Soft and subtle, yet cinematic, Bugsy encapsulates many moods. In the most intimate of moments, the delicate elements of rhythmic clicks come through, tickling the ear. Other, louder moments, swell up like a wave and pull your feelings right along. There is nothing harsh about what Astronaut Husband has created here, but it does not lay limp in its comforting nature. Bugsy is the late night music you stay awake just to keep listening to, songs that make you breathe deeper without noticing, the sound of forgetting what time it is.
The title track, “Bugsy,” feels like it was not so much created as found. The haunting elements of its nature and in others such as “I Think” evoke the feeling of sadness, but in a way that is intrinsic to living. In the opener “October,” Grefe states off the bat: “We broke our hearts again, we always do.” This acceptance of beauty as an entity of melancholy pervades the album, and allows it to be such a source of relief for both mind and heart.
The intricacies of instrumentation in each tune imply a more planned approach, yet while Grefe spent quite a length of time on Bugsy’s creation, some moments were birthed out of improvisation. Like an allegory for the beauty of life, the trick is that you’ll never be able to tell which was which. The album feels like a rough draft but sounds like a final one, capturing the essence of raw emotion in tandem with serene, thoughtfully produced sounds.
He’ll admit that Bugsy is just another sending of homemade bedroom recordings into the massive ether, but Grefe’s humility won’t allow him to say more. Yet Astronaut Husband’s latest is exactly what all those with nostalgic souls have been waiting for since record players came back into fashion. Luckily, he did answer some questions for me about Astronaut Husband, Bugsy, and what comes next. Check out what he had to say, and take a listen to the album below.
AG: I started up Astronaut Husband my freshman year of college. My good friends (and bandmates) had both released solo albums earlier that year and it gave me the bug to release something of my own. They were nice enough to lend me their recording gear while they were away, and I was able to hammer out a few songs that would become my first EP as Astronaut Husband. Later that year I finally got my own recording stuff so I could record songs more often and more comfortably. It was really cool to see people sharing and writing stuff about the music I was making. Then I start to get a few strangers liking my little facebook page. It's just such a great feeling, as I'm sure anyone who makes music knows. Even if there is only maybe 2 or 3 people that really care about my music, that's enough for me to feel obligated to keep making music. So I have been recording pretty consistently now for close to 4 years as Astro Hub.
Bugsy was a long time in the making. I had the opportunity to release something with a great little record label from Ireland, Little L Records, and it was gonna be awhile for me to fit into their release schedule, so I spent a lot of time on Bugsy polishing the songs, writing new ones, removing ones I didn't like anymore. I usually get impatient when I have recorded songs sitting around, but with the time line I was giving with this album, I was able to invest myself more and make something more cohesive than my previous albums. I consider Bugsy to be my first real full album.
I love playing music with my friends. For as long as Astronaut Husband has been around, so has Haunter, my group band. It's great because we can play different stuff and goof around and play shows. Playing in Haunter is just fun in a way that I don't get from doing the solo stuff. I would never choose one or the other, though. I love having something that is completely my own. Recording solo stuff is also a lot easier than recording the entire band, at least the way I do it.
KS: You list that some musical influences include Beach House, Wild Nothing, Bon Iver, Real Estate and the like - all modern groups. Yet I hear a much older concept in your sound, such as from Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. Are there any artists or experiences I'm missing here who had a strong influence on this album in particular?
AG: I was definitely influenced by those bands and I still am. I suppose I don't sound too much like them, though. I have never listened much to Elliot Smith, but I think Nick Drake hangs pretty heavily over Bugsy. I probably listened to "River Man" a million or so times last year. Not just his music, but his entire story I think has shaped Astro Hubs sound a little. Bob Dylan, Daniel Johnston, and Duster, too, actually. I'm not as hard on myself anymore when my recordings sound unprofessional. Now, sometimes I wish my recordings were even more lo-fi.
AG: I record all the songs myself in my bedroom. Almost all my songs come together during the recording process. I usually just have this very empty, acoustic guitar skeleton that I record first. From there, I just play that bit over and over, adding a little bit here, a little slide guitar there, until the song sounds cool. Lyrics usually come last.
KS: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
AG: I wouldn't say I have a favorite song on Bugsy, but there are a couple that are unique. The title track, "Bugsy," was recorded in this warm, murky dream-state. I had falling asleep playing a video game, and I woke up around like 2am, and remembered a riff I had played earlier that day that I had forgotten to record. For some reason I thought now would be the perfect time to record that riff. I don't remember much, but in the morning I listened to the song and it sounded so perfect and spooky, kinda. It was exactly what I had been imagining. That almost never happens for me.
KS: What are your hopes for the coming year musically?
AG: I've got high hopes in 2016. I think Haunter is gonna have a great year. We have been practicing a lot and we have a ton of material we're working with. I think once we get a few shows under our belt, big things will be happening. As for Astronaut Husband, I like where I'm at. I feel good about the songs I'm making and people have been so kind to me. It's a constant source of joy and I hope it will always be there.
And true to his word, Astronaut Husband has already released a new track, "Someone." My advice: stay tuned.