Amastro on songwriting, his debut tour and Sydney’s nightlife
Philosophising with sound and texture within the realm of dance music, Sydney producer / multi-instrumentalist, AMASTRO, has a real knack for colouring sonic territories.
The moniker of Angus Murphy, Amastro pushed out his debut eponymous EP only a matter of months ago, yet already has plans of emitting his next body of work.
Amongst it all, he’s found the time to play festivals as big as Splendour In The Grass and Yours & Owls, as well as open for Sticky Fingers and plan his debut national tour – one he recently embarked on in celebration of latest single, ‘At The Tone’ featuring Ned Philpot.
Beating his personal best consistently in a pursuit of passion, we caught up with Amastro to check in on his tour, writing, future releases and work ethos.
Explain your musical background. Have you always been into production?
Nah I started off always in rock bands or indie bands. It started off pretty heavy metal, just slashing the power chord guitar and singing. Then I eased my way into duos, just with a drummer, and then acoustic stuff. I did a lot of cover gigs and things like that, and then realised, through logic, that I could do everything myself.
So I started making acoustic Ed Sheeran-esque music, and I guess producing that, or moreso utilising Apple loops than producing, and found that it was super fucking fun, so I started producing from there.
So would you say you prefer playing independently rather than with a band?
No not at all, no way. I love playing with other people. I think music is the most exponential when you can grow with everyone around you, and vibe off each other. If something’s good, you can be like, “That’s good!” and get better from there, or if something’s bad, you’re not going to waste your time on it. It’s like instant feedback. Playing with other people is super fun.
You released your debut EP a few months ago. One that carried a certain theme both lyrically and in its composition, could you describe its story?
Yeah I guess they were all kind of dark on the EP, kind of moody songs. Dark synths and dark names, yeah. I didn’t want it to be all about love for a girl or something like that, none of the songs are really about love.
Was that fictitious, or did this theme come from a real place?
No they’re all fictional, every song has a story in-built, and probably 80% of the time I just make up a story. It’ll have characters, sometimes it’ll be really personal, but yeah made up.
You also teamed up with Chasing Giants for, ‘Shutdown’. How do you see the lockout laws in Sydney?
Aw man, I hate them so much. I work at a nightclub when I’m not making music, and my hours go down when the club shuts, so straight away I’m directly affected with less income. And I think so many people around me are the same; it’s harder to get jobs, because there’s literally less venues, because no one is staying open. I think they should be changed, fairly quickly.
I think they are on the rise, I think the change is coming up. The introduction to extended hours for live music venues and strip joints, things like that. Small steps, baby steps, but I think we’re slowly getting there. I even think a lot of conventional people are starting to see the flaws in Mike Baird’s ideas and execution of plans, so I think society is a step in the right direction.
You’ve released your new single, ‘At The Tone’. Quite stripped back, what inspired the arrangement of this track?
Mura Masa – I was listening to him a lot, like, wow, he’s got such a cool brass sound. I was listening to, ‘What If I Go’, and just how it’s super minimal. And then, you know with Soundcloud, it puts you onto something that sounds like what you’re listening to, so then I found myself listening to all of this minimal music, chilling out – plus it was the end of Summer, start of Winter at the time, so I was already in that mood.
I just wanted to see if I could do it, see if I could make something that was chill without putting a whole bunch of things in it. Trying to make each individual sound, lyric and melody hold its own, as limited as possible.
So would you say that’s the first time you’ve explored that realm under Amastro?
Yeah definitely. I was so nervous releasing it, cause I’d never put out anything that stripped back before, even with the drop – just one melody and bass line and drums, it was super nerve-racking to put out there, but I’m happy with it now.
Is it a stand alone single or can we expect it on another body of work?
Yeah I think that one’s just a stand alone track. The EP coming out early next year is a completely different vibe.
It wouldn’t have fit on that EP then.
No, it wouldn’t fit on that EP, those songs have a lot more going on.
‘At The Tone’ features lyrics from Ned Philpot. How did you come to materialise, ‘At The Tone’?
So I’ve known Ned for my whole life. We were neighbours, so we grew up next to each other in Canberra. We’d play all the local festivals in Canberra together, and always vibed off each other.
