Car Astor talks new songs, true lyrics, and about not having LGBTQ+ role models, but trying to be one.
In our commitment to bring you more LGBTQ+ artists, initiated during our coverage of LOVELOUD Music Festival, we present to you an interview by our contributing writer Jeremy Hinks with artist Car Astor (formerly known as SEE.)
A blonde beautiful young woman with a voice that will take you out just below the knees. Car Astor is a rising star in the pop music world. A feminine gay woman, who is incredibly positive and hopeful. Having had no real role models as a lesbian in her youth, she hopes to prove herself one to any and all young people out there that you can walk past any stereotype, be yourself, and ROCK THE HOUSE. One of the most delightful interviews I have ever had. Car Astor is so easy going, and covers a wide range of ideas in her music, that you will happily amp up into your playlist. * On a personal note, I wish for every parent in the world to understand this woman's message, and experience. I wish for every LGBTQ teenager to see this, and understand that when someone is completely free in their identity, without shame, threats, or discouragement, anyone can do remarkable things in their lives. This interview is proof of that.
JH: Just to let you know Car, you are in fact the first lesbian I have interviewed for Instinct Magazine, so we are breaking new ground. I have interviewed several gay men, bisexual guys, some staunch allies, but, you are the first lesbian.
Car Astor: Wow, I'm honored.
So Car to start this off, your publicist gave me some of your stuff a month and a half ago, and I got addicted pretty quick, and decided I had to talk to you, so here we are. First things first, having nothing to do with your music, I would describe you as Charlize Theron’s character in Atomic Blonde.
OH MY GOD, funny that you say that, I saw that movie and thought “Is this me?” I was so confused.
YES it is you!! I KNEW IT. I'm not sure if you could ride a motorcycle like that, or are such the martial artist but ...
I wish I could (lol)
But, you have that elegance and intensity about you, you strike me as that. This beautiful, but tough woman, with a lot under the surface.
It’s weird because I am usually a very “Jolly” person, but I feel like my face looks like… MEAN.
Well, like you said, you saw Atomic Blonde and asked yourself “Is that me?” and, yes, that is the vibe we all get from your videos, which is pretty awesome. So I will describe you musically as follows, I know you have been compared to Terri Nunn (from the 80s synthpop band) plenty of times, BUT, I get this Julee Cruise with this soothing mellow, but very intense voice.
I don’t know who that is.
Oh, gees, ok, making me feel really old, if you saw Twin Peaks, she was on the soundtrack, and she was the singer in the Bar Band throughout the first run of the show. You change styles so much across your music, that when you do put out that Julee Cruise vibe, it is VERY powerful. That was probably what really got me, I fell in love at about song 3. On YouTube you pop up between Robyn and CHVRCHES, and they are great, but I think you don’t REALLY belong there. There you are rocking with the guitar, and you have the talent all the way around.
So, let’s start at the beginning, tell us about your youth, and what started all of this?
I was 5 years old, and begged my parents to let me take piano lessons, so I started doing that, but then realized I'm really bad at reading sheet music. So I ended up quitting those, I loved playing, but I hated the structure. Then I picked up again at 13 and started drumming, that was my main thing from 13 to 17. Then I started writing my first songs, then writing songs. Then started singing at 18. I was the singer underneath, I had to climb out of it to become the singer.
It definitely has been, since I write about love a lot, obviously, but, I didn't know I was gay until I was sixteen. I never had this feeling of feeling ashamed of it, which I am grateful for, but most of it is me just singing about relationships I’ve had with different girls.
Well, they are not sappy love songs, none of this “I'm crying ‘cause you took off in the car and never came back” kind of fluff, it’s very REAL in the feeling.
Yeah, I try to pull on the emotions, which make me the most emotional. I don't know if that makes any sense, but I dig deep in my feelings to come up with it. BUT, I've been writing stuff that's more fun, and still feel like people will like. I thought I wanted to be this deep intense musician for so long, it’s kind of exhausting, so I decided to write some more pop songs which are what I have been exploring.
Well, that will be interesting; I look at your entire catalog, the SEE stuff and now your current stuff, as one long stream of sounds. I don’t really differentiate between them, your other stuff and pop stuff. Let’s jump into the music. “My Body Loves Trouble” it’s a FUN title, great song, but the title is the winner there.
I'm so glad that you asked that, I was with one of my friends at this open mic, and I am such a klutz, I mean, bad. I ended up spilling water on myself a few times that night, and I think she said, or I said, “My body loves trouble”, and said “THAT'S A GREAT SONG TITLE.” So I loved it, and took it and wrote about it. Thanks for picking up on that.
“Blue Awaits”, wonderful song, intriguing title, I'm wondering where that one came from.
Well, in that one, the chorus “Does blue await?”, in my head that means is sadness coming? Is our breakup happening? I guess the color blue is sad to me, asking, is this going to happen?
