Greenpointers sought music from a local band to be used in the promo video for our Neon Kickstarter Project – since the documentary itself is ALL ABOUT local talent.
If you haven’t watched the video, you should do that here. Besides hopefully convincing you to chip in, you can also hear an absolutely fantastic song called “Be Where You Are” by the duo Astra Via. Members Olivia Mancini and Jarrett Nicolay live in Brooklyn and DC, respectively. The band started in the same place when Olivia reached out to Jarrett after hearing his solo record about three years ago. Astra Via, which means road to the stars, has since become a creative project over a distance once Olivia moved to New York. Despite that, they have kept working and just put out a new EP called Echo Birds. Check it out here.
Olivia and Jarrett were gracious enough to answer a few questions about the song, neon signs, and Greenpoint.
GP: What is your creative process, since you don’t live in the same place?
Jarrett: It evolves depending on how much we physically see each other. We’re getting better at being productive apart. Olivia and I anticipate each other really well. And we’re pretty unafraid of offending each other which helps tremendously! “Be Where You Are” is a song from our first EP which we recorded when living in the same area. The latest EP was made after Olivia had moved. I strangely almost prefer the current method because there is an intangible immediacy when we are actually in the studio together now that wasn’t necessarily there before. I think being apart forces us make to time for Astra Via because we have to. Keeps it focused. “We are where we are” in other words.
GP: “Be Where You Are” makes me think about what it means to be present and rooted, physically and otherwise. Do you feel that you tend to be connected with your surrounding community? And what helps you stay emotionally connected to things & people?
Jarrett: I am probably the most connected I’ve ever been. I was in a touring band for ten years and while that was a fantastic experience, it definitely came at the cost of being more than a bit disconnected from home. It’s nice to see the same people every day and to know where the good sushi is.
Olivia: “Be Where You Are” is a reminder for me to stay in the present moment, because I need one. Like Jarrett, I’ve spent the last 10 years either touring the country or driving north to south, south to north on I-95. It’s been easy for me to ignore what’s going on in front of my face because the scenery often changes by the day. Recently, I’ve been trying to curb the wanderlust and enjoy the people and experiences at my fingertips because, eventually, I realized I was half there, anywhere I was. Now I think I’m basically teaching myself to relax.
GP: Have you watched the Kickstarter video?
Jarrett: Of course!
GP: What made you interested in letting your music be used for it? And what do you think about neon signs?
Jarrett: What really hit home for me was the actual act of making something. It’s nice to be reminded that things are created and don’t just appear out of nowhere. It’s sometimes hard to keep things “valuable,” but if we don’t appreciate things in the moment, they might just go away. I’m resisting the “don’t know what you got til it’s gone” adage, but it’s often true. I’m just glad someone can still make neon signs in 2013.
Olivia: I love neon signs! I’ve often thought to move to Chicago, just because there are so many of them there. I’m glad I didn’t do that. But, I’m big into Art Deco and I’ve always associated neon with that era. I was delighted when I saw the Kickstarter. Go, local neon!
GP: At least for Olivia, what do you think about Greenpoint?
Olivia: I lived in Greenpoint last year and loved it until they jacked up the rent. I like Jimmy’s neon sign that changes colors, and their food is pretty good, too. I like Lulu’s free pizza, and Habitat is an all around great bar. People are friendly and happy to help (like the time I locked myself out with no cell phone and no wallet. I still owe a stranger 20 bucks). Tommy’s Tavern, with whom I shared a wall for the aforementioned year, was the only bad neighbor I had. Suck it, Tommy’s, and your stupid loud jukebox and three regular drunk-ass patrons.