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Astral People reflect on six years in the music industry

Happy sixth birthday Astral People!

Posted by Acclaim

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If you recently attended shows in Australia by artists like Stormzy, Snakehips, Sampha, and Little Simz, or plan on attending upcoming shows like AJ Tracey or Cashmere Cat—you have Astral People to thank. The Sydney-based artist management and international touring company has been on the scene and breaking new ground since back in 2011. With Astral about to celebrate their sixth birthday, and as big fans and regular collaborators, we pulled them aside and reflected with them on a huge six years in the game.

01. Moktar Sharouny

Occupation: Artist, producer
How do you know astral people? We go way back to 2011 when we were just starting off with polographia and we’re approached by astral people. It was our first approach from anyone and we were one of their first signings too!
What was your favourite track in 2011? Toro y Moi ‘Still Sound
Whats your favourite track right now? Winston Surfshirt ‘Be About You
How has the Aus music scene changed in the last six years? Is it for the better or worse? I think its always getting better cause it just keeps getting bigger each year.
How would you like it to change over the next six years? Would love too see more electronic acts going live.
How have you changed in the last six years? I think we’ve all changed so much in the six years. So much has happened from learning from mistakes too hitting milestones we never thought could happen. Were excited for another six more years!
What’s a favourite moment from an Astral party or event over the years? I remember playing at the first Astral birthday and our manager Vic being so excited the entire night he was going around kissing all his acts.

02. Lucy

Occupation: Queen
How do you know Astral People? Resident queen
What was your favourite track in 2011? Probably ‘Space Is Only Noise’ by Nicolas Jaar. My first ever record from a little hole in the wall in NZ (nevermind that I didn’t actually own a record player yet).
Whats your favourite track right now? Anything from Lauryn Hill. Always.
How has the Aus music scene changed in the last six years? Is it for the better or worse? It feels like we’re stuck at a bit of a crossroads— obviously with the nanny state climate and lockout laws its harder for Aus artists to develop. But that doesn’t mean the talent’s not there, there’s just so much less visibility. It’s definitely harder for artists to develop organically with the lack of nightlife and venues.
How would you like it to change over the next six years? Power to the queens! More opportunities and empowerment to women in music (this also goes for every other bit of society). This does not mean men booking women to meet a quota but changes from a grassroots level. If women were raised to feel the same confidence that men do and didn’t encounter so many more hurdles along the way, the arts would be a much fairer playing field.
How have you changed in the last six years? So so incredibly much! Sometimes I surprise myself.
What’s a favourite moment from an Astral party or event over the years? Let’s chat after this weekend…

03. Winston

Occupation: Musicman
How do you know Astral People? We’ve been in a serious relationship for two years.
What was your favourite track in 2011? Winston Legthigh and the Spanish Proposition.
Whats your favourite track right now? Winston Legthigh and the Spanish Proposition.
How has the Aus music scene changed in the last six years? Is it for the better or worse? Were in such a better place. So much talent coming out of Australia in all areas.
How would you like it to change over the next six years? We taking over bb.
How have you changed in the last six years? Hardly?
What’s a favourite moment from an Astral party or event over the years? We got to play their fifth birthday at Oxford Arts. Was such a wild time. Ask me how it went; I can’t remember.

