Astpai are a four-piece melodic hardcore punk band from Austria, producing music that deviates from the predictable patterns common to the genre, while writing insightful lyrics about matters of the heart and the head. As much as I love all things Austrian, it seemed to me that things had gone a bit quiet since the ‘glory’ days of Antimaniax, Red Lights Flash and Sick of Silence. Astpai represent the next generation of enthusiastic young musicians in the DIY scene writing great punk tunes and touring all over the place. They are about to embark on a European tour so I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask them a few questions about music, veganism and life in Austria.
1) Hello Astpai! Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and where you come from?
Hello. That’s a bit of a tough question. We actually played our first show as a three piece in summer 2001. Nine years later, the band theoretically still consists of the same four boys from Wiener Neustadt, Eastern Austria since 2004 (Wimmer drums, Zock vocals/guitar, Rene vocals/bass, Marco guitar/vocals), who are between 22 and 25 years old. In fact though, we’re going to tour with a different drummer for the second time in less than a year now, plus we always have our fifth wheel Alex with us…for no particular reason some would say! Although we’re incredibly stoked to have him on board doing merch, taking pictures and basically collecting all the clothes/gear/random stuff I would have lost all over Europe and North America by now.
2) Astpai, that’s a silly name. No one knows how to pronounce it. What’s the story there?
Well, it might appear a little less silly if you see it like this: when Wimmer and I started the band 10 years ago, we could easily make all our friends in school wear our band name on their wallets, backpacks, pencil cases and skateboard decks. ASTPAI is nothing more than the result of a school friend of mine drawing over the E and half the K of an Eastpak sticker. Amongst all the other terrible name suggestions containing actual English words, this seemed like the most fun idea to us. There was a local skate shop who always gave away tons of free Eastpak stickers, which means we always had our own free stickers. Keep in mind that all this happened ten years ago. We were all deeply in love with the immaturity of bands like Blink 182, Green Day, Sum 41, etc. so an idea for a band name like that worked out fine for us, and as we never changed the line up for good we kept the name. Oh and it’s pronounced ‘Ustpie’.
3) I know you guys like None More Black because one of you even has a None More Black tattoo, which might make him one of the only people on earth with one, but what else inspires you to make music? It doesn’t have to be limited to other musicians, it can also be experiences, certain equipment, certain people, etc.
There’s at least eight people with NMB tattoos if you look up their Myspace, which makes it still pretty exclusive for Rene to have one I guess. Anyway, yes, since their first demos we found ourselves in love with that band. They just had a different and special vibe to their music that I thought was missing in a lot of other punk bands. Jason (Shevchuck, singer/guitar) for example perfectly manages to write honest, emotional lyrics and sings them in such an honest and passionate way without following any stupid musical/vocal trends like it is with a shit ton of other singers that consider themselves ‘emotional’. Does this make sense? Anyway, of course there’s a bunch of other great bands like Trial By Fire, The Nerve Agents, Kid Dynamite, Give Up The Ghost and local bands like Rentokill who always had a big influence on our music. Or was I supposed to say that life itself is our main source of creativity?!
4) I’ve spent a little bit of time in your home town of Wiener Neustadt and one of the things that really impresses me is how strong the scene is. Can you tell us a little bit about the set-up in your town, for example, who does the shows? Where are they? Who comes?
Yes, I really enjoy being part of the Wiener Neustadt punk scene. Ever since I’ve been going to shows and starting writing my own music there’s been a fair amount of really good and influential bands in and around Wiener Neustadt, especially if you keep in mind that there’s only around 40,000 people living here. Our Neustadtpunk Collective has always been holding the active part of our local scene together, be it through organising shows/tours, promoting bands on the internet, working together with print- and radio media, etc. Also, we’re lucky to have one of the nicest and welcoming venues in Austria, the Triebwerk, which always acted really supportive towards both young bands and promoters. On weekdays we also put on small shows in our practise room, which is part of a huge complex officially called ‘The Bandhouse’, as it nearly exclusively hosts practising bands. It got a little difficult putting on shows there recently, as there were troubles with the Austrian Live Music Agency vultures wanting us to pay for every show, but I think we’ll keep on going as long as it makes sense for touring bands to play a small show for a small amount of money instead of having a weekday off.
