As music goes, the self-titled debut EP just released by local band Asterous – which the two members describe as ‘cinematic pop/metal/alternative’ – is definitely widescreen.
It’s a big, textured European-style sound, built on haunting multi-layered vocals, and powerhouse guitar, bass and synth work.
Five original songs — Murder The Machine, The Fall, Heroes, At The Edge and Afterthought — showcase the band’s versatility in shifting gears from electronica to hard-rocking metal, to soft keyboard-backed meditations, to classic rock anthem territory, sometimes encompassing all four modes in the same piece.
The European sonic imprint isn’t surprising, given the fact that the EP was mixed and mastered in Finland by noted producer Nino Laurenne.
But what is, perhaps, unexpected is that Asterous is a home-grown project; the brainchild of two South Surrey musicians — lead vocalist, keyboard and synth player Rummy Kandola and vocalist, guitarist and bassist Don Beaudoin.
The international flavour of their ambitious project also extends to album art images manipulated by a German designer, and a cartoon art-style video for one track, created by a young U.S. animator.
For the two musicians it’s one positive outcome of the COVID-19 crisis, they said. And the presence of such international collaborators — and the ease with which Kandola and Beaudoin were able to connect, and work with them online – also typifies the way music is being put together in this era.
“It’s sort of a pandemic project,” Kandola said.
“We’ve been playing music together for 10 years,” she added.
“Mostly cover tunes for restaurant, casino and wedding reception gigs,” Beaudoin noted.
“But in terms of being a proper band and having our own songs, we found that, during the pandemic, we had more time to focus and buckle down on what we needed to do,” Kandola said.
The project also gave them the impetus to learn the recording technology available, she added.
“A big investment in the production was getting the software and cobbling together our own home studio.”
“A lot of it has been a process of self-discovery,” said Beaudoin, a seasoned professional player who has worked with many kinds of bands over the years, playing everything from rock to the blues and jazz, and even some classical.
A guitar player since he was 13, the Amherstburg, Ont. native was already demonstrating rock guitar licks to his contemporaries as a professional music teacher while still in high school.
Kandola, Surrey born and raised, admits she is the less-experienced musician, having taken some piano lessons as a child, and then continuing to develop her keyboard skills and singing informally over the years.
“I first met Don through taking guitar lessons,” she noted.
However different their routes have been into music, they are firmly on the same page with their vision for Asterous — including their desire for a thoroughly-produced sound and a willingness to hold out for the right collaborators, instead of settling for compromises.
They approached Laurenne because they saw he had worked with European artists whose sound they admired, and were pleasantly surprised when he agreed to sign on for the project. He immediately understood what they were looking for, they said.
“North American music tends to go for a simpler, more organic sound,” Kandola observed.
“We also wanted to bring an interesting visual aspect to our performance,” Beaudoin said — noting the dark and dramatic imagery they have chosen for Asterous hews toward a movie super-hero aesthetic.
At present, that is being helped by the animated comic-like video for Heroes created for them by 18-year-old animator Daesha Young, whose work they discovered through Instagram.
“He knocked it out of the park, for what he was working with,” Kandola said.
Beaudoin said he was also surprised by Young’s grasp of what they were after, noting that a sequel video by Young is already in the works.
“We wanted to have as much control over the animation as possible, so we were actually story-boarding it — even though we can’t really draw. But when he sent us a rough draft in pencil he already had drawn things we were thinking of, in as many as three or four cases.”
The descriptor “cinematic” does seem appropriate for their music, with each track suggesting movie or game soundtrack potential.
“That’s what we’re aiming for — everyone says they see their own pictures when they listen to our music,” said Kandola.
“And we’re definitely trying to connect with people in that industry.”
Asterous is available on all major streaming platforms (including Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, YouTube).
For more information and updates on new releases, visit asteroustheband.com