Chicago – From Alex Clare to Frank Ocean, electronica to indie-pop, modern music has been increasingly referencing good old 90s R&B. For those vintage-inspired acts out there – move over, cause ASTR is ready to take over the game with an R&B princess at the helm. Princess is indeed the right term for lead singer Zoe Silverman, as she is the daughter of Tommy Boy Record’s founder Tom Silverman. Joined by keyboardist Adam Pallin, Silverman started making noise last year after Yours Truly paid notice to the band, setting the internet on fire and landing a coveted spot with Neon Gold Records. You’ve probably heard ASTR’s kick-ass cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” but their EP Varsity has really got shine. I caught up with the lively Zoe and talked 90s R&B, The Crystal Arcade Tour, new bands and ASTR’s signature ‘Modern Nostalgia’ sound.
Sarah Hess: So let’s talk 90s R&B for a minute. I know you’re a fan of Aaliyah. What’s your favorite song of hers?
Zoe Silverman: My favorite Aaliyah song, oh that’s hard! I think “Rock The Boat.”
Sarah Hess: Any love for Missy or Timbaland?
ZS: So much love for Missy! Missy’s videos are epic. In every one of their videos you can see how they’re influenced by Missy.
SH: Okay, let’s get down to business and talk the making of ASTR. So you and Adam met through a mutual friend in a yoga class, right?
ZS: One of my really close friends at the yoga center was best friends in college with Adam. She would bring him around, and I knew he was a producer. He knew I was a singer. She had told him I was really talented, but it’s hard to force a creative alliance. It has to be natural. So we just got together a few times. Over about a year we formed ASTR.
SH: When did you guys hook up with Neon Gold?
ZS: It was Will from Yours Truly who set us up on the blog, and got people on the internet hearing about us and our relationship with [Neon Gold]. They are so awesome.
SH: Rumor is you’re working on a LP. Can you spill the beans?
ZS: Holla! Well, let me tell you what I can. (laughs) I would like to say we’re going to release something probably after tour, something new, but just the one song. The album will come out sometime between fall and winter next year.
SH: Speaking of touring, you’re getting ready to co-headline The Crystal Arcade Tour with the Knocks, who are also with Neon Gold. Are you guys friends? Did you meet them because of Neon Gold?
ZS: Yeah, yeah, yeah! We’re family. We’re totally fam! It’s so much more fun when you definitely have that chemistry right when you walk in. We met at Art Basel actually. They were DJing a bunch of shows and we were playing a show, and we just hooked up and had a great time. It all happened very organically. We actually put the tour together ourselves, knowing that it would be a good fit, and then they moved over to Neon Gold Records so it all made sense.
SH: You recently remixed “Bridges” by BROODS, which is awesome! Have you heard anything from Georgia or Caleb about it?
ZS: Yes, they love it! We played a few shows with them; they are lovely, lovely, lovely. They had heard our remix for Neon Trees and loved it, so we did a remix for them. I’m really happy with the way it came out.
SH: You’ve been in and around the music industry since you were a kid. How have your experiences impacted ASTR and how you’re going about navigating within the music industry?
ZS: Both Adam and I have been around the business for a long time, so it’s definitely made us more cautious about jumping into things and definitely helped us get a sense of business. I’m still learning so much about it, though.
SH: I know you’ve keyed this term “Modern Nostalgia.” Has it been catching on?
ZS: (laughs) I like to say that! I don’t know if it’s catching on, but I’m going to keep saying it. You know why I say that, it’s ‘cuz I don’t wanna be like it’s just 90s music that influences us. We might just flip it on you and bring back some 70s shit. (laughing)
SH: Well, I think you need to make a Wiki page and get it going!
ZS: (laughs) I love it! Love it!
ASTR is hitting the road with The Knocks starting June 11, 2014. Check out their facebook page for tour dates. You can snag Varsity on iTunes.
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.