5) You hail from the land of Hitler, Falco and Arnie, so it doesn’t always surprise me that you spend so much time on the road (only joking, I love Austria!)…Where do you like to travel to most? And how do you find the right balance between home commitments and tour fun?
Nice observation Chris, those were/are Austrians too, just like us. But really, Austria can get really depressing, especially when you look at the political development over the last decade or two. First you could rapidly watch the country’s conservativism and anti-emancipation reach absurd heights, which was once more followed by a growing sympathy for right-wing ideas all the way to nominating a douchebag like Barbara Rosenkranz, who wanted the NS-prohibition law [a law punishing people for Holocaust denial and other Nazi-related crimes] to be eliminated and to become our president. It is a truly refreshing thing to leave the country as often as possible to meet up with other people from other countries and to be able to see a bigger picture in both a political and non-political way and from different points of views. Talking of favourite places, I’m always excited to go to the UK. True story. It’s been like that since our first UK tour in 2007, although people and bands have been telling us how hard it can be to tour the UK, because no one feeds you and you don’t get sleeping places after the show. We always had a great time and most of the promoters that put us on became our friends over the years. So maybe we were just lucky. On the mainland it’s cities like Berlin, Ljubljana or Amsterdam I love going to. However, Austria can be a beautiful country combining mountains, plains, lakes and fields. It’s only the majority of people that sucks. Big time.
6) You’ve done two big, some might say ridiculously big, US tours, which is not something a lot of European DIY bands manage to achieve. How do you go about organising something like that and do the stresses of immigration, equipment hire, dead vans, small turn outs, whatever, ever outweigh the positives of being in an exciting new place?
On both the tours we’ve been extremely lucky to have had friends in and around Jumpstart Records who helped getting merch printed, sorting out gear and booking the shows for us. We did both tours with our buddies in One Win Choice, who are an amazing band from new jersey. Their singer Dan actually booked the second tour on his own. Anyway, we didn’t bring any gear overseas, as we agreed on sharing OWC’s stuff to save costs. Also we shared their van (8 seats/11 people) which was both crazy and cosy. Luckily we could spread out a little due to their trailer where we put all the equipment. The first tour in 2008 went pretty smooth, both money- and stresswise, which might have been because we basically stayed in the East half of the States (I think Chicago was the furthest West we went). In 2009 we did the whole country starting off in Florida, touring all the way to the West Coast, then moving North into Canada, travelling all the way to Denver and back to the (Northern) East Coast through Michigan. This route included a stop in nearly every state in between those places mentioned. It was definitely the tour of our lives so far and it was a blast from the start to the really tough end with no money in any of our pockets due to a dead tour van and an average of $40 per show for both bands together (!) while driving an average of probably 8 hours a day. Situations like border patrols in and out of Canada actually appeared more exciting and adventurous then stressful to us.
7) You did a split with Attack! Vipers! on We Heart Records. I’ve met a couple of people who say their songs were better than yours…But who would win in a wrestling match?
Well, comparing Astpai with Vipers is a little bit like comparing apples and pears. Or let’s say comparing apples with a fucking bulldozer! I love those guys and I love their songs. That’s that. Talking about wrestling, I know that Marco knows a few solid moves, but he would probably use them against Rene as seen before. So I guess we’d lose a wrestling match. Although if we’re lucky, Joey Vipers will chip his own tooth again on some table. We’ve also seen this before.
What record gets the most rotation in the Astpai van?
Last year it might have been The Great Awake by The Flatliners and Reconstruction Site by The Weakerthans. But then I also always force the others into listening to AC/DC while I drive, which happens a lot.
