Alex Adkinson, who performs under the moniker Astral Samara, has a lot to say about the interconnections between music, feelings, and philosophy. Adkinson, a UMN graduate who studied kinesiology, is creating his own type of experimental music. Read on to learn how he conceives of his psychedelic, sad boy pop: his inspirations, feelings, and creative process.
The Wake: When did you start making music?
I have young childhood memories of playing the guitar and singing songs about my dogs. I think it’s a natural compulsion of my body. In college, I just had a band with my friends and we started recording demos and having shows. It wasn’t really until college that I started taking it seriously.
What is the meaning behind the name Astral Samara and why did you chose it?
I kinda got it from a mushroom trip I had. It’s kind of some weirdo hippy sh*t where I kinda think about it as myself moving through space… being organic material. A samara is the part of a plant that allows it to be transported, like the fluffy part of a dandelion. The name is about traveling through space.
How would you define your style of music?
I mostly do research to find things I’m interested in and then I find a lyrical space to produce it. I improvise a lot to find the form of the songs and then let what happens naturally happen. I try to keep it in some sort of pop space with also keeping it psychedelic and experimental.
You came out with a full album (14 tracks!), “zonal flows” in March. What was your creative process while creating this album?
It has a theory accompanied with it, of philosophy that I wrote. I was reading Gravity’s Rainbow at the time. It’s a really out-there kind of psychedelic post-modernist book. I was reading a lot of post-structuralism at the time so I got the idea to try and integrate those ideas into my music. I was also writing my own theories at the time so it all got wrapped up together.
You also released some new music this summer including songs “see through” and “arp jam.” How do you think your music is evolving?
With “see through” I think that was me striving for pop… and I think I’m getting closer to it. I have a few tracks I’m about to release that are even more poppy. I just got a Juno-66 synthesizer, and it has the best sound. I’m obsessed with it. “see through” was my attempt at a dance pop song, but it’s still sad. I’m currently going through a breakup and I wrote “see through” when I could feel it was about to happen.
In a description you wrote on your SoundCloud for your song “innerenvironment,” which features female vocals and cello, you mention that much of it is improvised. How do you recreate your music for a live audience?
I do some improvisational stuff and some that isn’t… I kinda like to think that whichever I am trying to do, I’m in a different mental space. I do like improvising and I like the energy that it has and how it feels. Ultimately, I’m working into a really cohesive live set. I want to have visuals for my new pop material, too!
Who are your biggest influences?
I’m influenced a lot by philosophy, like Deleuze. And, let’s see… musically, Pauline Oliveros, who was an avant-garde composer in the 60s until somewhat recently. I met her through a workshop with her at the U. Honestly, I’ve been interested in meditation and transcendental thought for a long time. Bringing yourself back down to the world and reality is powerful. Meditating on something… when you have the theory and the clear head that comes with it, and then coming back to music making is amazing.
What do you like or dislike the most about being a part of the local Minneapolis music scene?
It’s a really great community of people. There are people like Larry Wish who is blending music and performance art. It’s fun and it’s funny… tongue in cheek! And then there’ s great large-scale stuff to look up to. It’s a great thing when the people you can hang out with are also people who you respect deeply. Minneapolis is smaller for a city. It’s a definitely great place to build your music and to find yourself. The only thing that bums me out is that Minneapolis is kind of insular. It means we care about each other a lot but sometimes we care too much and I am sometimes jealous of my friends on the East Coast who don’t get as obsessed over scene politics.
Do you know what direction you’re going in yet for your next project?
Yeah. I do! I’m working on another full-length album. It’s gonna be called something along the lines of “Let me walk you out, I’ll show you to the door.” It’s going to be a journey through a post-modern labyrinth, which is, to me, a metaphor for how I view society. You walk through the world and wonder, “What path do I take?” But really you’re always just going to be doing what you’re doing. The world is scary right now and politics are crazy. I want to explain why I feel detached from the world and bare my soul. But I still want it to be poppy and fun. I have two songs done and they’re both pretty short. Like, the lyrics are scary but the music is fun!
Any upcoming Astral Samara songs to get excited about?
Keep an eye out for my next single, called “Apparatus of Control.” I swear, it’s like a nice synth-pop song.