Interview: Tinned Astronaut with UNICEF x The Mic Live Sessions

Firstly, what are your roles in the band?

George: I’m George Smith, the rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist. My little brother Arnie Smith plays lead guitar and he’s living in Manchester at the moment. Matt is our bassist and he’s studying music tech at BCU.

Jim: I’m Jim and I play drums!

What’s the story behind your name?

G: Well, when I was a kid I had a toy astronaut and I was very passionate about it. My little brother (he was about 8 or 9) took it and put it in a jar, along with loads of other shit like grass, milk and washing up liquid. Then he buried it in the back garden, which was a tragedy. We dug it up on the day we formed the band and the jar was labelled ‘Tinned Astronaut’.

J: It must’ve been 6 years after it had been buried and we opened it that day, it absolutely stank.

You’ve been a band for 5 years now, how do you all know each other?

G: So obviously, Arnie and I are brothers and Jim was our neighbour (J: and friend) and we all went to school together. We played in the school competition as JAG (Jim, Arnie, George) and played in assembly, it’s still up on YouTube somewhere! Then we met Matt at secondary school and for the last five years we’ve been gigging all over the West Midlands area…

How would you describe your music?

J: Probably alternative rock, although our latest EP was quite poppy. We’ve been moving into more of a grunge sound.

G: We learnt a lot as a teenage band and now some of our friends are joining bands and we’ve got a little scene in Wolverhampton. I think we’ve almost found our sound now, give it a year and I reckon it’ll be there.

Who are your biggest influences?

G: American Idiot was one of the first albums I had and the first proper guitar music that I listened to, that wasn’t from Now That’s What I Call Music or something. Since then, we’ve really gotten into smaller British bands like Pretty Vicious and Fangclub, as well as loads of rock classics like Hendrix, Rolling Stones etc.

J: My dad listened to a lot of classic rock like The Kinks and The Who, The Clash and The Jam.

G: We also listen to a lot of indie like the B’Town movement with Superfood, Swim Deep and Peace. Basically anything that’s got passion though!

What song you enjoy playing live the most?

G: We do a really rocked-up cover of Black Skinhead which is cool as we transform the hip-hop style of it. Out of our released songs, I love Bar Bodega which is about the bodega in Nottingham. It’s got a big chorus and a funky outro and by the end of the song everyone is having a good time.

You’ve supported a lot of great bands, do you have any highlights?

J: We’ve supported Flyte, INHeaven and The Amazons.

G: We played at the Newhampton Arts Centre with Flyte and it was a really small venue, about 250 capacity, and they came down to sing acapella in the crowd which was cool.

G: The best gig we’ve played was with InHeaven and I had seen them about a year before at Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham and jumped on stage with them – they still recognised me when we turned up to support.

J: It was one of the first times I had listened to INHeaven and they were amazing.

What’s the best gig you’ve been to in Nottingham?

J&G: We saw Pretty Vicious play at the Bodega in Freshers – like the second day at uni. We met an absolute nutter in Wetherspoons beforehand and we got chucked out after he started climbing on the tables… and he followed us to the Bodega so we had a hard time avoiding him. G: I lost my phone and found it face-down in a puddle of beer at the end, but it somehow survived!

What are your ambitions for the future?

G: Over the summer we started a project to fund our studio time. We started Astrogang clothing,  which is a separate avenue to the band, and we hand embroider and sell t-shirts. We went out and bought 80 t-shirts yesterday to customise, so it would be great to see that grow alongside the music.

J: We ideally want to save up for a van and tour around the UK.

G: We are also doing promo for a Wolftown gig (like B’Town a few years ago) in Wolverhampton around Christmas Time, a project we work on with other local bands (spearheaded by Jake Hayward from Blick Black and the Chilli Holers) which aims to build up a serious scene in Wolverhampton.

And finally, if you could have written any song, what would it be?

G: Buck Rogers by Feeder. It was the first gig we’ve ever been to as a band and it was a defining tune of the night, and a couple of weeks later we had our first gig as a band, so Feeder really holds a special place in our hearts. Plus, the song itself is incredible – so catchy, it’s a tune that everyone knows but they don’t know why. It’s almost like Feeder’s one hit wonder, but it hasn’t defined their career – great tune.

J: God Save the Queen by The Sex Pistols or Jesus of Suburbia by Green Day.

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Photo courtesy of WebTarget Media

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