Astoria – It started with a riff.

I’ve had the pleasure of catching Astoria live a couple of times now and they don’t disappoint. This is a young band with huge potential – still honing their craft, with just a handful of gigs to their name and a small but rapidly growing fanbase. July will see their final headline gig of 2022 at The Lending Room in Leeds (Friday 15 July). Expect a sell-out or very close to it; the last headline show at The Lending Room (only their second ever gig) was very close to a sell-out. The following Friday (22 July) will see their first physical release, “The Half Of It” EP – I, for one am really looking forward to hearing this. Don’t expect them to be putting their feet up for the rest of 2022 though. There will be support slots and a ton of work being put into new music.

As the band’s busy July approaches, I got in touch with them to chat about their journey so far and share some photos and live footage from the two previous Lending Room shows.

It’s not often that I pick up on a band so early in their career. If I recall correctly, very early on (mid 2020) the band posted a really short guitar riff on Instagram as a teaser. I loved the guitar sound and it was a quality riff. At that time there was little else to go on apart from “watch this space”. Over the next few months a few short atmospheric videos of the band appeared, for example walking to their rehearsal rooms, alongside similar photos. There was no real music and no sign of any gigs. It was clear that the band were putting in some serious rehearsal / practice time to properly hone their sound and songs. A year later, the band release their first single, Where The Light Lives. The single certainly delivers on the promise of that first riff and is a great taste of what Astoria have to offer.

How did you get together in the first place and what did you hope to achieve at the very start ?

Vinnie – How we got together is usually a question most bands have a similar answer to. A bunch of school-mates form a band and play out their favourite tunes by their favourite bands, a sort of pseudo-serious ‘cover band’ stage. You’d be hard pressed to find any band that didn’t originate this way, and this was especially true for me (Vinnie) and Alex. One day while rehearsing alone, Alex walks in, picks up a bass guitar and starts playing. I’d known Alex since childhood and believed I knew everything about him, yet that was the moment that I realised I didn’t. A couple months of playing together, Luke comes to join us for a rehearsal, he was beginning to learn the guitar at that point. In a similar fashion to Alex, Luke walks over to the drum kit, sits down and starts playing like he’d been sat behind a kit for the entirety of his short life.

As much as I knew I wanted to be a lead guitarist and a vocalist, we all knew that wouldn’t be possible at the time. Struan, a friend from college agrees to join on lead vocals, and from there we feel like we have a real band together. The night before our first rehearsal together, the first draft of ‘Where The Light Lives’ is written. Months of rehearsals pass, yet the ever looming prospect of University approaches and Struan had to leave the band to move to Newcastle.

At this stage all the hard work and that little dream a few mates had could’ve all fallen apart. We needed to make changes. At this point I felt confident enough to throw myself into the deep end and take a lead vocal and guitar role, Luke left the drums to fill in on rhythm guitar. We brought in George to take over the drums. George was given the demo recordings to ‘Where The Light Lives’ and ‘The Snow’ and on the next day at rehearsals, he played them all perfectly, even taking the songs to another level. We had found our roles, we had found our creative spark, we had found Astoria. Alex described it as ”being born out of a dying star”, and I feel like that puts it best.

In terms of aspirations, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t want to be the biggest band in the world, there’s no sugar coating it, that’s why everyone does it.

Full set of photos available in HD for free download HERE

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I thought you did a great job introducing the band in the first place by putting out short snippets of what was to come. Was that all part of the original plan or did Covid play a part in restricting what you could actually do ?

All – The way things have panned out for the band have been as crafted as they have been opportunistic, this is one of those things that began as an opportunity to work with some friends who were budding videographers. The sheer amount of footage and photography we got out of it gave us a brilliant opportunity to release content and brand ourselves on social media at a time where recording or gigging simply wasn’t possible. Covid was almost beneficial for us in a way, it forced us to create content and grow our platform at a time where we had no other option. As much as it felt like a hindrance at the time, we can now think of it as the catalyst to what lead to us selling out Santiago as our debut gig.

