A couple of years back, with a regular set packed full of cool pop songs (and more) and a great album in the can, Cancel The Astronauts looked like they might be on the verge of a wider audience. Certainly songs like ‘Intervention’ and ‘While I Was Sleeping’ demonstrated an impressive crossover appeal in my group of friends.
But since the LP’s release the Astros have become somewhat reclusive, only appearing sporadically in public. Ahead of a rare show (and their first in Dundee for five years), MPT caught up with CTA main man Matthew Riley to discuss bad luck, a line-up change and just what the future might hold for the Edinburgh based band.
First up Matt explained just what went wrong in the wake of the release of the album ‘Animal Love Match’ (MPT’s #2 LP of 2012, by the way).
“Quite a few things really! Just before the album launch we found out that the venue we were using had been temporarily closed down due to noise complaints so we had to completely reschedule it. Instead of it being in September, we ended up playing in December (although the gig ended up being a very good one).
“We had also booked a little tour around then too with dates around the UK, but they all fell through for varying reasons, so we were left with an album that we couldn’t effectively promote.
“Mind you, I’m sure other bands faced with similarly difficult circumstances would have found a way round it, but we’re ineffectual, lazy swines at the best of times, so we just sort of accepted it.
“The album didn’t get the level of attention we’d hoped it would, but there you go. We’ll just have to write a better one next time.”
Matthew is fairly phlegmatic about this chain of events.
“It’s sort of frustrating, because you’re left with a lot of ‘what-ifs?’, but also not that frustrating because we were proud of it regardless of what people thought of it, or what we were able to do with it.
“Also, we’ve always been rubbish at promotion. We’ve had years to get better at it and do things properly but we never have, so we can’t complain too much. Our whole career has felt a bit like one big ‘what-if?’ but we’ve no one to blame but ourselves. At some point, you have to either change, or just accept yourself for what you are.”
The band’s opportunities to gig in recent months were also affected by the departure of keyboard player Michael Rocketship, whose contribution was significant to the sound of the band. Matthew’s reluctant to discuss the issue in any detail.
“You can ask Michael that when you see him next- it wouldn’t be fair to talk about it here! Suffice to say, it was a mutual, affectionate and very amicable parting of ways, without any drama or bitterness at all, and there’s really not much to tell.
“I actually saw Michael today. He made me some lovely ‘posh sandwiches’ and lent me a book.”
At their first gig as a four piece in February a couple of Astros (including Matt from the stage!) suggested that they had considered changing their name but Matt insists it wasn’t a serious option.
“Not really. There’s enough of us around to still feel like Cancel the Astronauts, and I’m stubbornly attached to the name. Perhaps if Kieran, Chris and Neil leave then we’ll consider a name change, but not yet. And certainly not as a cynical rebranding career move. CTA ’till I die mate.”
The set that night was heavily weighted in favour of new material featuring a darker sound. But Matthew’s not certain that that show is representative of where the band will ahead.
“We’re still very much in a transitional stage sound-wise. The new songs are less poppy, but that follows a trend that began before Michael left. They also have a lot less synth on them. I might do the odd bit of synth, maybe, here and there, and I’d like to do some actual proper piano songs.
“I’m also still trying to wear Kieran down into letting us get another guitarist, but he’s been telling me no for years.”
With just the one show in the last six months Matthew is happy to explain where band activities have been focussed.
“Writing new songs! I think we’ve got the third album nearly written, but not the second one yet. We would be happy to do more gigs if people asked us to and we’re available, but no-one ever asks us to these days! We’re not so hot right now it seems. We’ll get round to organising one ourselves eventually, but probably not for a while.”
Matthew has an extremely short two point To Do List for the near future. Even at that one of the two items may not (or may ) be entirely serious!
“We’ll hopefully go in to a studio soon to record songs for an album. I think we’re writing better songs than ever, but I’m bound to say that.
“Then try to convince Kieran to let us recruit a new guitarist. I should take this opportunity to say then that we are officially looking for a new guitarist and anybody interested should speak to Kieran directly!”
To conclude Matthew recalled some hazy details of the band’s last Dundee show.
“Fat Sam’s? It was a charity show in like, 2009, and I remember nothing about it other than we had a big dressing room with loads of free booze and a shower, and we played to about 5 people.”
Hopefully those five people (and more) will avail themselves of the opportunity to catch Cancel The Astros in Dundee next Saturday.
Cancel The Astronauts return to Dundee next Saturday (24th May) as part of the latest Cool Cat Club bill featuring Book Group, STOOR and Marley Davidson. The show takes place at Beat Generator Live with doors at 7:30 p.m. and advance tickets priced £4 are available from Groucho’s and We Got Tickets.
In his solo piano balladeer guise, Jackson Hall, Matthew released the ‘Lost Love Songs Two’ mini album a couple of weeks back. (Review and more info).