Pittsburgh psych-rock band Astrology Now will celebrate its new Knife EP by playing an acid-tinged set at 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, with Outsideinside, Silver Car Crash and DJ Miss Mungo at Spirit in Lawrenceville.
That’s oddly appropriate because the group’s story started in Lawrenceville. A decade ago, Greg Mastrean – who was en route to being priced out of Pittsburgh’s then-gentrifying hipster neighborhood – had a vision and stuck with it.
“I started writing songs and that consisted of really focusing on writing concise pop songs, three-and-a-half minute songs, after jamming with some friends for a while, playing music that didn’t have structure to it,” says Mastrean, a desk-bound white-collar worker by day who now lives in Carnegie.
An eight-track cassette recorder captured the early songs and kept them lo-fi. Mastrean took them to Nate Campisi at Mr. Smalls for mixing and mastering. Those recordings were released in 2018 as Semi-Hollow Review, the first Astrology Now record but Campisi had other ideas: he wanted Mastrean to start a band. Campisi quickly joined on bass.
“I had the songs but I had no live music experience,” Mastrean says. “Those joining me had experience but didn’t know the songs. We kind of joined forces. On stage, I didn’t freak out or have a panic attack or anything like that. And, since then, we’ve become a real band.”
That band – Mastrean, the frontman, and Campisi play alongside utility player Zach Bronder on guitar/vocals and Matt Turcsanyi on guitar/vocals – recorded the Knife EP with drummer Gordy Brash, who also plays alongside Bronder in Bat Zuppel.
On Friday, Astrology Now will be anchored by Rave Ami skinsman Evan Meindl. Bronder, oddly enough, has not played in Rave Ami – at least to our knowledge. But he currently plays in Astrology Now and just about every other underground band in Pittsburgh.
“I’m actually losing my mind, all the time,” laughs Bronder, who lives in Arlington and estimates he’s currently in six – maybe seven – bands. “It works, though, all these different gears. Astrology Now is something I wouldn’t think of doing on my own. I’m sort of supporting someone else’s vision.”
Mastrean is proud of that vision, as well as the new EP, whose four heady, proudly analog songs call to mind Tim Presley’s “White Fence” and, in fidelity, Barrett-era Pink Floyd.
“It’s the first sound or recorded stuff people are hearing of us as a full band,” he says. “I’m enjoying getting to know each other musically and letting these guys add their personalities to the stuff I’m writing.” – Justin Vellucci, Pittsburgh Current, Jan. 8, 2020