- Category: Families
The ASTRID Story
To find the roots of ASTRID, you have to look up, up, up, to the northern heights of the Isle of Lewis. It is here that Charlie Clark, Willie Campbell of 62 North Tolsta and Gareth Russell were born, and although they had differing record collections they found a shared interest in '60s pop music.
Having known each other since the age of eleven the three guys mucked about for a few years in various bands to pass the time - and went to school for a bit too. As is the way for a small detached island the lure of brighter lights and grander visions led the youngsters to the Big City - Glasgow. First to go was Willie, leaving Charlie and Gareth to play the pub circuit. And when Gareth decided to study at university in Glasgow, Charlie spent a year playing in Stornoway bands before he too followed his buddies to Glasgow. Not even old enough to drink (well, legally) the threesome hooked up in Glasgow and starting writing songs together.
When they were happy with the initial results, they headed to the Halt Bar in Glasgow's West End, a hot-spot for new and eager musicians to find some allies. It was there that Gary Thorn approached them to play drums for the band. Soon after they decided that the band they would call ASTRID (named after Astrid Kirchhen, the girifriend of fifth Beatle, Stuart Sutcliffe) was good enough for the outside world to hear. Naturally, their debut gig was in the Halt Bar. What they didn't expect was that members of cult Glasgow pop-stars-in-waiting Belle and Sebastian would be in the audience cheering them on.
Impressed, they invited ASTRID to play with them at the Longest Day Festival. In the summer of 1997, the band decided that the only way they could achieve their dreams would be to chuck in college and job commitments and dedicate their lives to see how far they could take ASTRID. In September 1997, Belle and Sebastian again asked ASTRID to support them, this time on their three-day tour which stopped at Colchester, Oxford and London Union Chapel. It was amongst the 1500-strong crowd in London that Fantastic Plastic were in attendance.
Shortly after the tour the band recorded their debut EP for Fantastic Plastic - No Reason. The single got Radio I plays and soon sold out. In the summer of 1998 they went back to the studio again and recorded a one-sided 7" for Fantastic Plastic called What To Say. ASTRID and Fantastic Plastic were getting along famously and in September 1998 the band signed to Fantastic Plastic. After the release of some stellar singles (Hi-Fi Lo-Fi EP, It's True), ASTRID set about recording their first album.
Produced by Edwyn Collins, Strange Weather Lately was the proud gift to fans up and down the country who had been won over by the band's non-stop touring regime. For ASTRID themselves, it was something to treasure after all the hard graft. If the preceding High In The Morning single acted as a taster, then the post-album release of Redground was the dessert.
Strange Weather Lately was voted amongst the Top 50 albums of 1999. For the first six months of 2000, the band went back into the process of writing songs, a flow interrupted only by a trip to Austin, Texas to play in the South By Southwest Music Conference.
ASTRID were subsequently voted the year's Best New Discovery. Work began apace on recording the second album with producer Tony Doogan. The first song ASTRID recorded was Modes Of Transport. For the band, it completely summed up their more relaxed approach, and they decided to release it along with three other new tunes on an EP.
It turned out to be the best response they'd had to a single so far with Radio I DJ Simon Mayo making it his Single of the Week and bringing in a welcome daytime radio audience. But changes were in store. Gary Thorn departed the band as the album was nearing completion and former drummer for The Smiles, Neil Payne, was called in as his replacement in late October 2000.
Neil's first two assignments were to play with the band at the Barrowlands, the legendary Glasgow venue of dreams as support to The Bluetones. This was followed by two gigs in New York for the CMJ Festival - and so to the new album - Play Dead. Whereas the debut album took a month to complete the follow-up took five months from start to finish with the band returning to already recorded songs to make them sound exactly how they wanted. Work was completed in November 2000. Play Dead was released in March 2001 and received amazing reviews.
ASTRID's sucesses in the very competitive world of pop music: 1999: Voted amongst the Top 50 albums 2000: The year's Best New Discovery 2001: Amazing reviews for their album Play Dead These boys have not forgotten their homeland. ASTRID deserve our support. Their music is excellent and they promote Lewis whenever and wherever they get the opportunity.