Just last week I was in the studio with Astral Lynx, a psychedelic rock trio based in London to discuss a few things including Brick Lane Psych Fest and new music.

There’s Julian Millership on lead guitar and vocals, Matt Sullivan also on guitar and Dean Cass on drums. “Various other things as well,” Julian continues, “There’s percussion, keys…”

“These two play a bit of bass on a lot of the recordings as well,” Matt adds. Julian is labelled as the traditional lead guitarist, with a “Hendrix sort of vibe” as Matt explains, “I’m more interested in the noise aspects of it I guess, like Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead or Nick McCabe from the Verve.”

“Yeah your style is geared towards creating that atmospheric layer” agrees Julian.

The group first got together in Australia, 2008 when Julian and Dean were out on their two-year visas. “I wont say early formation of this band – it was a different band, but yeah we recruited Matt for that band and when we got back to London we moved into this formation.”

Previously going by the name Moon, the band had transformed to the inventive title Astral Lynx, so I asked what sparked the name change. “We’ve changed the name each time there’s been a massive change to the band,” Matt replies, “We had a singer in the early years, and when he left it was like okay let’s change the name because we’ve got an entire new thing. Then we had a bass player with us for a couple of years, and when he left we thought right it’s time to shift again.”

“When we were Moon, we had a woman who wanted to manage us but she totally blanked us. She said, look, Moon isn’t getting you anywhere,” Julian says, “I had a conversation with someone where I worked at Hackney Downs, there was Moshi Moshi Records and I had a conversation with one of the guys and he said “we can’t find you guys online anywhere; there’s so much moon stuff”, so we decided to change the name. We sat down and tried to formulate a name that we thought would work and Astral Lynx just came out of the blue and I don’t know… I don’t even think we all decided on it, it just stuck.”

As for the meaning behind it, the bands previous logo as you may call it was described as a “cats face on trees”, with Julian adding “I seem to remember Dean saying that we had to keep the space cat.”

But that’s not all, as Matt shares another interesting story. “We said that we’ll sit on it for a couple of days – to see if we still like it.” He leans in, “And the next day, I was looking at BBC news online. It said that they were releasing lynx’s back into the wild in Britain, so I was like… that’s a sign!”

The three members have all grown up in a very musical environment. For Julian, it’s ever since he was a baby. “My dad’s a full-on hippy. But not really a chilled hippy he’s an intense hippy”, he laughs, “ever since I was a baby, he used to have weekly jams, and that was in his flat so all these crazy people used to come round and sit and improvise. So all the improvisation, I believe comes from being involved in these fucking mad, drug fuelled jams. My dad still does them every Wednesday.”

Matt’s mum taught music and has a sister that takes part in orchestras. As for Dean, “I don’t have any musicians in my family, but all of them are really into music, being whatever kind of music that would be. So growing up I was always around a lot of music… just not musicians.”

“We’re on to writing some new stuff,” Julian shares, “We’re really just taking our time with it at the moment, we’ve been pushing it so hard for so many years now, it’s nice to step back and take our time with it. There’s definitely stuff in the pipeline, it’s just coming slowly.”

The bands debut Flow that was released in 2015 delivers sounds that are a mixture between Pink Floyd and Queens of the Stone Age, but having Julian said they’ve moved on from that, I asked what new elements we can look forward to with new material. “I feel like that album was a little bit contrived because a lot of it was compiled from old material. I think what we’re trying to aim for now is to just have stuff that isn’t over-thought, stuff that isn’t going backwards and forwards from the writing process. Just write it. Record it. Leave it.”

Matt then adds, “Our sound moves around quite a lot, we do some really soft, quite melodic stuff right through to some really heavy, bluesy, and almost, not quite as far metal but back from that, where its got those Queens of the Stone Age rock grooves to it. Then there’s also some really spacey stuff, so it’s really broad. We don’t really write songs outside of the studio; it all just comes from jams.”

“Our genre has got to be momentary. It’s everything in a moment. So whatever happens in that moment, that is what our genre is.”

According to Julian, the biggest problem they’ve had to overcome is each other, he says while laughing. “But personalities as well you know? It’s such a heavy marriage, when you’re in a band for this long and its such a personal thing, getting over each others idiosyncrasies and the way everyone reacts to different things. That’s the most difficult part of being in a band.”

Last summer the band played many gigs and some festivals including Hackney Wonderland. But their favourite was Brick Lane Psych Fest, one they had set up and organised themselves. “We were up in Manchester at Cosmosis festival, we had finished the album, and we thought fuck it, why don’t we put on our own festival rather than just do an album launch and make a thing out of it?” Matt says, “So, we got a venue, we got six bands, DJs, market stalls, the whole shebang. It was crazy actually – we had to turn about 15/20 bands away who wanted to play. There’s not that many psych festivals in London, there’s a few in like Manchester and Liverpool, so we put one on and it went really well.”

It was a success as the event was had sold out, “But it was really hard work though,” Julian adds, “‘Cause we did everything ourselves, we underestimated how exhausting it would be, spending the entire day setting up and then playing the headline slot, then packing everything down. We got back at like four in the morning.”

For a band that has not long released their first album, and with most music now being available to stream online for free, I asked if they found it difficult getting themselves on the market. “When we got here we did everything the traditional way. We used local promoters and played hundreds of gigs, but it was just shit. The promoters are just trying to rip you off and the whole traditional method is just geared up to rip money off bands. So we decided a couple years ago to do it our own way, doing less gigs but hosting our own shows – we get a much better response.”

With that said, my final question was for the future of Astral Lynx. Matt replies, “I think for this year the plan is to put a couple recordings out. We wanna get back into gigging over the summer, our bass player left just at the end of last year, so we’ll just continue as a three-piece, the writing’s mostly been between us three anyway.”

Julian then adds, “Yeah I think the gigs will definitely more often than not be ones we put on ourselves. We gotta get back into it a little bit really, this has been our first moment in ten years where we’ve just put everything down. We haven’t been in the studio much but when we have its been really cool. I can see a lot of stuff happening.”

(Written by Sharna Barber)

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