We chat to Astral Lynx about the Brick Lane Psych Fest, and the highs and lows of life as modern day musicians.
The psychedelic genre has seen something of a comeback in recent years, thanks to the likes of Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and The War On Drugs bringing the sounds of the 60s and 70s to the mainstream. Add to that the slew of psychedelia-based festivals such as Cosmosis in Manchester and The Liverpool Psych Fest in, well, Liverpool of course, the cult following of fans clad in a swirling mass of paisley print shirts and crushed velvet flares, and you’ve pretty much got yourself a movement.
Leading the way back down in London is quartet Astral Lynx. One half of the band met at the same East London school when they were a mere 4-years-old, beginning their musical journeys “fucking around with music in bedrooms”. Following a brief hiatus in Australia, Astral Lynx now comprises of Dean Cass on drums, Matt Sullivan on guitar, James Christian on bass, and fronted by born and bred East Ender Julian Millership.
Their soundscape encompasses a myriad of musical elements- 60s psychedelic guitar riffs, bolshie blues, and a smattering of 70s grooves. Their debut album, Flow, was self-released a few weeks back amidst the glorious hype of the recent Brick Lane Psych Fest at ever popular musical haunt, 93 Feet East.
EastLDN sat down with half of the Lynx’s to get the lowdown.
EastLDN- Talk to us about your music. Is psychedelic music something you’ve always made?
Julian Millership- I grew up listening to Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd…because my parents are into that sort of music and Dean’s family [are into a] really eclectic range of music as well…..but ever since we’ve started we’ve always done really lengthy jams. It’s our way of getting to the point where we have plauisible material.
James Christian- Yeah, a lot of [our] tracks have come out of like 40 minutes jams.
JM- [We] record everything that we do in the studio and we’ve got a harddrive with a list of thousands an thousands of different jams from the beginning to now.
EL- Has your music changed at all since the beginning?
JM- Yeah loads. …I think at first you emulate what you know and bands that you hear, so you go through different phases with different styles. But once you start to know that you can go beyond the boundaries of your own ears. You can get into your own head, if you like….that’s…what we’re trying to do at the moment. Go beyond what we already know.
JC- Even in the last year it’s changed quite a lot…getting into and getting used to playing with these guys and writing it’s kind of a different process to what I’ve ever done before.
JM- [You become more confident, which] means you can start taking things in totally different directions because you don’t have to stick to any formulas. Personally I’ve started to use mistakes when I’m playing and I’ve got into a pattern of trying to make my mistakes sound like they were done on purpose.
JC- Yeah, you’re not fooling anyone.
JM- Yeah, they still sound like mistakes.
EL- So what’s a jamming session like with Astral Lynx? We’re picturing you in all your bearded glory sitting around in harem pants in a haze of smoke?
JM- It’s far from that.
JC- Only on Sundays.
JM- We managed to get ourselves a studio space, a homemade studio, which we’ve set up as a bit of a haven. There’s loads of hanging stuff and there’s really warm colours, we’ve got all of our stuff in there. It’s quite [small] so there’s a self-generated energy in that room when you start playing…..everyone can see each other.
JC- That’s the best . When someone starts playing and then half an hour later…
JM-…half an hour later you kind of wake up like “Fuck! What just happened?” I think because we’re still quite new with Jimbo….we’re just starting to have these cohesive jam sessions….at the start because I don’t think any of us were comfortable [enough] to navigate each other.
EL- So you’ve finished your debut album now- Flow, which features nine tracks. If you have hard drives with thousands and thousands of tracks on, how the hell did you manage to narrow it down to just nine?
JM- I dunno!…There’s been a few over the course of a couple of years. We always go back and listen to stuff…and there were always certain songs that stood out and we were like “we’ve got to keep that one going and we’ve got to keep this one going”, so most of the ones on the album were ones that we’d all said collectively that we wanted to make…into songs…..one of my favourites is a track called Cedar Eyes, which is fucking brilliant.
EL- Flow was launched under the guise of the Brick Lane Psych Festival. Tell us about that.
JC-….we thought it could be cool if we could make it into something bigger than just [our album launch], so it was Matt’s idea initially to try and make it like a mini festival. Get some DJs and Rokit (vintage clothing store on Brick Lane) involved.
JM- The launch was in 93 Feet East….and we wanted to try and incorporate some of the Brick Lane businesses, so we decided to set up some stalls. We had Rokit vintage, people selling vinyl, artists from Brick Lane.
EL- What was the response to the festival like?
JM- [We] had about 1500 people wanting tickets and that place only holds [a little over] 400. We got around 400 in. Some diehard psych followers from the circuit. There were some standout performances from Nugget, Higher Planes, Elephant, Psyence, and Electric Child.
EL- Where did the idea come from for the festival?
JM- Well, [it] kind of came from a conversation I had with someone at work. His best friend is a Sony A&R guy and I sent him some [tracks]. He said; “I’m not gonna listen to anything, I’m just going to give you some advice….just create a hype around yourselves. You need to big yourselves up to the point where people think you’re bigger than you are. That’s when people will start following you because they think you’re something huge.”
JC- Yeah, instead of just having a normal album launch [we wanted] to try and do something different.
JM- We don’t wanna make loads of money and be famous. We wanna be able to travel the world and play what we do to other people, but it seems at the moment that you can’t do that unless you have thousands of followers, and people buying your music and stuff.
EL- Do you think it’s possible for bands such as yours to make it big?
JM- I think…if you’re only in it to make tons of money and be on American radio then you’re playing the wrong sort of music. People that listen to this sort of music, they’re not going for that. We wanna go to SXSW and play in Texas….Australia. We wanna play in Manchester, Scotland, Europe. Berlin’s really good for our sort of stuff.
EL- You recorded Flow in a cottage in Wales. Why did you do it there?
JM- ….we wanted to do everything on our own- self-record, self-produce- and that setting allowed us to do it because we had total control over [everything].
EL- What’s been the best experience of being in Astral Lynx so far?
JC- I would say that week, recording and when we played Cosmosis. That was my first gig with [the guys]. That was good.
JM- I always look at the whole thing retrospectively. I know the recording was a highlight, but the whole thing is so exciting for me. You see it from when you were just 18, when you were messing around in your bedroom to now when you’re getting the opportunity to set up your own festival in the middle of East London.
EL- What about the worst experience?
JC- Nah. If you start having bad experiences it’s time to do something else.
JM- I totally agree with that….We spent a long period of time without a base to record in. We had to wheel all our gear on fucking sack barrows. We used to travel for an hour and we used to lug all our gear down fucking windy stairs, and in the middle of winter. We had to walk down a [really steep] hill to the train station, get on the train, walk for 15 minutes at the other end, and then do it on the way back. You’d get home at 1am. You’ve got an amp on there, you’ve got a pedal on there, you’ve got your guitar on there. Fuck my life! But it was worth it. It was so worth it.
Astral Lynx are currently focusing on recording and preparing material for their next album. You can catch them live again at the Hackney Wonderland Festival on October 15th, where they’ll be playing alongside a plethora of talented performers such as; Mystery Jets, Swim Deep, Is Tropical, and We Are Scientists. Debut album, Flow, is available to stream and buy through their website, where you can also stay up-to-date with all the Lynx’s movements.
Words- Jennifer Wallis
Photography- Tim Donald