Following the release of their Debut Album Broke at the end of September, Astroid Boys have embarked on one of their largest tours so far, supporting Enter Shikari in arenas throughout the UK. Mixing grime, rock, and metal, the band have been hailed as one of the hottest new acts the UK has to offer and have received massive support from the BBC. Impact had the chance to chat to MC Benji before their monumental set at the Nottingham Arena.
So, you’ve done two shows of the tour so far, Liverpool and Cardiff. How is it going so far?
Really, really cool. We got to play Cardiff last night as a hometown show. All of our friends and family were there, and a lot of fans we’ve known from the beginning. A lot of people travelled to be there and it was a staple moment in all of our lives. A really good show.
“the lines between genres became blurred”
Your music crosses between grime and rock. Alongside that, you’ve toured with acts that are specifically from one or other of those genres. Does that ever cause issues for you?
I think there’s always going to be people that will be at a show that don’t get it. For example, if we’re playing at a grime show, and we show up with guitars and drums, some of the people won’t take much to it, but we’ve tried to find a balance where grime fans can appreciate the grime without being offended by the heavier side.
Vice versa with the heavier shows, the fans will really like the heavy aspects of our music without being offended by the grime. I think it works, it seems that way at least. Last night I saw people tweeting saying that they didn’t expect to like it because they don’t listen to rap or grime, but they felt like they understood it. That’s important to us.
What lead to the decision to bring these genres together?
I have a term that I’ve used before, which is the iPod generation. When everybody got iPods and MP3 players, people’s music catalogue expanded to drastically that the lines between genres became blurred. It was rare that you’d find somebody with an iPod full of music that was one genre. We grew up listening to all kinds of music, I never listened to much music with guitars and drums in as a kid. I was into US hip-hop, then UK hip-hop and grime because that felt like the culture I was a part of. Naturally, it made sense that we’d combine so many elements.
Broke came out in September, how has the reaction been so far?
I think with the album we had a real point to make, and I would say we made it. We put together a really good package of music that explains who we are, and kept it DIY. There were no influences from other people, no writers in the studio.
The feedback has been great, we’ve had a few songs getting good plays on Radio 1 and 1Xtra. Annie Mac and Charlie Sloth have been backing us, as have DJ Target and a number of DJs. We’re being picked up in those circles, and we’re hearing the response we’re getting from it, so we must be doing well.
The record touches on a handful of political issues, without being outwardly political. There’s been a lot of debate in the past about how much of a role politics should play in music, what are your thoughts on this?
I think the fact that there is a debate is stupid. Who gives a shit, that’s like saying that there shouldn’t be conversations about politics. Whatever you think and feel is what you want to express in your music. People shouldn’t even have an opinion on what other people want to sing or rap about. That’s up to them.
“I’m lucky enough to have a platform to say these things on, and the boys all agree that we should speak up on issues that we all agree on”
For us, we don’t necessarily want to focus all of our personal minds on politics, but sometimes things have to be said about certain issues. I’m lucky enough to have a platform to say these things on, and the boys all agree that we should speak up on issues that we all agree on. It’s powerful to have an opinion of good heart, especially if you’ve got people following you.
There’s also some very personal stuff on the record, especially a few lines about prison. Was it difficult to be so open about this?
Yeah it was difficult, but at the same time if something is on my mind then I feel like I need to express it. As an artist that’s how I get my feelings out. It’s difficult but ultimately if I want to speak about it then it’s worth it.
Your lyrics adopt the language of grime, but there’s a line about calling women ‘women’ instead of ‘hoes’. Do you think other grime artists need to do more to consider the effects of words like that?
I think we all have a responsibility and our wording is very important. We all chat shit sometimes when we’ve had a drink, but we have a responsibility in our language. We are responsible for the world we live in, and what we say will guide others.
I think it’s embarrassing for artists that say things that set a bad example. Everyone has their own moral standards, and when I listen to some rappers I think ‘your standards are pretty low’. That’s fine, you do you, but I wouldn’t want people to listen to the words that I say and think of me in that way.
— Astroid Boys (@AstroidBoys) November 21, 2017
As a band you came out of Cardiff, what was it like coming up in that scene?
I’ve always said the same thing about Cardiff. In Cardiff, the scene is big enough to have all of the utensils you need to make yourself what you want, yet small enough to not have too much competition. If you really dedicate your time and effort to doing it, you become the top of your lane pretty quick.
We have things like BBC Wales where people look at Cardiff and they pick from the top and put them on trials. Guys like Huw Stephens give a lot of Welsh talent chances to do it. That in my opinion is what it’s about: putting your time in, becoming relevant in your field and getting noticed. It all comes down to you putting in the work.
The tour sees out the rest of the month, and then we’re into December. What can we expect from Astroid Boys in 2018, have you got any plans?
To be honest January will be a time that we won’t plan much. We’ll probably take some time out over Christmas and the New Year. Then we’re touring with Hollywood Undead for the whole of February throughout Europe. We haven’t thought ahead of that much yet, but on the bus we’re all jamming, making music, hanging out, so things are always moving forward.
Featured image and article image courtesy of Astroid Boys via Facebook.
Image use license here.