Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Sibling duo keeps rhythm all in the family

As Astaire, the Driscolls do it themselves

There is no lack of ambition in the Driscoll family. Siblings Bruce and Erica, who make up the band Astaire, seem to be spearheading their own DIY movement in New York City. The duo not only played all of the instruments on their forthcoming EP, but they wrote, recorded and produced the album in their New York apartment and will release the EP on their own record label.

"We know what we want to do and if we don't do it ourselves, it is not going to happen," Erica said emphatically on why Astaire takes such a DIY attitude. "We don't want to wait around for someone else 'cause we don't know if that's going to happen. So we do it ourselves and then it can get done the right way."

The Driscolls, who have dual citizenship in Brazil and the United States since their mother is Brazilian, spent their lives splitting time between the two countries.

"We grew up between Michigan and Brazil," Erica said. "Mostly summers in Brazil and we were in Michigan for most of the year so it was fun to go visit family because all of my mom's family is still down there."

That Brazilian influence is evident on the band's debut EP, entitled "Don't Whisper Lies," which will be released in October on their Wax Divine label.

"We've always listened to Brazilian music since we were really young and there are elements in our music that are maybe not outright apparent," Erica said.

"Little things in chord progressions and things like that," Bruce interjected. "I think the way Erica uses melody sometimes is similar to the way old bossa standards used to be written in Brazil. Kind of classic sounding."

Astaire, who cite bossa novan classics like Antonio Carlos Jobim and Jo o Gilberto as influences, can thank their mother not only for their heritage, but also for their musical talent.

"Our mother started us really young on piano," Erica said. "All her family members pretty much play piano and our great grandparents actually were musicians-"

"-a mandolin player and a violinist and they toured together or something," Bruce interrupted.

"So at a very young age we were introduced to music. My dad played a little guitar and ever since we were young, we played," Erica continued.

"One day I heard Neil Diamond and picked up the guitar and that was it," Bruce said, laughing. "I took a few drum lessons and realized that's not what I really wanted to do and then taught myself how to play guitar."

"I took piano lessons when I was really young and then I took violin and I taught myself how to play guitar," Erica finished.

With their strong musical background it's no suprise Astaire rolls out songs so naturally.

"We have so many songs," Erica said, noting that in the last year and half the duo has written more than 100 songs. "There was so much to choose from [for the EP]. We just tried to pick a good mix of songs, a well-rounded mix of songs. They're very different, but in some ways they're all cohesive with the melodies."

Not only do Erica and Bruce constantly write new songs, but they also record and produce all their music from a studio in their apartment.

"Bruce and I write and produce everything ourselves," Erica noted, mentioning that she has no idea what she would do if she wasn't making music.

"[I love music because] when you write a song, it's forever," Erica said. "We record a song and it's like, 'Oh, this is something we can have forever.'"

While Astaire is certainly an ambitious band destined to be known, as for the music they make, is there an emphasis on the fact that they are siblings, especially in a music industry filled with speculations about every duo band out there?

"We've always played together so it seems normal to us," Erica explained, "But maybe to other people-who don't get along with their brother-it would be hard. But we get along really well."

Bruce agreed.

"[Playing with your sister] feels more natural," he said. "I think that since we've been playing together, we're kind of on the same page in terms of where we see something going when we write a song. We'll start out and it's kind of like we've got these wavelengths going between us that started in our mother womb or something."

He then added, "You know that's kind of gross, I wish I hadn't said that. But it comes out and it works."

Working in such close proximity to a family member might trigger a sense of sibling rivalry, but the Driscolls insist that they get along remarkably well, despite Bruce's teasing.

"I like to rough her up," Bruce jokes. "The other day I beat her with a yoga mat."

A preview of "Don't Whisper Lies" is available on the band's Web site ( Tour dates to support the EP's release are yet to be announced, although the band is set to play this October at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York.

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