Hola! I recently met over the net Johnny Palmer of the band Astral Lite out of Florida. While reesraching the Green Door Music Hall in Fort Walton Beach I discovered the band which draws infliuences from The Cure, My Bloody Valentine and The Brian Jonestown Massacre - that's a trifecta! The following is the email interview with Johnny. Enjoy. In my last question I asked the bandleader about My Bloody Valentine and his commentary on the album Loveless was wonderfully eloquent. Enjoy the interview.
Briefly introduce the band, it’s members, hometown, origins, and short list of proudest moments and achievements.
We are Astral Lite and we are a mystic rock band from the Florida Panhandle. There’s not so much a specific hometown as we are scattered all over the Panhandle. So you can just call us a Panhandle-based band. My name is Johnny Palmer and I play guitar, and I sing and write most of the material. I started the band in 2015 with bassist Ricky Stanfield, who recently returned to the band. Another prominent member is Hailey Smith, who joined the band in late 2016 and has taken on the role of producer and occasional co-frontperson of sorts. Up until recently our drummer has been Kaelin Boone. He’s the one who played drums on all of our recordings so far (and soon to be released). He recently left to start his own band (which will be great!) and we have taken on a new drummer named Isaac Grant. We also have just added our first ever keyboardist to the lineup named Soren Salander.
A short list of Astral Lite’s achievements includes 1 EP (Mesmerist’s Mainline), a full length album which we recently finished recording and it is set to be released in 2018 (we’ve released 3 singles from it so far), appearances on 3 tribute compilations to My Bloody Valentine, Spiritualized, and The Telescopes (available from The Blog That Celebrates Itself), and quite a few shows under our belt, which include slots at two prominent local festivals: Thrive Fest and Pass The Good Fest (both in 2016).
A cathartic culmination of all forms of mystic rock music (psychedelia, post-punk, krautrock, shoegaze, noise rock, etc) and even beyond the scope of rock n’ roll at times.
What makes the band/music unique, different or special?
What makes the band special is that it has always been a haven for the cosmically frustrated. Many people have come in and out of this band as a healing phase, a vessel for revelatory experiences and expression in ways they usually can’t conjure otherwise. What makes the music special is that most of the songs this band has come up with has become their own entities. Sonic sentience. It’s impossible for us to play most of the songs the same way live twice because the majority of them have minds of their own.
What if any are the long term goals and aspirations of Astral Lite?
More or less... simply to bless the musical world with immersive and cosmically invigorating listening experiences the way that only we know how to do. I’d really REALLY love for us to be playing festivals like Levitation and Desert Daze; I think we’d be right at home. But I wouldn’t mind going beyond that as well. A sort of pipe dream of mine might be to open up for The Cure one day. Ha!
What is the most challenging aspect for the band?
I’d have to say keeping a stable lineup. It might never be a solidified “band”, more of a collective of sorts. And I’m okay with that. I have a strong feeling that who all is in the band now is permanent though... we will see.
Not very good. Ha! Especially not in Destin! However Fort Walton, Panama City, and Pensacola have their little indie rock scenes, which we have certainly made ourselves a part of all 3. But for the most part the Panhandle is driven by beachy tourist culture so if you come here on vacation you’re more likely to walk into a bar and hear Jimmy Buffet covers instead of a good original band. There are exceptions though. A venue here and there that actually appreciates originality. They are all too rare though.
What bands do other people say Astral Lite reminds them of?
Older folks say it reminds them of the Doors and the Velvet Underground, younger people than them say Joy Division and The Cure, younger people than them say the Black Angels. Our inclination for improv and experimental jamming during our live shows has also earned us comparisons to Can, Hawkwind, Acid Mothers Temple, and Barrett-era Floyd. I do enjoy every comparison we get, as it’s always stuff I’m a big fan of.
Who are your greatest artistic/personal influences? (can be anything outside music as well) My ultimate musical hero is Robert Smith. The Cure has been with me almost forever, and they honestly just keep getting better to me the older I get. I’ve never related to any lyrical or musical expression more than what is The Cure. They are just the perfect balance of poetic and atmospheric, which is a balance I try to achieve with Astral Lite. Other vastly important musical figures to me include Brian Eno, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, everyone in Sonic Youth, Lou Reed, Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett, many others... too many to list. Someone who I’ve developed a lot of pull to lately has been Mark Hollis. Those last couple of Talk Talk albums are from another world entirely...
As for non-musical figures, the film works of Jodorowsky are relatively influential to me musically. Holy Mountain is my all time favorite film and I have derived a lot of inspiration from it both lyrically and musically.
My favorite local bands are Action Doug, Analogue Collective, The Jerry Riddle?, and Loyal Customers. There are truly some great original bands here who are often overlooked. Hailey also has a project called “The Fairy Ring” which gets even more transcendental than we do!
In your area, where do music fans go to check out original live music?
In Fort Walton Beach it is the Green Door Music Hall, hands down. Coasters has cool shows sometimes too. But there is a lot I can say (and have said) about what the Green Door has done for the music scene in the Destin-FWB area. As for Pensacola, Chizuko is the place to be. They even have gender neutral restrooms! For Panama City, Mosey’s is where it’s at... and the pizza is great! Santa Rosa Beach also has a coffeeshop venue that’s paired with 30A Songwriter Radio.
If you were critiquing your own band or music, what would you say needs improvement?
I critique my own music all the time. Ha! There are many things I could say but I think most importantly the live show could use a little more flare and dynamics. But we’re working on it!
What can fans expect from an Astral Lite show and when/where are you playing next?
Fans can expect us playing our hearts out. Fans can also expect to never hear the songs the same way twice. Fans can also expect to hear some things that they’ll never hear at another Astral Lite show. You can experience something new with each attendance. Of that I’m sure of.
My Bloody Valentine is indeed heavily influential upon myself and the band. We even contributed a cover of “Lose My Breath” to an MBV tribute compilation from the Blog That Celebrates Itself. As for the album of theirs that is most important to me... it’s the obvious answer, but certainly Loveless. A parable of noise that means a thousand different things to a thousand different people. A record that is literally a different journey upon each listen. You could've heard it a hundred times and still notice something new each time you hear it. Different mindsets yielding different results. "Loveless", when it's anything but. You can sense the frustrating labor of love in each millimeter of it's aural field, rendering it the perfect soundtrack to mystic romantic confusion. The most solid mashup of hellfire drones and ethereal angel sighs... which proves to be an effective combination in a process of scraping each negative vibe off your spirit, so efficiently that you can feel it physically, until it's all over and you are once again reborn. It's not so much an album as it is an audio entity that has taken on it's own life and carries an intention to lead as many souls as possible to perfect bliss. I know, I for one, am in it's debt.
Astral Lite has a new album called New World Vultures coming out on March 15, 2018. Follow them on Facebook here.