Wow, poetic, almost Shakespearean.
It actually sounds kind of silly now, to be honest. I think I was trying to find an interesting way to bring out that feeling.
Well, didn't sound like the typical depressed love song, with all that sap in it. So, “Closed Eyes Open” … For me, very beautiful, it’s dark, and changes vibes a lot. BUT, it steers you where it wants to. The sound changes, and your voice shifts, and then it takes you somewhere else, in a very pleasant way.
Yeah, that's one of my favorite songs to sing. I like the way it’s kind of hypnotic, and by the end it feels so big, open, and ambient and sad. That’s always been my favorite. It has a very big growth to it, it kind of builds through the entire song.
So, your songs, your titles could easily be stuck to other songs. “Girlfriend” could work with “Potions”, or “Another Pill” could work for “She Cried”. So, you must like just messing with our heads. “Girlfriend”, I LOVED how you made the video, the behind the scenes was just fascinating for a tech nerd like myself. You look very different, fun, and casual, as opposed to this intense person that was in the video. I LOVED the ghost, so, talk about that. What you gave us, was very heavy what you had to give to us, how it was delivered was very beautiful.
That whole concept came about the idea of this one person that I can’t really reach even touch, or be with. The song was about this emotional relationship that occurred between me and this person, and I was never able to be with them physically. So I had this to stand for the person to flirt, and disappear around me. Even thought it was fun and up-beat, it was about this relationship, and how it affected me.
We did it with this 3D Depth imaging. And it’s good that it comes across that way.
“Another Pill”, next song, this the part of the interview where I ask you the dirty trade secrets… What vocal style were you trained in? ‘Cause I hear two distinctly crossing over in this one, which gives it a great texture and how it flows. So, spill the beans now.
Actually, I've never taken a voice lesson in my life.
No, I don’t know what I've “trained” in, but I grew up on female fronted bands like Gwen Stefani, so she influenced me vocally.
Yeah I was going to say, I get a strong bit of her in your performance.
Oh, I am so massively obsessed with Gwen Stefani.
Yeah, she is the girl crush of every straight woman out there for sure. But I can hear the Jazz and some classical. So, when you say you have not taken any voice lessons... (damn, this girl has some NATURAL TALENT).
Well, I would actually like to, but so far I have never had any, which I'm kind of happy with, because if you learn and do things on your own, you get this unique sound and style, so that's what I hope happened.
Yes ,,it did. So, no dirty trade secrets (just natural talent). Ok, the video for “She Cried” was powerful. There was a so much beauty, grace, pain, violence, and emotion in that one. What I really loved about this video, you weren't really sure where you were in the story at any point. It was a bit like the Snow Patrol video of “This isn’t everything you are.” Where you see something, and you think, OK this is pain, this is anger, and you think you see what’s going on, then suddenly it switches to something very different, passionate, and beautiful. You had the violence in the dancing movements. It was very moving … and I'm done crying about it. Yes, I cried watching it, so, if you were wanting that to happen when people watched it. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Tell us about the core of it, then work us through the outer layers.
I was so young when we shot that video, it feels like a lifetime ago. I remember feeling really excited about how they choreographed the dancing. I haven't seen that video for years actually. So, the core of it, I wrote the song about my girlfriend at the time who was really depressed, and suicidal. So, we decided how we would present that, was for the person to have a drug addiction, because I think it was a little more tangible than mental illness. It’s about these people that love each other, and it’s really unhealthy, and this girl can’t help him. It’s like that heartbreaking situation where you want more than anything to help someone get better, but they can’t, it has to come from inside them.
So, if it wasn’t a secret in the industry before, what was the reaction to “Potions”?
I don’t know what happened with that song, and why it did so well, but people liked the video. As we discussed earlier, there is not a lot of representation for “Gay Girls”, so I think anyone that has a video for it, sometimes the videos take off. People thought the song was emotional, and it worked out. To be honest, I never really wanted to release that video, which is ironic, I was not stoked about it, but I'm happy people responded the way they did.
Well, there was an element of gay girls in the “Snow Patrol” video, not as much as yours, but it was well done. It was very, beautiful, and erotic, but not SLEAZY. Very well done that way, it wasn't just a trashy “Girl/Girl” sex scene put to music.
I think we were luckily able to do that and not make it sleazy. I mean, yes, the song was about sex, and it was complicated to think, how do you convey that and show it? It was a difficult experience making that video. I never want to fall into a category where it’s sleazy at all, and I think it’s sad that that's the case, that for a lot of directors in the industry that I want to work with them. And just because it’s a “lesbian video” they want to make it ridiculously sexual.
Wow, ok, I want to make art that feels one hundred percent honest and authentic. I am trying to write about my life, and have every lyric be true. I want people to connect with it, I think I am done with putting myself in a box. I am going to be putting out music that I love, and projects that I like. And hopefully too, if there are young girls that are listening, and there are songs about their relationships with other girls. I don't know, I never had a real “role model” as a gay girl growing up, so I would love to somehow be that for someone.
