On December 8th, 2021 I had the pleasure to sit down with Ashley, Zach, and Lauren, the Houston-based indie trio known as “Astralace.” I initially found out about the group when I saw them perform at House of J in East Houston. I was impressed when I first heard the band, and I knew I need to get them into the studio to learn more about them as soon as I possibly could.
The members of Astralace are a pretty experienced musical bunch, all having graduated from Moores School of Music at the University of Houston. Despite all graduating together and knowing each other previously, they did not begin playing music together formally until a while after they graduated.
Ashley and Zach began playing open mics in the spring of 2021 and discovered their friend Lauren as a potential percussionist during a casual jam amongst friends. None knew of Lauren’s drumming talents (including herself), with the band speculating that her childhood with video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band was the greatest influence over her quick grasp of the instrument.
Astralace played their first live show in September of 2021 in Conroe, TX. The trio frequently plays next to their sister group Oh, Hooray! on many gigs around the city, and can be frequently found on the same tickets.
Astralace’s first release, a single titled “Apple Tree” can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, and anywhere you stream music. Their first release was primarily written, produced, and recorded by band frontwoman Ashley Lacy. The band said they would like to make their songwriting and production process more inclusive going forward, however, and they would not count out doing a re-release of “Apple Tree” in the future.
The rest of the article is the transcribed interview I conducted with Astralace in our studio. Ashley will be written as AL, Zach will be written as ZL, and Lauren will be written as LP.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Being a band that formed during the pandemic and post-pandemic era, how has it been finding gigs and opportunities to play live around town?
AL: I feel like, at first, when we started doing open mics it was hard to get a spot because everyone was so eager to get out there.
LP: We would get there thirty minutes after a spot opened and there would already be no spots left.
AL: It has been tough for open mics sometimes. As far as booked gigs, we have not really been affected, but we haven’t had many. Whenever we do message people to ask to book, they’ll either respond and be like “Oh, yeah, we’ll have you guys out,” or just won’t respond at all.
LP: I think it does help that we tag along with Oh, Hooray! because Jamie will be like, “We got a show, do you want Astralace to play too?” and of course, we love to play.
Q: In an average session, what does your songwriting process look like?
AL: So it’s kinda different depending on the song. I will usually start with a simple concept or idea, and then I’ll elaborate on it. When I was writing our song “Blood in the Water” I was watching a documentary on the Olympic games and there was splashing and this guy gets injured and there was blood in the water. I was like, “Oh, snap,” then I got into more of what that means, not just the actual fact of there being blood in the water. Then I elaborate and try to find meaning.
Q: So do you kind of bring the ideas to the other two and it expands outward from that?
AL: Yeah, typically I’ll show Zach and he’ll help me change some of the small things and the musical fill-ins. Sometimes I’ll have a nice melody but the progressions will be kind of off and he’ll help me tweak it a little bit.
ZL: Yeah, I think that’s because Ashley doesn’t come from the background of a chordal or accompanying instrument.
AL: Yeah, I played clarinet, so it would be kind of hard to play and sing at the same time.
ZL: And I would write songs and play guitar and stuff, so I could understand more what chords went well with a melody. Sometimes I can see what she’s trying to do with a song, and I’ll help her find the solution and come up with some other options.
Q: So it seems like in this band a lot of you don’t play the instrument you guys started out with, so how has that affected writing music and what you guys are trying to do?
LP: So I know, since I am still so new to this coming from the clarinet, that I’m starting to hear songs on the radio and I am listening to the drums and wanting to try new things out. Because I’m not super involved in the songwriting process, they usually have a product, then [Ashley and Zach] ask me: “What can you add to it?” So for me, I want to get creative and expand my knowledge on cool beats and whatnot.
AL: Initially, we started off with some “beat ideas” for her, but for our more recent songs we’ll be like, “Okay, we’ll play the song for you, tell us what you think.” And she’s getting it just like a regular drummer does. For me, I was not really singing or doing anything until we first met.
ZL: We all kinda met when we were in school and we did a project for our elementary music education class.
AL: Yeah, so the project was to make a mash-up song where none of the groupmates can use the instrument that they normally use.
LP: It was probably the most fun project I probably did in my four years at UH. It really put us out of our comfort zone. We were all like “wow, that was really fun.”
AL: I think that that really expanded me as a musician to just be braver and less vulnerable with my music.
ZL: Yeah, I always played guitar, from the time I was in high school, because that’s what I wanted to learn, just like any other high school kid. But I always thought bass was cool. I feel like I was really waiting for my moment for someone to ask me to play bass. You can’t really — well maybe you can, but I couldn’t — just play bass by yourself. It’s definitely an instrument that comes alive with others, they always call it the “backbone” of the band.
Q: So going forward would you ever consider going back or revisiting your original music roots and incorporating that somewhat into new music that you guys make?
AL: Yeah, I know for sure that in Oh, Hooray! I play the clarinet in one song and it’s cool because after college I kinda just put that away. I think if we did it with Astralace it would just be tricky. We could use it for some samples and stuff like that.
ZL: Always got the looper pedal too.
AL: That’s true, we could always work on looping it.
Q: Going into the new year what are your goals for the band?
ZL: We want to release that EP.
AL: Well yeah, we want to definitely release an EP, if not a full entire album.
LP: We mostly just want to work on recording and getting some stuff out there.
ZL: We definitely feel like we could have an album done by the end of the summer if everything goes as planned. There’s gonna be a lot going on this summer for us, but if we could get an album done that would be awesome. I think it would be cool to crash South by SouthWest too. Just show up on the sidewalk and start playing.
AL: For sure we want to release at least an EP and I think playing some bigger venues around Houston would be cool. Maybe playing like a tiny little White Oak show would be cool. I’m just putting that into the universe. House of J was really cool too; we would absolutely do that again.
LP: I definitely liked being in the background for that one a little more. It was probably a little intimidating to have people looking you in the eyes when you’re playing.
ZL: It’s definitely something we could get used to though. It’s definitely different than playing a bar show, especially since we’re playing originals. Sometimes it’s hard to get people to listen because most of them aren’t really there to listen.
LP: When we played 202 there was a huge crowd, but there was an Astros game, so everyone was there for the Astros game and it got kinda difficult to play.
ZL: It was really neat to have that focus at House of J.
I had a great time sitting down with Astralace, and I am excited to see what they come out with in the future. Those who would like to see Astralace live can see them play next at 202 Main in Conroe, TX on Saturday, January 22nd.
Hello! I am a new music journalist at CoogRadio from Connecticut looking into the local music scene in the City of Houston. I am currently studying for my B.S. in Political Science from the University of Houston.