The sound of Astronautalis combines Andy Bothwell's past as a battle rapper with seemingly anything else he can make fit, from a ragged, Isaac Brock-like singing to blustery, piano-based art rock. His 2011 album This Is Our Science features guest spots from both Doomtree rapper Sims and Tegan Quin of indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara. Bothwell, who performs at the UW Union South's Sett Feb. 25, spoke with me as he prepared to play Berlin.
You gravitate toward other artists who embrace hip-hop in eccentric ways. You're about to tour with Busdriver and Jel, for instance. How did this approach evolve?
The goal [of battle-rapping] isn't to push yourself emotionally or personally, it's to be the best at it. The first time I heard Deep Puddle Dynamics in 1999, and I heard Company Flow's Funcrusher Plus the same year, it was the first time I looked at rap music the same way I had looked at indie rock, the same way I looked at theater and paintings. That's when I started to reconfigure.
How is the Four Fists, your collaboration with POS, coming along?
He has just finished a solo record. It is a really good push forward for him in a different way. When the dust settles on my life, I'm going to start editing and shaping all these things that we have recorded into songs and figuring out what else we need to do.
Because you tend to change sound and format so much from track to track, is it maddening to sequence your albums?
Every one of these records has a sometimes literal kind of concept woven through it, so they have a beginning, middle and end. Pomegranate [from 2008] was a little bit more like a collection of short stories. [This Is Our Science] is almost like an argument, a case study, as to how I've become the fucking weird person that I've become, presenting evidence in a proper order, I guess. I grew up in mixtape culture. You'd hear a Wu-Tang Clan song followed by a Polvo song followed by a Circle Jerks song. It was cool to like everything.