DEATH OF AN ASTRONOMER: Different Route

Jairo Estrada

Guitarist and songwriter Jairo Estrada‘s solo project Death of an Astronomer returned in October last year with the release of a new EP titled ‘Indistinct.’ The musician, based in Los Angeles, speaks for Prog Sphere about the creative process behind the release, complexities about writing and recording it, and more.

How did you come to do what you do?

I started Death of An Astronomer sort of out of necessity. I was previously in a band that I really enjoyed playing in but we unfortunately broke up. I knew that I wasn’t going to stop playing music and it was a meaningful moment for me because I knew I always wanted to make music on my own, and now I had my chance. I wanted to make music without sticking to any sort of genre, and while I feel the music is heavy, I don’t think about it in terms of a genre or style. I wanted to take a different route not only musically, but aesthetically as well.

You released a a new EP entitled “Indistinct” in October last year. How did the creative process for the EP go?

The creative process was really fun this time around. I recorded everything at home in my own space. Since I released two singles last year that I feel had a certain sound, I wanted to push my playing and songwriting to the next level. I wanted to give each song a lot of focus, not just the guitar work. I started fumbling around with riffs and ideas and changed them overtime and even rewrote some songs until they were exactly what I wanted them to be. I felt very inspired and the writing itself came together very quickly, but I still took my time and allowed each moment to create a vibe I was excited about.

Where was the EP recorded and how long did it take you to complete the work on it?

I recorded everything in my bedroom. I have my laptop and interface set up and ready to record at all times so it’s an easy process. I took about 3 months to write and record simultaneously starting in March. I sent it off to get mixed and mastered in June which I feel was really fast.

Indistinct

To someone who hasn’t heard the album, what can he or she expect from “Indistinct”?

I would describe “Indistinct” as a progressive EP. If you are a fan of instrumental progressive metal/rock this is up your alley for sure, but I feel like it does bring something a little bit different to that spectrum. The EP as a whole is filled with a lot of technical moments but puts a lot of emphasis on melody and experimentation. The songs are less about guitar and more about where the songs take you. I wanted to create a certain vibe and I think you get one from each song individually as each is its own journey.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when working on the EP?

Some of the biggest challenges were definitely trying to make everything sound as professional as possible. Since I previously recorded with engineers helping me, it was up to pome to create a professional and interesting batch of songs that I would enjoy listening to if I was a fan. I was really hard on myself to get the best takes I could and set a deadline for myself. I treat this like a job and I love doing it so I knew setting a timeline for it would be the best idea, it also ended up being tough and a lot of hard work. In the end though, I really enjoy how it all came out.

Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed during the creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed drastically?

I really think my writing process has changed a lot. I used to just sit in my room and play guitar and memorize a riff after writing it and when it was time to record, I would crack open the laptop and record some demos. Now, I open the computer and demo from the very beginning. I guess one thing that has changed about my creative process is that I am more objective than I have ever been. I used to be concerned about needing to use certain ideas or riffs to make a song compelling but writing and recording this EP showed me that less is definitely more. I feel like I’ve become a much better songwriter now thanks to that mindset.

Tell me about the complexities of creating this EP.

Some of the complexities of this EP were really more on the production side. It was my first-time programming drums and I really didn’t know what I was doing so it was a real learning experience for me. I put a lot of time into fine tuning everything as well as I could and recording this EP showed me that attention to detail needs to be absolutely paramount. I had many days where I would open a session and listen back to what I had previously recorded and I would just cringe. Allowing your ears to have some time to recover from constant listening for precision is very important. I enjoyed listening for mistakes and for anything that needed improvement but it can definitely be exhausting.

What types of change do you feel this music can initiate?

I feel this can initiate the notion that you don’t’ need to fit into any genre to make good music, you can just be a musician or band that makes music period. I think that is the most important change for me.

Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?

I enjoy taking risks with my music. I don’t want to follow any specific way of thinking when it comes to composing. I try just go along with whatever my ear wants to hear. If I come across a chord or melody that is interesting, I’ll use it and see happens. The composition can come from a guitar riff, a piano or just a drum beat.

What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

I really feel that visuals have an impact on my music. The artwork is interesting as it features a lot of outer space themes which I feel is something that can be expected from me at this point. I get inspired by nature, walking around in the woods has been very moving for me, sometimes visting a new city or a new part of town can really spark some new ideas that I can translate to music, which I love so much.

Jairo Estrada

What kind of gear do you use for recording your music?

For this recording I used a focusrite 2i2 interface into a MacBook pro. For all of my tones I used a plugin called Biasfx from a company called Positive Grid. I crafted all of my clean and distorted tones with it and I really fell in love with all of the different tones and all of the different things you can do with the amp presets and effects you can choose from. As far as guitars go, I tracked everything with an Ibanez RG 7321. The tones just sounded so good I didn’t want to change the sound, so I just kept using it and ended up recording the entire EP on it which was fun. I’ve started recording new stuff and I’ve been using my Kiesel Osiris 7 string which is amazing so I will be using that guitar for the next release for sure.

What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in forms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?

I would say, follow your heart, I know it sounds cliché but honestly, I am going after what I’ve always wanted. Music is what makes me happy and it’s the only thing ive ever wanted to do with my life. I would tell others to find what it is they really want to do with their lives and go for it. I know a lot of people hear that and think it’s crazy because of the stigma that musicians don’t make money and can’t sustain themselves, but I could never be happy working a normal job just because it’s the safer option and I never will be. If you’re a musician, make the music that you want to make, don’t follow a trend or try to fit into a certain aesthetic because you feel you need to. Be smart about your money and the business side of this too. I don’t know much because I’m really only just getting started but I can’t stress this enough, be who you are and go for what you really want. I’m going look back on my life and say that I gave it a real shot over just doing what everyone else is doing or is telling me to do because it’s the safe route.

Indistinct is out now; check it out on Bandcamp.

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