Astari Nite: Exploring Miami’s Indie Scene

Miami may be a DJ paradise, but there’s definitely something for people who like their music a little dark. We sat down with frontman Mychael Ghost and drummer Illia Tulloch, founding members of South Florida post-punk darlings Astari Nite, to talk about the ebb and flow of Miami’s music scene.

How was Astari Nite born?

M: I approached Illya at a show. He used to play in several projects, and we kind of ran around in the same circle but we didn’t know each other at the time. I used to see Illya play out a lot. You can always tell by his performance that he play with so much passion. So at the time, back in 2008 or so, I approached him at a show, nonchalantly, saying we should perhaps put something together in the future. That’s kind of what happened, right Illya?

I: We also have to give a shout out to our first incarnation, when Mycheal and I first started with Capulet and Montague, which was more instrumental. We were playing with some great people back then, but Mycheal and I broke off and we’ve been doing our own thing since then. Stylistically, along with Astari Nite, it was an early sound Mychael and I were enjoying at the time that we realized we could do something with. A lot of those players also had kind of a similar shoegaze, indie, alternative type of sound.

M: Last year we did the video for I.O. 1987, and when Illia and I sat down to write the script, well, a lot of people might think we’re serious guys or that I live in a graveyard or something…

I: For the record, I actually do. For the record.

M: But that’s not the case. What we wanted to do is show people that we do have a sense of humor. If you watch the video it’s pretty funny, pretty cynical. There’s so much humor to it. I think that kind of brought attention to people that maybe we’re not so serious. Maybe we like balloons. And eating cake.

How did you end up in South Florida?

M: I think I came down here in ’93, ’94, but I kept moving back and forth from New York, in Long Island, until I met a couple of characters and started up a band called Kazarina.

I: I was born in Venezuela, lived in California during my formative years, and found my way to North Miami Beach. Was a drum captain in the school and started playing in the local scene, then just branched out to a bunch of friends until I came across Mychael, and that’s pretty much where we leave off.

What were some of your main influences?

I: I think Mychael and I grew up listening to Depeche Mode, New Order, The Cure, and of course more contemporary artists like Placebo, so those were our early influences growing up at the time and you can really hear a lot of it translate to what we experience as musicians. But there are also a lot of really good local players, too. Retrocities influenced some of my drumming, just some of that simplistic sound of the back beat and the indie flares of the guitars on top of that.

M: In regards to the local scene, I was heavily influenced by a band called Fashionista. And Fashionista was kind of the jumpstart of the whole entire Miami indie sound. You had bands like Modern Age and Dear Starlet that were playing back to back. It was more or less those three bands that had that real strong indie feel to it, kind of around the time when The Strokes came out, and Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Those were local bands that I really felt passionate about.

What makes Miami’s music scene stand out?

M: Miami is really rock and roll. You have your bands that play punk, your hip hop scene, your surf rock bands. It’s really an eclectic style of bands all around. And then you more or less have DJs. People go out to see shows, but it’s the DJs that really fill venues. It’s the DJs that are packing people in. It’s definitely not how it was. I think back in the day you had Vagabond, but it seems like venues in Miami are a dying breed. You have The Stage that’s closing, that used to be a great venue. Actually, I think they already closed, but they’re searching for another location. You had The White Room. They always put on great shows there. You had Piccadilly Garden, where Poplife started at. There really aren’t that many other venues. You have bars with a little side stage. And then you have Churchill’s. Of course, you also have the mighty Grand Central, where we’ve played several times, and upstairs you have the Garret, where we’ll be performing at this Saturday. They’ve been great to us.

I: I think the Garret is going to be one of the next contemporaries to take off where Vagabond and The White Room and the sorts of places Mychael was talking about left off. The Garret would definitely be considered part of the Miami sound. They’re keeping the torch alive. And then of course, Kill You Idol. They’ve always been really, really kind to Astari Nite.

This year so far you’ve opened for The Psychedelic Furs and you just came from playing a music festival in Germany. Where are you headed next?

M: We’re playing June 20 at Grand Central, and then July 25 at Kill Your Idol with our friends Modern Age. Then, in August, we’re going away to play Orlando and St. Petersburg, and then we’re going to wrap up recording our 2015 album. That’s pretty much what our focus is going toward right now. Music is very personal, you write the songs for yourself, but I think with Astari Nite we try to capture our audience and tell their story as well.