Astroid Boys are an eclectic bunch, sitting between grime and punk/hardcore and pulling influences from a number of different subgenres. With such a diverse range in sound, it’s no wonder that the band can be seen supporting the likes of Trash Talk and Deez Nuts on one hand; but also touring with the likes of Public Enemy, Grandmaster Flash, Skepta and Stormzy on the other. With a debut album on the way for a release in September, we thought what better time to catch up with Astroid Boys and find out a little more about their songwriting process.
Mosh: How does the lyric writing process begin for you – Does the music come first, or the lyrics? Do you collect fragments and ideas when inspiration strikes?
AB: There is a number of different ways that we like to put songs together. Some days Dell will send over a few links to beats he’s been toying with and I’ll write a few different verse and hook ideas to them. Usually when we next link up at studio, Traxx will have a few ideas of his own and we all jam together and see if we catch a vibe. Other times one of us may have a topic or a few lines that we have been working on that we can show to Dell and then we work on making a beat around that idea. I tend to write as much as possible over different style beats that I like so that when we get together I’ve always got something that fits, or that I can take inspiration from.
Mosh: Is this process always straightforward for you? Have you ever struggled with ‘writer’s block’ or similar?
AB: I’ve struggled with writer’s block in the past but it was different on this album. I think we all knew what had to be said so it felt very natural.
Mosh: Do you go back to lyrics you have previously written and edit or refine them, or is it a case of ‘one and done’? Do you collaborate or share lyrics with other band members and take their feedback on board?
AB: It’s always good to go away and listen to the tracks and see if things could be improved. Back in the day when we used to have to pay for studio time, If we wanted to rewrite a verse it would be costly. Having built our own set up gives us a huge advantage now. We all listen to the demos, share feedback and suggest changes.
Mosh: Are there any bands or artists that have impressed or inspired you lyrically? Do you try and emulate any other lyricists in particular?
AB: I love listening to bands and artists and finding the parts in their music and live show that get me going. It’s good to switch off a little when working on a project. I think it keeps my mind fresh to be creative and not to imitate what is already being done. With that being said, I’m stuck in the 90s when it comes to music.
Mosh: Do you draw lyrical inspiration from outside of music, such as authors, films or artists?
AB: I’m interested in a lot of things. Music is just the way I have always expressed myself best. I like art, poetry, fashion, photography, nature and all the same shit that everybody else likes.
Mosh: Is there a specific space (mental or physical) where you get ‘in the zone’, or can you write anywhere at any time?
AB: I like writing in a room full of people. get in the studio for around midday and then by around 4.20 I’m ready to get the beat on repeat with the volume up and just sit in the corner with a pen and paper. I’ll sit quiet and write and then when I’m onto something I’ll show everyone and get their reaction. If I don’t get the reaction I want straight away then it’s head back down until it’s right.
Mosh: Do you choose to publish your lyrics or keep them personal? Is it important that fans be able to access lyrical content?
AB: I think the listeners can understand the lyrics anyway. We try to be concise in what we say and if it’s some kind of slang then I’m sure it won’t take long until they pick it up. There isn’t anything wrong with publishing your lyrics. It helps the audience to understand and join in.
Mosh: Can you remember when you began writing lyrics? Was it a conscious choice? Something you drifted into out of necessity?
AB: I used to listen to a lot of US rap as a kid. I guess I just wanted to tell my own stories the way they did. I wrote a few lyrics before I ever got around to showing anybody but when it came time to step up into circles of rappers I didn’t always have enough material, so I would just start freestyling. I think that gave me an edge. Not a lot of people are brave enough to just freestyle a verse in a cypher when they know everybody else is spitting their hardest pre written verses.
Mosh: What is your favourite lyric and why?
AB: My favourite lyric is probably Pharoahe Monch’s verse in (Mos Def ft Pharoahe Monch & Nate Dogg – Oh No). I love that whole song. I highly recommend you buy it!
Mosh: What is your favourite lyric that YOU have written?
AB: My favourite lyric that I have ever written is probably not even out there. Some things are better left unsaid. lol
Mosh: Is there anything you actively try and avoid when writing lyrics? Any topics or themes you think are overdone?
AB: Avoid talking shit. If you’re living a life of Tesco shopping, less of the Gucci talking.
Mosh: Is it important to you that lyrics always tell a story or have meaning?
AB: It’s impossible to make a song without meaning. If you didn’t mean to make it then it wouldn’t get made. It certainly won’t get recorded anyway.
Mosh: Does your knowledge of your vocal delivery have any impact on how you write lyrics? Do you write to fit a vocal style, or fit the delivery to the lyrics?
AB: Yes. Our live set is high energy and fast paced so it helps that lyrically we are able to deliver. We bounce off each other well on stage but are still able to hold our own when we hit up a radio show or freestyle. A lot of artists don’t have ability to spit every line from their songs on a live set. They rely heavily on vocals in the backing track. That’s never been the case for Astroid Boys. The vocals may be there but we are able to deliver too.