It’s not very often an artist tries to bridge the gap between indie and hip-hop. Granted, you have your revolutionaries – your Bon Ivers, your Frank Oceans – but usually, that sonic no man’s land is largely left untouched. Well, not on Astronomyy’s watch. The Worcester-based newcomer revels in his occupation of the in-between space between the two seemingly contrasting musical cultures. We like him a lot.
“I’m kind of an all-rounder,” he explains, over the phone. “I’m not a band, a singer-songwriter or a beat maker – I’m all of them in one.”
“It’s a blessing and a curse. People like to be able to digest everything – for record labels it can be quiet hard to market because they don’t know what to call me. The good side, though, is that I just get to sit and make the music I want to.”
And that’s exactly what you’ll get from him – the music that he wants to make. His sound is an enmeshed one: sometimes sultry and atmospheric, sometimes sexy and funked up. It’s a gorgeous blend of recognisable genre tropes, mashed together under his own musical umbrella. “I’d always struggled to find two words to describe what I do,” he says, “but ‘guitar&b’ seems like the best way to define it.”
He’s right, too – you’d be a fool to underestimate the importance of his instrument of choice. The guitar forms the melodic backbone of everything that Astronomyy (Arron, to his friends) does, giving his music the detached, stripped-back quality that helps sit it apart. Though he’s 27 now, he first picked up the instrument at the age of 12. “I never put it down,” he laughs, explaining how he grew up in a house where rock and roll was king. His dad was a “huge Led Zeppelin” fan, while the first record he ever brought was a Nirvana’s Greatest Hits. However, Astronomyy’s eclectic musical upbringing is the key to his genre-blurring sound. Kurt Cobain wasn’t the only thing playing on young Aaron’s radio.
“Burn by Usher – I was absolutely obsessed,” he admits. “It came out in 2003. Don’t get me wrong, I was into music before, but that was it for me. 2003 was when I really fell in love with music. I was thirteen years-old.”
“That started it all, really. I was able to discover everything. I’m grateful to have been able to grow up on such a broad range of music. It was so exciting.”
The formative years set the tone for the young man who’d grow up with the mission to sonically unite his beloved guitar with rap and the contemporary soul of Usher and co. Now, Astronomyy cites Bon Iver, Warpaint and Local Natives alongside Kanye West as some of his favourite artists. For him, they don’t operate separately – rather, they’re all occupying the same musical ecosystem.
“They’re totally different cultures, but the internet allows you to break those barriers down.”
“Look at Bon Iver, Frank Ocean – they’re doing what I’ve been trying to do for the last 5 years. It’s all starting to happen, everything is beginning to merge. There’s a lot of cool stuff where indie is meeting hip-hop.”
He’s certainly right: but rest assured, you can file Astronomyy right at the front of the pack. Though the Worcester artist admits to taking every day as it comes (“my manager would definitely tell me that I need to set more goals”), you could do a lot worse than pencil him in for mainstream domination sooner rather than later. His track Hypnotized has already garned a cult following, while new single Things I’d Do For You is out and looks set to follow suit. Much like his previous work, it’s a dainty cut of indie-soul, borrowing influence from across the spectrum. Things are taking shape – and they’re doing quickly.
“I’m not looking to change the world or anything like that, I just want to make music,” he explains. “All I do is all that I like.”
“But, the ultimate goal is for fans of guitar music to discover those hip-hop beats, and for fans of hip-hop and R&B to discover indie sounds.”
If things continue as they are for Astronomyy, that could happen sooner rather than later. Watch this space.
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Words by Niall Flynn