"I got hit by a car two days ago, so I'm in a lot of pain, but we're gonna play anyway," announces Randy Chabot as he takes the stage at the Magic Stick. Next to him is Gustav Brovald, whose already imposing stature (he looks like he could easily sink a mid-court Hail Mary at the Palace) is enhanced by his position behind an arsenal of electronics. Perched at a drum kit is Marty Roy of local indie rockers Rough House, who only looks quiet: the guy can play. This is the new face of Detroit's very own Deastro: Chabot and Brovald manipulating all manner of electronic gadgets and Roy adding percussive muscle on the kit. With this new lineup–now a trio after Chabot went it alone on 2010's Mind Altar–comes a new sound that's miles from their 2009 full-length, full-band LP, the hyperactive Moondagger.
"The main reason for the sound change was boredom," Chabot tells me backstage at the Magic Stick after the gig. "I've never wanted to make the same record twice. It's like that definition of insanity, you know: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."
"We're in this endless continuum of fine-tuning," Brovald adds. "This Buddhist sense of forever trying to find that infinitely small, completely perfect state of being. We're in search of that as a band."
Listening to Incinerator, the band's latest EP, it sounds like the band's path to Zen is iridescent and lined with sequencer arpeggios and looped samples, spiraling off towards an interstellar dance floor. Gone are the intricate word games Chabot played in the band's more pop-oriented material; his vocals, where present, are content to repeat mantras covered in reverb and delay, adding another layer to the already dense grooves. The songs themselves are longer, too, with three of the EP's four songs clocking in at over seven minutes, giving them time to grow and mutate.
Even with the fresh coat of sonic paint, however, it's still unmistakably Deastro's heart beating at the center of the record. The music has always sounded like some sort of laser-lined puzzle falling into place; that hasn't changed on Incinerator, but now it seems as if those jigsaw pieces are being beamed in from an outer orbit. Over time, the sounds turn alien and menacing, a reflection of the time between Mind Altar and now.
"It wasn't a hiatus; it was us working so we could make money to buy gear," Chabot says. "Gus and I spent the past year living in a farmhouse in New York and warehouse spaces in Detroit, just trying to get by. We're making music that's more relatable to the pressure we've been feeling and maybe other people have been feeling too."
Deastro had seemed poised to capitalize on the resurgent popularity of synth-pop with the hook-filled Moondagger, which garnered coverage and reviews from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone and across the pond at NME and Q. But the money troubles, combined with a band personnel shakeup and the bad luck that can come with living in the city, forced the project away from the national spotlight it seemed poised to bathe in.
"I have been really poor for the past few years and in a lot of debt because of touring and just living in Detroit," Chabot tells me. "I have been robbed and my car has been stolen five times. I mean, it's just really hard to make it in Detroit."
The experience has given the band a new perspective on life after Pitchfork, one that fits neatly in line with the blue-collar attitude of the Motor City.
"We don't really care about being popular," Brovald says. Chabot puts it more simply: "We're trying to make something good, that's for sure." How's that for Zen? | RDW
deastro with Tunde Olaniran, Jöjjön and Cupcake Collective • 5/11, 9 p.m. • old miami • 3930 cass, detroit • 313.831.3830 • $10