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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I (Andrew) got into playing music when I was 12, I used to listen to a lot of Queen when I was younger but I started getting into rock and metal by watching Kerrang and by checking out bands on MySpace around 2005. My older sister got a bass for her birthday one year and played it for about a month so I got asked to play bass in a band at school simply because I had one in my house. I got the bug right away and it’s been a big part of me as a person since. If I wasn’t doing music I really don’t know what I’d be focusing on, I used to be into art and building things but music for me encompasses what I like most about those things, as well as having much social and cultural significance.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
When we’re not playing, listening, or talking music, we love to fool around, make jokes, and create silly videos that make us laugh. It’s definitely another creative outlet for us and keeps the irons in the creative fire alive in a different way to music. We even ended up recording some parody rap songs during the recording of our album, just because we felt like it. Maybe one day we’ll release some of that and be a comedy band instead.
How long has your band been around?
The band formed in 2015 as part of our mutual friends’ University project, Alex (Guitar) and Jack (Drums) had been playing in bands at that point for years already, and had started recording their own demos of what would eventually become Altostratus songs. Our friend asked me (Andrew) to play bass on the recordings, I ended up getting on really well with the guys musically and personally so we decided to keep the project going. When looking for a second guitar player, I accidentally stumbled across Jordan’s (Guitar) YouTube channel, I thought he was a great player then noticed that he lived in our area, and even studied at the same college. After inviting him to hang out with us and jam, our line up was complete. We’ve been great friends working together since.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
We were all based out of Newcastle-upon-Tyne until recently, now we’re spread out across the UK. The northern skies around Newcastle influenced our decision on the band name due to how cloudy and generally grey the weather is there. There’s always been a lot of metal shows in Newcastle too, seeing lots of cool bands over the years definitely inspired us to write heavy music. Furthermore, having many gig opportunities there really helped us consider the impact that our musical decisions would have on our live shows.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you.
Jack came up with the name and as I just mentioned, the name was inspired by cloud formations and the fact it’s always cloudy where we come from. However, a wealth of imagery and meaning can be attached to it depending on how deeply you want to look at it, like with our music.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
The best show we’ve ever played was probably last Wednesday at our album launch party in the Head of Steam Newcastle. It’s the first show we’ve played after recording our album and we had a massive turnout with many of our closest fans and friends there to party with us. We had three of our favourite bands in Newcastle (Thesis Lives, Dutch Elm, Okeya) to support us and managed to co-ordinate three Walls of Death in one song – that is something I’ve never seen before!
Probably when we played at The Independent in Sunderland, purely because there was one guy in the crowd who kept crowd killing and trying to hurt people in the audience all night. He was scaring everyone to the point that no one was dancing or moshing to our set. While we love moshing and having a bit of a rough time, we really do not appreciate when people are disrespectful and looking to cause trouble or hurt people.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you haven't already?
Our favourite venue is proabably Tech-Fest at Newark Showground. We played there in 2016 and 2017, and since the festival is catered to our style of music, the sound both on and off stage is incredible. Not only that but the audience is great and we’ve met some of our dearest fans and friends there. We’d love to play there again sometime in the future.
If you could play any show with any lineup who would be on the ticket?
Meshuggah, Sleep Token, and Pravitas.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
Advice I’d give for young players is try and find people who are on your level to play with, having others to motivate you to keep at it keeps it fun and you all suck together without realising. Being in a band is supposed to be fun, so starting out with your friends and enjoying it is more important than being really good right away.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
I saw Meshuggah when I was 15, I only knew a couple of songs but it was a really eye-opening show, they went on to become one of my favourite bands. I recently looked at the set-list for that gig online and saw that it was all absolute bangers. My advice to my younger self would be to wise-up to Meshuggah earlier so I could have appreciated that set like I would now!
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
I’d say the track Starlight, it’s the final track from out upcoming album – Complete The Connection – and I believe it’s the truest representation of our collective creativity, as it’s the most collaborative. It was funnily enough, the first song on the new album we had started writing and the last to be finished. The track is quite long and has all the musical themes from the record woven into it.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
My personal favourite song to play live is a new song called Persea Americana, it’s quite long and dynamic, going from our heaviest sections to nicest and most melodic, and the ending is a lush chord part that is nice to head-bang and thrash about on stage to. Our most requested is an old one called Hidden In A Cloud, we’ve just re-introduced this one to the set and I’ll be getting three separate Walls Of Death going at certain parts of the song, so if you come see us, please be ready to be in three Walls Of Death.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
A song will usually start with a guitar or collection of guitar riffs and it’ll evolve from there. Some songs are brought in already composed by one member, but everyone has their say and puts their own spin on it. The album contains musical themes throughout that we consciously included in other tracks, for instance, the opening motif of the first/title track is repeated in the final track but in a completely different musical context, it’s subtle but the eagle-eared amongst you will pick it up.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
With instrumental music like ours, it’s difficult to convey a direct message. You can have a theme of what a song is supposed to sound like or a vibe given through the names and artwork. With our music, we try to just feel it out as we write and hopefully transfer that energy onto record for people to feel in their own way. More like an abstract painting rather than a portrait.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Yes we do have disagreements quite often and especially when we’re writing. We solve our issues democratically and if that doesn’t work out, come to a different compromise that suits everyone. We’re all quite willing to do that so we’ve never had any big issues yet. Most of our managerial and logistical disagreements get solved swiftly with a Facebook messenger poll.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that's coming up?
We’ll be hitting the road in April for a 7 date tour with our tech-metal brothers, Pravitas. They are great fun guys and we’ve toured with them before so we’re very excited about it. We’ll also be hooking up with amazing bands such as The Mechanist, Xero, Chiasmata, Centrillia, and Withdrones. We’ll be playing in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Berwick, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, and London. You can pickup tickets from our website! (altostratusband.com). Following this we plan to play as many shows as we can and to get back to writing music again. A lot of our album is very old to us and we’re ready to craft a new sound for our next release and see where the rabbit hole takes us this time.