In 2011, US beat scene figurehead Flying Lotus delivered a genre-defying live show of psychedelic Afrofuturism at Sydney’s Forum. In the crowd were friends Vichara Edirisinghe and Tom Huggett – who later started the multi-faceted Astral People over pizza at a Surry Hills diner.
At the time of this interview Vichara thought they were bringing Flying Lotus back to Australian shores to headline the Astral People Vivid Party: a one-night, two-stage music festival at Carriageworks on June 10. However since then, Flying Lotus has had to pull out from the event due to a scheduling issue. This could have been the shortest interview of all time promoting a cancelled event but Astral were determined to give Sydney the Vivid bash they all deserved so after a couple of sleepless nights, they’ve pulled a rabbit out of the hat and secured the beat konducta himself, Madlib, to replace Flying Lotus at their Vivid party next month.
Alongside the prolific and pioneering LA producer, the event will feature rising avant-garde R’n’B star Liv.e, plus a celebration of 15 years of Night Slugs – a trailblazing electronic record label founded by UK producers Bok Bok & Girl Unit – backed by a local contingent including Skeleten and Club Angel (both in the Astral stable), Close Counters, Elle Shimada, Crybaby, Crescendoll, Munasib, and Isa.
Save 20% when you buy two or more Broadsheet books. Order now to make sure they arrive in time for Christmas.SHOP NOW
The multi-pronged music juggernaut, which also includes a publishing arm, record label and recently, a New York office, is behind festivals such as OutsideIn, Last Dance NYE and Summer Dance. The duo has also curated stages at Vivid Live, Strawberry Fields and Splendour in the Grass.
For Edirisinghe, the evening is a showcase of past and present genre-definers and distorters – artists pushing the limits of electronic, classical, jazz and hip-hop music.
“That's kind of like our bread and butter,” he says. “We love fusing different sounds and genres, and live acts with DJs. Basically it’s going to be a melting pot of sounds. At the end of the day, our programming is just a reflection of our taste.
Once the headliners were locked in, Edirisinghe approached the rest of the program with the question: Which local artists would have been inspired by these artists?
“I really want to encapsulate that [question] with this party,” he says. “Whether or not they're directly inspired by these headlining international artists, I feel like their music has some synergy to them.
“It feels like a lot of the sounds that we're representing with this Vivid party are having a massive resurgence at the moment,” he continues. “I'm just really excited to showcase some stalwarts of the scene, but also the up-and-comers that I feel represent those sounds really well.”
Since bursting onto the music scene all those years ago, Astral People has brought hundreds of international acts to Australia while investing in homegrown talent; among the acts on their roster are Cosmo’s Midnight, Young Franco, Memphis LK, Moktar, Milan Ring, Sam Alfred and Winston Surfshirt. It’s that unwavering M.O. that’s placed the pair among the country’s top tastemakers. According to Edirisinghe, that 2011 Flying Lotus Forum show in Sydney “set the sound” of the early days of Astral People.
“I don't think there's many companies out here that can go from working with arena-level artists and then still do the 300-cap club shows till four in the morning, you know? And we can’t let go of it” he says. "Maybe less 4am kebabs for me personally now at my age"
"In fact, while sure, it's nice to rub shoulders with the stars here and there, we really just view them as the underground success stories. We continue to invest in the underground because it's the music we believe in. With any luck, people see what we see and there's another crossover story unravelling before our eyes".
And as the music scene properly emerges from the pandemic, they’re more motivated than ever. “That first year after Covid [lockdowns ceased] I felt like the local scene suffered because there was such a desire for international talent because we didn't have it here for a couple of years. I feel like that’s really changing now. They’re starting to get the recognition and the attendance at shows they deserve.”
That’s reflected in Astral People’s trajectory. “The company’s in probably the strongest position that it’s been in since we started, which is really exciting for us,” says Edirisinghe. “We've worked and nurtured so many local artists over the years. Especially over the last year we've been more motivated and more hungry to sign emerging Australian talent. There were a couple of years there where I felt like we weren't signing anything, and that wasn't because we weren't trying, it’s just nothing really got us out of our seats, but now just feels like a really exciting time for our domestic artists.”
Astral People is taking place at Carriageworks on June 10. Find out more and book tickets here.
Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Carriageworks