Having put all that groundwork in, when you actually had “Where The Light Lives” ready to release, how did you feel ?

Luke – Vinnie wrote ‘WTLL’ on one evening of inspiration and took it to the rehearsal room the next day. There was then a couple of months of fine tuning to the song, choreographing the instrumental, guitar solo and even the vocal approach. We took to Moorcroft Studios and after a 10 hour recording session, Vinnie completed the final vocal take hungover from his 18th birthday the previous day. It all seemed to fit together perfectly; the final layered guitar sound really surprised us and became something we wished we had also used more on ‘The Snow’, our second single. It felt like the first step towards being a real band.

 

And what about the reaction you got to the track ?

All – The reception to the release went really well, it was a special feeling seeing that at any given moment up to 30 people were listening at the same time on release day. It got to the point where we got sick of hearing the song. We’re back to loving it again now though!

It seemed a long time to your first gig at Santiago Bar, which sold out. Not bad for your debut !! I couldn’t make that in the end. How did that go and what was it like to transition from rehearsal space to playing in front of a crowd for the first time ?

Vinnie – It was a relief to finally get out there and play, however it was a real baptism of fire for us. We opened with the then unreleased ‘The Snow’. From the intro we had our first string break, and into the second song we had our next and during Don’t Turn Around, another one followed. By the time it got to Where The Light Lives we needed to borrow a guitar from one of the support bands. All in all it was great to finally get out there, but also a shame we couldn’t put on the show we’d been planning for months. However the Lending Rooms gave us that opportunity.

 

I managed to get to your second gig, headlining The Lending Room in January. I’ve got to say, I was really impressed for so many reasons. You seemed incredibly tight for only your second gig. Musically, I hadn’t heard much prior to the gig so didn’t really know what to expect. You sounded quite a lot heavier and rockier than I expected (in a good way) but still with the melodic sensibility that I heard in that first riff. I’m struggling to make comparisons with other bands, the closest reference point I can think of is The Stone Roses second album but that’s very tenuous. There’s so many indie pop / indie rock bands around that sound the same, to have an “Astoria Sound” could really separate you from the pack. Is that something you’re striving for and how would you describe the band’s sound ?

Vinnie – The ‘Astoria Sound’ is something we’re still trying to work on, however its always been at the forefront of our musical exploration. Below I’ve listed some tracks that have influenced our sound in one way or another, especially with my song writing process. Hopefully it’ll help you draw some more comparisons. You’ll likely find a running theme. 

The Cure – Push

U2 – Rejoice

U2 – The Fly

U2 – Walk On

U2 – Breathe

Simple Minds – Ghost Dancing

Simple Minds – Belfast Child

Inhaler – My Honest Face

Inhaler – Who’s Your Money On?

Bryan Adams – One Night Love Affair

Pearl Jam – Even Flow

Pearl Jam – Alive

Sam Fender – Spice

 

As the Lending Room gig went on and the crowd got into it you really seemed to feed off the crowd’s energy and the whole gig took on a life of it’s own. You really looked as though you were having a blast and could have played all night if you’d had enough songs. Is that a fair assessment ?

Alex – I remember walking out of that gig at the Lending Rooms and saying to the rest of the band that I didn’t want to stop playing, we really could have played all night. If we had enough songs, we would have !!

 

I’m sure July’s return to The Lending Room will be a special night. Grab a ticket while you still can – it might just be one of those gigs you look back on in 10 years time and think – wow, I can’t believe I was at that one !!

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Graham Geldard

Music first, Photography second, now the two go hand in hand. Travelled the length and breadth of musical genres – 70s glam rock to 77 punk to 80s / 90s mod, post punk, trashy rock ‘n’ roll & metal. Will listen to and shoot anything. Now hooked on the thriving Leeds gig scene – local bands and visiting bands, arenas to toilet venues.