An Interview With Astral Lite
ASTRAL LITE are a post-punk and psychedelic influenced 4-piece from Niceville, Florida. If you’ve ever dreamt of viewing life through a kaleidoscope, they’re distant and lurid image, dirge guitars and obscuro sound will be perfect for you. Way Out Radio spoke to the illustrious and striking front man Johnny Palmer about their brand new release and debut EP “Mesmerist’s Mainline”.
Where did your band name come from?
“Astral Lite” is a bit of a double-entendre. Obviously there is the light of the astral plane, but there is also the sensation of treading the astral lightly.
How did you all meet?
I started the band with a guy who used to play banjo for me when I was in a folk band — Ricky — he and I formed the band when we realised we both had a very common interest in starting a psychedelic rock band. We started off with two other guys, and Ricky was on bass. The drummer and second guitarist weren’t up to par, one left and the other was kicked out. Ricky took a break from the project and in the meantime I helped salvage the group by finding a great bassist and drummer — Andy and Kaelin — through a mutual friend, and they’re the best rhythm section I could ask for. We’ve done a few shows and recorded the EP as a 3 piece, and now Ricky has recently returned to the band 2nd guitar. So now the sound has come full circle and we couldn’t be happier.
What’s life like in Florida and is there a music scene for what you do?
Northwest Florida sucks. I was born and raised hear and I hate it, hate heat, hate sweating and I hate massive hoards of tourists hanging out where I live. And as far as a music and culture scene goes… well, it’s been dead for awhile. Most bars in a tourist town want cover bands. But a truly great independent music scene is starting to sprout thanks to two new venues in our downtown areas (Mosey’s and The Green Door) who only want bands to play their original music. They’ve really done a lot for our local scenes to the point where I can almost sense a musical renaissance coming to this area. Local musicians are no longer afraid to get weird.
Your music style is dark psych / dreamy garage – What bands influence you?
Very much so, The Cure and Brian Jonestown Massacre, even more so now that I’ve seen them both live this year. I’m also greatly influenced by Wire, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Telescopes, Joy Division, The Chameleons, Sonic Youth, and a good plethora of post-punk, psychedelia, shoegaze, etc. I label our sound as “dark psych / dreamy garage” because I feel like such are broad enough terms to encapsulate how much it is psychedelic as gothic, as much it is punk, as gazey, and so on… Most artists don’t like to put a label on things, but I do.
How do you make your gig posters and artwork?
Occasionally someone else designs the gig posters, but when I do it myself, I usually do it all on my phone with a plethora of apps. I even made the EP art doing just so. I guess that’s how you know it’s the 21st century.
What was the recording process like for the new album?
We did it over the course of 2 months in Kaelin’s dad’s chapel, which we dubbed the “Astral Chapel” during the sessions. I went into the idea of recording an EP of 3 songs, but we got very creative during the sessions and it ended up becoming it’s own entity of 5 tracks, as I began writing songs as I was recording them. It was a drunken, tumultuous, and magical time.
Can you talk us through some of the songs and tell us what they’re about?
Well the entire EP — “Mesmerist’s Mainline” — is a conceptual record. An exploration of the hell of heroin addiction. I’ve never shot up myself, but it’s rampant in my area and therefore I’m exposed to it a lot. Known friends to OD and all that. So I wanted to make a record that was sort of symbolic of the vibes I get from these junkies. “Pray To Mary” is the sensation of overdosing, “Act Of Mercy” is the tribulation of admitting your condition, “Seventh Circle” is your ticket to hell, “Embers” is the double entendre of the fire under the spoon and the fires of hell, and “Ease My Mind” is the acceptance of death and realising you were quite the idiot for being a junkie.
How has music helped you in your life?
I believe it. Whenever I’m playing gigs regularly, I never feel like I’m going mad. Playing in front of people expressing myself the best way I know how leaves me free of anxieties and rids my head of negative thoughts. I always feel at peace after a show, and it’s one of the only things that does it for me.
Will you be coming to the UK to perform in the future?
That would be my dream! If we ever get big enough to tour overseas, you better believe it. I want nothing more out of life than to play my music in Europe. In the U.K. especially. Being out of America would be fantastic too.
Thanks Johnny, Way Out Radio wish you and the band all the best for the future and hope you guys make it across the pond in years to come! For more on Astral Lite, visit:
Hear their Debut EP ‘Mesmerist’s Mainline’: