleep, video games, my cat Puccini, the east coast, recording, my job, playing live, musical theatre, hiking, biking with no hands.
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