04. Daniel Hundt

Occupation: General Manager
How do you know Astral People? They’ve always been my mates, now i just work for them.
What was your favourite track in 2011? Probably something off Daft Punk’s Discovery.
Whats your favourite track right now? That’s tricky, maybe SZA feat. Travis Scott ‘Love Galore‘ or Cousin Stizz’s ‘No Bells‘.
How has the Aus music scene changed in the last six years? Is it for the better or worse? Sydney in particular has changed a great deal—things used to happen a lot easier. We were spoiled for choice in terms of venues and weekly/monthly club nights, which now unfortunately is not the case. I also think the energy levels have dropped as a whole, or maybe I’m just getting older, I don’t know. But looking back it felt like people wanted to go out later and more often, these days the younger generations haven’t really known what it’s like to dance until 7am in the depths of a chinatown basement, so they aren’t necessarily fighting for their right to do so. Sorry, turned into a rant about Sydney lockout laws just as it always does.
How would you like it to change over the next six years? I think the Aus music industry as a whole is moving in a very positive direction. We’ve got more access to artists than ever before and that allows us to bring over lesser-known acts and introduce them to wider audiences. I’d like to see more quality venues Australia wide, as you can’t really have enough if they’re done right. I’d like to see more club rooms built with the focus on sound and dance. I’d like to see more of the younger heads coming up take risks. I’d like to see more UKG nights. Oh and Reggae Mondays at The Civic should still be a thing.
How have you changed in the last six years? Woah, way to get deep. I’ve gotten older, fatter, and a little wiser.
What’s a favourite moment from an Astral party or event over the years? Too many to really go into but I’ll try and summarise: Smoked weed with Freddie Gibbs. Eaten HSP’s with D Double E. Driven a Tesla with Omar S. Had Moodymann give me advice on a broken generator. Celebrated Stormzy’s 24th Birthday with him. Spent an hour at a bush doof looking for a clean port-a-loo with Andrés. Choked when Chunky gave me the mic at Loefah & Chunky show. Oh speaking of bush doofs actually, took Wookie to his first Bush Doof and saw an eagle fly away with a wallaby. That’ll do I reckon.

05. Eugene Ward

Occupation​: Assembler at Dro Carey
How do you know Astral People? ​I knew Vic before Astral People​ started. He was working as a manager by himself and I was one of his early acts. We had a mutual friend in Aidan at Templar Sound and that’s how he first got in touch with me and offered to be my manager. I think maybe I was with him one year before Astral was formed and yeah, I was one of the acts that he brought with him to the company when it started.
What was your favourite track in 2011? ‘Bohla‘ by Blawan. The whole 12″ is so good and​ was extremely influential for me. Still so fresh and interesting.
Whats your favourite track right now? ​I really like ‘Why Don’t You Make Your Bed’​ by Karen Gwyer, from the album Rembo on Don’t Be Afraid.
How has the Aus music scene changed in the last six years? Is it for the better or worse? ​As with any field there’s been a layered set of transformations brought on by economic and technological factors, but I think they are ultimately good. Certain business models have disappeared or changed—yes there are new barriers to running nights or booking tours, or to the viability of being a music maker or writer that doesn’t perform live or DJ. But with these changes there’s the opportunity to change approaches and to change our thinking about how these things operate. The chance to look at new models. Sometimes these changes clear the board and kind of level things out, allowing the non-incumbent DIY operations to take their shot—labels, bookers, collectives etc.
How would you like it to change over the next six years? There’s been improvement in representation in music in recent years but there is still so much to do. Privileged people like myself need to examine what we are doing, how we operate as performers and composers, and to concretely consider what we can do to course correct the entrenched disadvantage faced by people of colour, women, queer people, and people with disabilities. We need to be critical of lineups that perpetuate exclusion. We need to be conscious of the context we are working in—about how what is the norm has been predicated on violent control. There’s a great distortion that needs to be redressed. It’s good that more and more lineups are evolving in this way and I hope that in six years we have progressed further.
How have you changed in the last six years? 19 and 25 are very different ages. I’ve matured a lot. To me the most important change in that time has been the effective management of my depression and anxiety. I’m in a stable place now and it was a long road to get there. I am hesitant to call this change growth—which is how I would describe the changes in my maturity or my professional skills—since that implies some kind of superiority to people who are not feeling stable. I would call it an improvement in dealing with these feelings. And that work never stops but you do get better at it. With the support of family and professionals and friends you build up the equipment for dealing with it. And that was a significant period of building for me.
What’s a favourite moment from an Astral party or event over the years? The birthdays tend to be the most memorable. It’s hard to isolate specific stories or moments. It’s more the cumulative thing of seeing all the acts play in one lineup and hanging out with the other Astral artists and team. It’s not something that happens very often, that gathering, since the roster is quite large and everyone has their own shows and tours. The birthdays are special and I always recommend getting to them.

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