The brilliantly named Asteroids Broke My Stereo were formed in early 2008 in England by Tom Smith and Ross Gilman who both had a love for indie rock and electronic beats. After having one of their songs, “Autumn Leaves” played on a local radio station the band made the decision to add drummer Stu Knight and bassist Danny Bristow. As we’ve discussed lately, the terrain sown by the music industry has changed yet again. Bands like The Boxer Rebellion top the charts as an unsigned band. ABMS seek to burn their own trail into your consciousness. They’ve released their first ep as a free download on their website, gambling that hearing is believing. The strategy works perfectly as they take the Radiohead “pay what you want” philosophy and produce music that makes you beg to give them your money.
The nature of music criticism suggests that you must compare bands to others as a reference point. Bands bristle at the concept generally, but rarely escape the trap. The only method of escape is to find that trail that hasn’t been well traveled. We listened to the ABMS ep and were perfectly satisfied with the indie rock references of the opening of Autumn Leaves. It was only when we “got” the electronic beats and layers of instrumentation, that our jaws dropped. I’m not a huge fan of electronica and hesitate to even mention it’s references in their music. Suffice to say that no band has taken rock guitars down an electronic path with such subtle success since….a certain band that spent years trying to escape the shadow of Creep. Stellar.
Autumn Leaves [audio http://thedumbingofamerica.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/01-autumn-leaves.mp3]
Ross Gilman took some time with us, so that we could learn a little more about your new favorite band.
TDOA: The first thing that drew me to you was the mixture of some really lovely guitar and vocal melodies laid over a decidedly “techno-like” beat on some of the songs. You cite both indie and electronic influences, but is the direction we can expect for future work from the band?
ABMS: Tom Smith is the songwriter-in-chief of the whole operation, and I would say that his tastes and influences are very much on the Indie/Pop/Rock side of things which is obviously where the vocal melodies and instrumental progressions come from. The more electronic aspects of our music come from our drummer Stu Knight, which is where some of the ‘techo-like’ beats originate from, and as a band we’re certainly not afraid of using modern technology to our advantage to try and create a more unique sound.
As for future work, hopefully more of the same hybrid of styles is to come; we’re working on some songs at the moment that have got us all pretty excited, we know we’re onto a good thing when Tom brings a brilliant melody or hook to the table, and then we can set to work as a group to shape it into something with a cutting edge, which is a process that draws on all of our influences.
TDOA: Are you using a drum machine on this or a live drummer?
ABMS: Both. Our drummer, Stu Knight, (formally of the now defunct ‘The Carter Manoeuvre’) enjoys writing beats on his laptop as well as on his kit, and doesn’t mind sharing a live stage with a computer, so we try to get the best out of both digital and real drums. The start of ‘Autumn Leaves’ is all drum machine up until 43 seconds in, when it’s digital and real drums layered on top of one another.
TDOA: What’s next for the band? Any interest from labels or are you going in to record out of your own pockets?
ABMS: To be honest, labels aren’t something that we’re particularly preoccupied with. We funded our debut E.P. ourselves and are giving it away for free, and I think we take a certain pride in doing all of the work ourselves. We see a lot of unsigned bands around us who are so preoccupied with signing to a major label that they forget that they can do a lot of things for themselves. Also, we don’t seem to have too much trouble keeping up with bands who are signed to local indie labels, so it’s not something we view as being vitally important to the band’s future… but we probably wouldn’t say no to any offers though.
TDOA: I’ve read your influences, but you tell us who you’re listening to these day?
ABMS: I actually have to admit that we’re all fairly shocking at picking up on good new music with any great speed. I’ve actually only just gotten into ‘Foals’ debut album ‘Antidotes’, which was released almost 12 months ago! But that’s been on repeat for the last couple of weeks. We’re all huge Death Cab for Cutie fans, and they’re never far from my ‘recently played’ list in iTunes, but I for one wasn’t too sure about ‘Narrow Stairs’, and the recently released ‘The Open Door E.P.’ didn’t really do it for me either… I’ve also been listening to Toodar and Cats In Paris, both of whom we’ve played gigs with this year.
TDOA: How has the transition to playing live been?
ABMS: Painfully slow in places, but exhilarating when we finally got there. Because of the electronic drums and multiple synths, organs, glockenspiels etc that we use on the record, we play with a laptop on stage and trigger all of the various instruments that we don’t have enough arms to play from that during the set. This means that Stu has to play drums to a metronome in his headphones, which in turn meant that I faced a logistical nightmare trying to figure out how to send the relevant sounds to the venues’ PA system, whilst keeping the click track on a separate audio line, but in-time, all without spending thousands of pounds on software and interfaces.
In terms of live performance though, it’s something that we’d all had previous experience of from other projects we’ve been involved with over the years. Tom and our bass player Danny Bristow, actually have degrees in music performance, or something like that, from the Academy of Contemporary Music, in Guildford, Surrey; so once we had all of the technical annoyances sorted, we were able to put together a really exciting live show.
TDOA: Please tell us about the songwriting process for what seem like pretty complex songs. Rhythm track first, vocal melodies, guitars? What’s the formula?
ABMS: The way this usually tends to work is that Tom will write the basics of the song on either guitar of piano with the vocal melody, and than he and I will work on it together to write the majority of the instrumental parts. We really appreciate the both the importance of having a good dynamic between 2 guitars and using many instruments to create layers and texture to songs, which is why a lot of our songs will have extremes of fairly simple, delicate guitar parts, or many differing layers of rich sounds that might take you 10 listens to or more to hear the full extent of; it’s something that we really enjoy playing around with and working on together. We then take the song to Stu and Danny, usually with a rough idea of what we think the drums and bass should sound like, which they routinely disregard and come up with something much better! It’s here where the song begins to sound more like an ABMS song, as Stu adds some very technical drumming, and the bass lines start to accentuate different parts of the music. After this is usually when Stu and I will make a rough demo and add some electronic pieces on the laptop, the icing on the cake, if you will!
TDOA: I noticed an item on your twitter account linking to a controversial news story. Is politics going to play a part in the bands message?
ABMS: Oh that. Well, I am largely responsible for updating the twitter account, so any views expressed on there are solely my own and not those of Asteroids Broke My Stereo or its subsidiaries. No, seriously, we’re not very likely to write a politically themed song any time soon, but at the same time I was a politics major at university, so I try to slip in a little ideology here and there wherever I can, and when issues arise that we care about we tend to voice our opinion, after all, we are from the same town that gave it’s name to the phrase, “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells”, and it would be nice to shift its meaning from the embodiment of the pedantic woes of middle England, to something more meaningful.
Download the EP at the bands’ website: http://www.asteroidsbrokemystereo.co.uk/
Visit their Myspace at : http://www.myspace.com/asteroidsbrokemystereo