Love Found, Love Lost, Love Found Again: Get Caught in the Cycle of Astronautica's 'Gemini'
The new album from the LA beat scene luminary will transport you to a place where forgiveness comes after a heavy synthesizer rain. Stream in full here.
Listening to Astronautica’s new album, Gemini, is the chillest thing you’ll do all week. Seriously, crank up the volume on this 43-minute odyssey of Balearic beat music. Lay back on the bed. Close your eyes. Soon you will be transported to a wonderful place where mountains are made of pillows, smiles blossom like sunflowers, and forgiveness comes after a heavy synthesizer rain.
Astronautica is the moniker of 24-year-old Southern California beat-maker Edrina Martinez, who over the past five years has honed her craft as a younger member of Los Angeles’ storied beat scene. Building on the path set by the likes of Flying Lotus, Tokimonsta, Daedelus and Nosaj Thing, Martinez embraces a wide array of influences—from Nirvana to Aaliyah, dance music to hip-hop, the ocean to the stars—filtering it all into her own luminous, mellowed-out sound. Gemini, which is out today on LA's forward-thinking electronic label Alpha Pup and which you can stream in full below, is Martinez’s most nuanced effort yet: a blissful fusion of indie guitar licks, dream-pop vocals, and bass-heavy R&B/house beats, in which the travails of love are hashed out and personal landmarks become totems for intimacy.
Sipping green tea at a coffee shop in the LA suburb of Pasadena, Martinez talks about her efforts making the album, her songwriting process and her personal experience with astrology.
NOISEY: Preparing for this interview by listening to Gemini was seriously the chillest thing I did all week.
Edrina Martinez: Alright, so if you think that was chill, you should listen to my previous album [2013’s Astronautica], because that was very downtempo. This one kinda took me a little bit longer to complete, just because I wanted it to tell a story, I guess. I was really selective with what I would put on there. I made so many songs that I was going back and forth with—“OK, is this going to make it on there? Is it not?” I really wanted to challenge myself and do something a little different, push myself out of the box and get out of my comfort zone a little bit. I’m singing on this one. I wrote lyrics. I’m playing guitar in a different way on this album. I also wanted to kind of make it a little more upbeat, a little more dance-y.
What’s the story you wanted to tell?
I’m singing about a chapter in my life. It’s about what everyone goes through—love. Love found, love lost, and then love found again. Just that cycle. It’s inherent in everyone.
How did you express that through the music?
You know, with lyrics—if you listen to “Falling for You.” But a lot of it too is forgiveness and kind of just moving on from the past, whatever that means to you. I’ve taken it my way but I leave it open for interpretation for whoever’s listening.
Why is the album called Gemini?
Because I’m a Gemini. I know, right? Duh. Gemini traits are kind of a study of a duality of twins, having two sides, and I feel like that’s really expressed with this album. When I was listening to this album as a whole, what really stood out to me was that there’s so many different sounds. You can hear—or at least I can hear—all of my influences within different types of genres that I pull inspiration from within every track. And so to me that’s the sense of duality there. Which is very fitting for me, because I feel like I’m a very gemini type of person.
OK, so half of the people I know call me Edrina, which is my first name. And the other half of the people I know call me Kayla, which is my middle name. That’s been my entire life. My mom’s side of the family has always called my Kayla, my dad’s side has always called me Edrina. My high school friends call me Kayla, my college friends call me Edrina. I feel like they both know me at different points of my life. I sound crazy probably right now.
I mean, everybody has different facets of themselves, right?
Well, OK, obviously. So take Kayla, my middle name. All my high school friends — I partied a lot in high school, right? Party girl Kayla! Edrina I feel like maybe is a little more mature. It’s my professional name as well. But I am, you know… I’m me.
You’ve talked before about how you’re really into space and the ocean, which is reflected in your name, Astronautica. But there’s also a couple songs on the album that are named after places — “Palm Springs” and “Los Angeles.” What’s the inspiration behind those?
Well, “Palm Springs” — I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for Palm Springs. I’ve been going there since I was a kid. My mom and I would take mother-daughter trips there on the weekends. It’s only like an hour and a half from where I am. Later on in life I started going [with] my friends, my boyfriend, and now it’s this romantic place to me. It’s a place where I can kind of get away from all of this for a weekend and be with someone, you know, and just have that alone time.
How do you get in the mood to make music?
I think watching live music, watching performances and stuff, has always motivated me to go home and work on something. When I first started making music, I would go to Low End Theory [the storied Wednesday-night beat music showcase in Los Angeles, founded by Alpha Pup head Daddy Kev] religiously, and come home at like two in the morning and I would stay up all night. Whatever act I had just watched that night totally inspired me.
When you’re doing your kind of chill, mood-based music, how do you put yourself into it?
What works with me is I always have to approach a new project with kind of a blank canvas almost. Like with “Palm Springs,” I wasn’t even planning on doing it that way. It’s just what happened. And the reason I do it that way is because, if I go into the studio with, like, “Hey, I want to make this type of song,” and it doesn’t turn out that way, I get all frustrated. So it helps for me to really go in the blank headspace and then, if I hear a sound that I’m into, just play a couple notes with that, kind of give it a foundation, and then from there I can start sculpting it. I feel like that’s when the emotions and the feelings start getting put into the song.
Is there an approach you have to working out the mood of a song?
I mean, you can definitely create a mood of a song just by what key you’re playing in. If you’re in a major scale, it’s probably going to be more positive, happy feeling, versus a minor scale is gonna probably be, you know, a bit more, not sadder but just have the opposite types of elements. I think what key it’s in is definitely representative of the kind of mood you’re going to set for a song.
Are you more of a major key person, or a minor key person?
Oh, man. Usually a minor key. But with this album, I told you I wanted it to be a little more up-tempo — I did a lot of songs in major. But, you know, I feel like I’m balanced. I think I’m both.
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