I went down to Canberra and said, “Hey do you wanna come over and write a new song?” I was on the piano and we were bouncing lyrics off each other, and that’s how we’ve always written. So that’s how it came about – verse and chorus, keys and vocals, and then we transferred that slowly to synths and the trumpets and all that sort of stuff that it is now.
How do you know when you’ve found the right artist to collaborate with?
I usually have an idea in my head about a person and a sound, before I go into it. If I want a song that’s going to be housey, I look at who I listen to for house, and collaborate with them. If I’ve got a song that has really mellow chords, I might put a harsh vocal on top to even it out, or a mellow vocal to get really soft. Things like that. Sometimes it just works, a lot of the time, it might not. Trial and error.
You’re currently on your first national tour. How has it been so far?
Fun. Lots of fun, yeah I’ve had a ball so far. I played Melbourne for the Listen Out pre-party which was super fun; it was one of the first times where I’ve played really Summery house vibes, and obviously got to play like, ‘Bloodshot Heart’ and some of my other new stuff in that. Then on the weekend was Bassfront which was almost polar opposite, like heavy dub, trap, that type of thing.
Super keen for this Friday with Banquet [World Bar], it’s the first live show of the tour, so it’ll be sweet.
Yeah I was going to ask about that. What can punters expect from your live show?
Phwoar, lots of instruments! There’ll be a violin, trumpets, teeing up possible drums, bending, obviously lots of vocals, keys… Just as much as I can throw in there without becoming too much.
Why do you think the club scene is so important for the electronic dance music community?
I think it’s integral because without it, there’s literally nothing. If you can’t play club gigs, how do you then play warehouse shows if no one’s seen you in a club. You have to be able to play in a club, weekly, monthly, tri-monthly, whatever, to be able to know if your music is resonating with the people you’re hoping to project it to. I think clubs are completely integral to everything we strive for as electronic musicians.
So it’s kind of like an inviting step into that community?
Yeah! Exactly. And even if it’s just a DJ gig like opening or closing, you have the opportunity to play all of your new music to people that are there that want to party and have fun, so you can immediately see a reaction to what you’re making, which is such an advantage over anything else that the electronic scene has.
And to go back to lockout laws, it sucks that those opportunities that test your music are getting limited and limited and limited.
Any forthcoming collaborations or remixes in the works?
Yeah, there’s a lot! There’s a full remix EP coming out for, ‘At The Tone’, which will be with Clones, who is a guy from Perth, Tanssi a local, Diego Slim – house guy, Robustt and Daniel Chapman. There’s five remixes. And then through them, there’s also an original coming out with Daniel Chapman and Robustt.
There’s also a Sticky Fingers remix that’s coming out which will be super cool, and a Boo Seeka remix coming out – both of those will be official, which should be sweet.
Then the next originals EP should be out January / February next year.
What’s next for Amastro?
Shows and writing. When this tour finishes, there’s a few big festivals which should be super sweet, I can’t wait for that. Lots of fun.
Catch Amastro on his debut tour, and be sure to keep an eye out for news on his future releases.
AMASTRO ‘AT THE TONE’ SINGLE LAUNCH TOUR
Friday, 7th October
Banquet @ World Bar, Sydney
Friday, 28th October
Academy Club, Canberra
Friday, 11th November
Proud Marys, Central Coast NSW
Saturday, 12th November
TBC Club, Brisbane
Wednesday, 23rd November
Sosueme @ Beach Road Hotel, Bondi
Sunday, 27th November
Marco Polo @ Ivy, Sydney
Sunday, 11th December
Sets On The Beach Festival, Perth
Words by Hannah Galvin.
EMOTIONAL PERSEVERANCE MARRIES A SONIC NARRATIVE IN AMASTRO’S, ‘BLOODSHOT HEART’
NORTHEAST PARTY HOUSE’S GUEST MIX IS ALIVE WITH VIBRANT ELECTRONICA
INTERVIEW: HAYDEN JAMES @ SMIRNOFF SOUND COLLECTIVE HOUSE PARTY