Astoria is a rock/pop Christian outfit based out of Springfield, MA. We had a chance to sit down and talk with bassist/vocalist Matt Whitcare and guitarist Mike Hines. If you like what you hear from their facebook, you can download five free songs from the band via their ReverbNation page. Check out what they had to say below.
Can you guys give us a brief story of the history of Astoria, for all the readers out there?
Mike: Matt and I started doing acoustic stuff a few years back; playing coffee houses, youth services and stuff like that. We knew we wanted to be a full band, but we didn’t want just anyone. We searched for the right people. Around late 2009 I guess you could say the stars aligned. Our first bassist and drummer, both really talented musicians, left their former bands around the same time and we were lucky enough to have them interested in playing with us. Last but certainly not least, Justin was added on guitar to complete the band. We wrote a few songs, played a few shows, put out an EP, and before we knew it we were playing in venues across New England.
So, upon our first listening to you guys. I heard a lot of influence from Relient K. What’s everyone’s main influence when playing or writing music?
Matt: There’s definitely some Relient K on my ipod. We do draw from a number of influences when it comes to writing. Brian and myself are a fan of bands like Anberlin and Mayday Parade, Justin has more of a classic rock influence from artists like Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton, and Mike is fan of heavier bands like Killswitch Engage and All That Remains.
All the former projects of Astoria: Koi, Hope Lies Within & Blueprints of the Heart; all have different musical styles. Koi offers a Manchester Orchestra feel. Hope Lies Within gives off a Times of Grace/Killswitch Engage feel. Blueprints of the Heart feels the closest to your sound. How did the sound of Astoria, with multiple different musical backgrounds, come to be?
Mike: With so many different genres and styles we knew we had to focus on one sound. I still don’t know if we’ve done that entirely, because we’re always adding something to the mix, but for the most part we take the attributes of music we like and compile them into a song. I’d say an Astoria song is comprised of things like
the energy you get from All Time Low, a guitar riff you might get from Story of the Year, a catchy melody you’d get from Anberlin, and the simplistic pop/rock structure you would get from Paramore. We really wanted to have a sound that is different than what most bands are doing in the area, the reason we believe we have such a great loyal fan base.
With different backgrounds in music, you guys have been together since late 2009. How long has each one of you been playing the MA scene period?
Mike: I’ve been in bands since probably 2003, playing hard rock and metal in every awful club you can find in MA. Matt first started playing around 08 when we were doing acoustic stuff together. Astoria is Justin and Brian’s first band outside worship bands at church. Justin started with us in 09, and Brian has joined up just recently at the end of last year.
You guys are very open about your faith. What’s the toughest thing you guys have faced in coming to a secular scene?
Matt: To be honest, at first it was a little nerve racking, going into a club and talking about Jesus, but if we fail to do that, we fail ultimately as a band. Thankfully, the crowd response is usually pretty good when we share our faith on stage.
How would you describe your music to a listener who has never heard of Astoria? Who would you best compare yourselves to?
Matt: I would say Astoria’s sound could be described as Paramore with a guy singer, or A Day to Remember without screaming.
When we talked to Mike over the phone, he said you guys have played both churches and youth groups, as well as clubs and bars. What’s the advantage of playing in churches versus playing in a club?
Matt: Our main priority as a band is to be able to connect with fans that aren’t Christians, and share our faith with them through our music. That’s where the clubs and bars come into play. Playing in churches is great however, because in a way it recharges us. We get to meet and connect with other Christians. Even at churches, our goal is still the same. There are bound to be people there who don’t know God, and if we meet even one person and get to share our faith with them, that show is considered a success.
Astoria is a very interesting name for a band. What’s the story behind it? What does it mean?
Matt: Absolutely nothing haha! When we first started out we were invited to play a local radio station and we realized we still didn’t really have a name. We googled “cool city names” and that was the first one to pop up. Prior to Astoria, there were long heated debates about band names, so ever since then we’ve just decided to stick with it.
2012 is still roughly a new year. What are the plans for Astoria this year, as far as touring, putting out a new album or new music video?
Mike: A full length is certain, as it is already in the works. A video will follow for at least one of the tracks off the new record. As far as touring goes, we’re not sure when, but we will 100% be on tour at some point in 2012. We’re excited to be playing at Soul Fest this year alongside great bands like Switchfoot, TobyMac, Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns, and Five Iron Frenzy.
Do you view Astoria as just something to do for fun? Or is it something that is a serious ministry?
Mike: Astoria is without a doubt a serious ministry. We’ve all essentially put our lives on hold and made this band our top priority. We love having fun and love playing music, but we know Astoria has a purpose, and we’re ready for God to use us however He sees fit.
What is God’s calling over Astoria?
Matt: I believe what God is calling us to do can be summed up in a few scriptures. Mark 16:15 says “Go into all the world preaching the Gospel unto every nation”. We believe this is a call given to every Christian that says they believe in God. Romans 10:14 says “How can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?” The vast majority of people aren’t aware of God’s love for them. It’s our job to tell them.