Well, I do hope that you can come across as a good role model to somebody else, to young people. Was your family accepting of you when you came out?
I have a great family, yes, I have gay uncles, so I wasn’t the first person to come out in my family. But they were a hundred percent accepting, they have been nothing but supportive which is great.
Well that is so great, I am in Utah, and I see it so differently here, people are not accepting, and we have the highest LGBT teen suicide rate of the country because of the religious situation, and the refusal to accept people for that. And I’mma just telling you, there is so much pain out there, and so much love, and I want it to heal, because there is so much healing that needs to happen, and your music is great for that, I see so much healing from your music, and I want people to see that and feel it. It’s hard to see it, and I cry about it ... STILL. I wanna share your music with young people and say, “Check this girl out, she is not the stereotypical “lesbian” in the flannel shirt with sleeves cut off and short hair. She is an honest, beautiful, feminine woman, with a kick ass voice, and she is someone very secure in herself. And you can be that as well.”
EXACTLY, that's the best. My favorite role models were always secure in themselves, were they straight or gay. But I was pretty lucky as well, I am in New York, and it’s a different scene here, but I also had a very supportive family. Not that any were particularly shocked, It’s not easy for everyone, but IT was much easier for me. I have a weird of guilt about it, because it was so… not a big deal for me, but it was also a beautiful thing. I was really lucky to have an easy time with it. But, when my uncle came out, it changed everyone's opinions. If my uncle had not come out, it might have been different for me had he not been there.
So you're standing on his shoulders, being proud of the guy.
Oh yeah. He came and gave me a huge hug, and said how excited he was for me. That’s how it should be, I can’t believe how far we have progressed. But, hey, the genes are strong, we have a lot of gay people in my family.
(Here's her newest single that was released this January)
Well, I want to make you a DIVA at Instinct Magazine, so that thousands of gay men scream when they hear your voice like they do for Lady Gaga or Grace Jones or Madonna (as gay men did in the ‘80s for Terri Nunn).
Thank you (laughing).
I did that with a Swedish pop star named Tove Styrke. This video of her song “Sway”, instead of smoking hot gay models had these two dorky skater kids. It had a lot of their own footage, of them riding their boards, smacking into things, falling over kind of thing. A part of the video where the music stops, and they are just there hanging out, and the one leans over and kisses the other. It was a very heavy moment, and that was her statement saying she supported them, and just falling into that moment. I later found out that they were not gay, and they did that whole thing in just one take. She said that after that video, at her concerts, people will come up to her and tell her “Thank you, that is exactly what I felt” or “That is what just happened to me”, and that was what I thought you were trying to convey to young girls, the same idea.
Anyway, I interviewed her, and photographed her show, and it worked she got a few thousand new gay guys as followers. We need new music divas in the “gay man’s” demographic.
YES, let’s get some new voices out there… (laughs). Not that we don’t love Lady Gaga, she is amazing, but yes, let’s have some new voices out there.
So, this is the question I ask at the end of each interview. To the young gay person, male, female, bisexual, whoever, is in that vulnerable situation, who is afraid, who is hurting, who is unable to come out. What would you tell them right now?
I would tell them to surround themselves with people that accept and love them, even if it is not people in your immediate family. You can have a chosen family, too, even if that's hard to find. I would tell them that its one hundred million percent OK to be who they are. I think the world has not caught up to how normal it is yet. I hope they are able to fully accept themselves and explore love with someone of the same sex because it’s the most beautiful thing to experience it. There is NOTHING weird about it at all, like when I first started dating a girl, and I thought “How could someone think that there is ANYTHING weird about it?” It just feels so right.
Wow, that was amazing, thank you for the conversation. I hope to see you on the road soon.
About the Interviewer - An indie GONZO music journalist in Salt Lake City, and an Anarchist behind the Zion Curtain. Jeremy Hinks is an obnoxious Type-A Male, who is embarrassingly straight and a staunch LGBTQ Ally with little tact, and a big heart. He has supported his LGBTQ friends since he was a teenager. The Gayest thing that ever happened in his life was winning Lady Gaga concert tickets on a radio contest. (because he knew insane amounts of rock and roll trivia).
He is writing a book about every concert he has been to (GONZO STYLE), but wonders if the world would want to read about all 46 U2 shows he has seen. He has made a name for himself photographing Pink Floyd tribute bands, and is a local concert photographer in Salt Lake City. (He even shot U2 a few times)
He is one of the photographers for the LOVELOUD Foundation in Utah, an organization to bring awareness and support for the young LGBT community in Utah, and to bring an end to the epidemic of suicides there.
He also drives a Vespa, and wears kilts, is rarely seen wearing pants, should be considered armed and dangerous, so do not approach without extreme caution.