9) I’ve noticed a weird trend in punk recently that veganism and vegetarianism appear to be dying out, or at least becoming less important to people. I know at least one of you is vegan, so I’m
curious to know how you find being a vegan on the road? Do you always get a good meal when travelling? What is your best punk packed lunch solution to long hungry drives?
I’ve noticed that too and I’m not too surprised about it. It became popular to be vegan/vegetarian so fast, that it obviously must have been more of a fashion statement than an actual change of ideas with a lot of people. Anyhow, it’s really hard to get healthy vegan food on the road so we always leave our sleeping place a bit earlier to go to a supermarket and shop for fresh vegetables, spreads, wholewheat bread, fruits and all kinds of tofu stuff. It’s really that simple. And when it comes to food at shows we get great and creative dishes around half the time and all time classics like the ‘promoter pasta’, which basically contains 3 kilo of spaghetti and one small can of tomato sauce, or ‘reis mit scheiss’ the other half. On our USA-tours we even had our own cooking kit with us, so we made our own hot food a lot of times.
10) You haven’t put out a full length record in some time, although you have a new 7” coming out soon. What can we expect from Astpai in the future?
That’s right. We put out ‘Corruption Concealed’ for the first time in late 2006, but we kept re-releasing it over two years in different parts of Europe and the United States so there were always new regions to which the songs were brand new, which is why we were touring as much as possible. We then released 4 songs on the split record with Attack Vipers in 2008, which now again got re-released on a seven inch on Jumpstart Records, Philadelphia, and Asscard Records, Germany. This release is strike one of three for 2010, as we’re going to promote our newest material, another 7″ with brand new songs on our Euro tour in may, followed by the release of our third full length record “Heart To Grow” in August 2010. Seems like it’s gonna be a busy year for us which felt quite overdue already.
11) Which Austrian bands should we look out for?
Well, there are actually quite a few at the moment. RENTOKILL just started playing shows again after a five month break for recording their third full length as well. And while bands like REDLIGHTSFLASH seem to be looking for a bigger audience in a more mainstream scene there’s a bunch of smaller punk bands like SOEY, BRACKETS CLOSED, THE FRANTIC ARTS, SOMMERREGEN, PLAGUE MASS, 7YEARSBADLUCK, DEECRACKS or some more indie-ish bands like PILOTS or SEX JAMS who are playing as many shows as possible, who go on tour and put out great records.
Here are some links for bands/labels I am talking about:
- 05/14 AT Linz, Punkorama
- 05/15 AT LASERLIFE PARTY w/ Soey, Brackets Closed, Frantic Arts
- 05/17 AT Haag, Böllerbauer w/ Rentokill
- 05/23 SLO Ljubljana, Orto Bar w/ The Flatliners
- 05/24 AT Graz, Musichouse w/ The Flatliners
- 05/25 AT Wien, Arena w/ The Flatliners
- 05/26 AT Innsbruck, Pmk w/ 7yearsbadluck
- 05/27 AT Salzburg, Café Denkmal
- 05/28 DE Leonberg, Beat Baracke w/ Rentokill
- 05/29 BE Kortrijk, Reflex
- 05/30 UK London, Ryans Bar w/ Birdcalls, Neil Sutherland+more
- 06/01 UK Brighton, Prince Albert w/ Dirty Tactics, Bangers, Livers&Lungs
- 06/02 UK Bristol, The Croft w/ The Flatliners (can)
- 06/03 UK Southampton w/ Attack! Vipers!
- 06/04 UK Bridgend, Hobo’s w/ The Flatliners
- 06/05 NL Tilburg, tba.
- 06/06 BE Herselt, De Choke w/ Dirty Tactics, Bangers, No Opinion
- 06/08 DE Hamburg, Rote Flora
- 06/09 DE Kiel, Schaubude
- 06/10 DE Berlin, Subversiv w/ The Driftwood Fairytales
- 06/11 CZ Prague, 007 w/ Rentokill
- 06/12 CZ Smack Fest, Volyne w/ Rentokill