TVD Recommends: Astra Via’s Record Release Show at the Black Cat, 5/18

Astra Via is a new band from Olivia Mancini and Jarrett Nicolay. In advance of their record release show, we’ve asked them to talk about their own favorite records and find shared albums of inspiration.

Jarrett and Olivia chose the Lemonheads’ It’s a Shame About Ray, The Beatles’ Please Please Me, and R.E.M.’s Life’s Rich Pageant. Says Jarrett, “All three of these albums share a few key elements that Olivia and I find exciting. Please Please MeLife’s Rich Pageant, and It’s a Shame About Ray are all totally “in the moment” and immediate sounding records. Each one also features multiple singers. And all three close with a cover song. Interesting indeed.  These musical chromosomes seem to be what makes up the Astra Via DNA.”

Astra Via is having their record release show at the Black Cat on Friday, May 18. Download their first single, “Be Where You Are,” free at and see if you can hear some of these chromosomes in the Astra Via DNA.

Olivia: This was one of the first modern rock albums I loved from start to finish. I was in 9th grade, I think, and someone told me about it at school. This record was the coolest. Acoustic guitars! Harmonies! Counter melody! And, nevertheless, totally punk. “Frank Mills” from Hair? Why not, Evan? Why not?

Jarrett: Guy/Girl vocals. Short songs. Sloppy guitar solos. Acoustic and electric guitars coexisting nicely. “Hannah and Gabi” is beautiful. Pedal steel guitar but not country. “Butterscotch street lamps mark my path.” Evan Dando perfectly not giving a fuck!  This record is instant nostalgia.

Jarrett: What I value most about this album is the amount of time they spent recording it.  The entire record was tracked in under 10 hours.  Also, it was arguably the first record where a band had actually written the majority of the hit songs themselves.  Not to mention John Lennon, despite (or because of) being sick, sings with an intensity that is hard to ignore (“Twist and Shout”).  Top that with stellar harmonies and Beatle swagger and it’s a total milestone moment.

Olivia: This record has been with me my whole life. Before I knew what bands were or albums were or what a pop song was, there was “Love Me Do,” and “Please Please Me,” and “Twist and Shout.” Paul and John singing their hearts out in unison, George toughing it out on “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” the cover of the Shirelles’ “Baby It’s You.”

This record opened the wardrobe door to the Beatles and I am still in Narnia. Paul’s bass on “I Saw Her Standing There” still kicks my ass.

Olivia: My dad, a devoted WHFS listener when it was in its heyday, gave me Reckoning when I was about nine but I wasn’t ready for it.

R.E.M. didn’t do it for me until Automatic For the People, the perfect adolescent angst record. But the happy medium between early and mid-R.E.M. exists in Life’s Rich Pageant, which a friend of mine got me hooked on a few years later. Is any song more beautiful than “Swan, Swan, Hummingbird?”

Oh, yes, another song on the same album, “Fall on Me.” “Superman” made me understand Mike Mills’ genius and he became, like Paul M., a singing bass hero.

Jarrett: I actually picked up this album at a flea market in Columbia, South Carolina during the summer between 10th and 11th grade.  I had heard from the older coolness at school that this record was REM’s apex. I remember from the first guitar blast of “Begin the Begin” that it was something that was gonna be with me for the foreseeable future.

I think it’s the most realized version of REM that isn’t detrimentally self aware. No sharks had been jumped here.  No fridges nuked.  “Stand” was but an ominous iceberg that lay unknowingly in their music future.  The best song on the record is “Fall On Me.”  The video with it’s block letter lyrics and grainy 8mm stock film spoke to those of us who knew we didn’t belong but who also weren’t quite weird enough to go full eyeliner and trench coats.

And “Superman” is the best cover song that no one knows is a cover.  I know what’s happening!

Astra Via Record Release Show, Friday, 5/18 at the Black Cat 
with Vandaveer and The Beanstalk Library 
$12 Mainstage | Doors at 9:00 

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