ASTR's Adam Pallin On Grooming, Lumbersexuals, and His No-Belt Policy

After meeting in yoga class, Zoe and Adam joined forces to become ASTR, an electro-pop duo that exploded onto the scene in 2013 with “Operate,” and quickly followed up with a cover of Drake’s “Hold On We’re Going Home” which has been viewed over two million times on Youtube. Since then, ASTR has been honing their mix of nocturnal R&B, hip-hop, and pop with songs like “Blue Hawaii and “We Fall Down,” the most recent singles off their Varsity EP. This past February, ASTR hit it big again with a cover of the Rae Sremmurd anthem “No Type,” but Pallin doesn’t want ASTR to be known exclusively for covering other people’s music. Based on what we’ve heard, Pallin he's got nothing to worry about. We chopped it up with Pallin to discuss his trademark hair, grooming habits, and his creative process.

You’ve got puffy, curly hair. How do you feel about that? Truth be told, I went to this really stuffy prep school for a short period of time, and I got made fun of for having puffed up hair. People said, “You look like Prince,” and I would yell, “No, I don’t!” I took that shit to heart. I didn’t want to look like Prince. So I ended up buzzing my hair off for a year. Then one day I was like, fuck this shit, I’m so tired of buzzing my hair, and I just let it happen. Now I’m embracing this sort of genetic blessing, I guess. It’s become a thing. I want people to call me Prince, you know? Now, if someone called me Prince that would be awesome.

You seem like the type of guy that can pull off a lot of different looks, like the classic slicked back look in your video for “Blue Hawaii.” What’s your typical grooming routine like? I’ll be honest with you. I feel like the slicked back hair thing is kinda sleazy. I don’t know if I can incorporate that into a dating thing, but, hey, I’m glad someone out there appreciates that creepy slicked back thing. I feel like a pedophile from Fort Lauderdale in that look. I usually buy products from Bed Head but I don’t like [them] out of the box; I gotta let [them] sit on my counter for over a week. That’s my secret weapon right there.

How do you feel about the new lumbersexual trend that men are into now? It seems like every guy in New York is embracing the beard. I’m a grown ass man and I can’t even grow a beard. Not even a mustache. I don’t know how these guys are doing it. It’s just incredible to me. Even if I don’t shave for two weeks I look fucked up, like I have mud on my face or something, but it’s not a beard. So God bless. I think that [trend is] about to be over though. I think that girls are not into it. The big beard thing is fun and cool, but it seems like a mess. Don’t you get food stuck in that thing? It just feels like a trap for all types of nasty shit.

Let’s talk about your cover songs. You previously tweeted out that ASTR is not a cover band, after you guys got recognized for your cover of “Hold On We’re Going Home.” But you still covered another song–Rae Sremmurd’s “No Type.” How did that come about? Truth be told, we’ve just been so eager to put stuff out but we haven’t really been able to distribute entirely new music, so a cover is a good way to get people excited. So many people really liked [“No Type”] and putting a girl’s twist on it seemed like something that people would lean toward. We played around with it in the studio one day and it was like, yeah, this kinda works. I don’t know if it will be as life changing as doing the Drake cover was. That was a big surprise, so the bar is set pretty high.

Any more Drake covers we can look forward to? That’s dangerous territory, because then we run the risk of being “the Drake cover band.”  Lightning struck on that one. It’s like going to the slot machine and you just run it one time and you hit the jackpot. You just walk away from that machine—you do not stick around because then you’re going to lose everything.

What is ASTR’s creative process like for your original projects? Any day you get in the studio, you just mess around and try stuff out. You end up doing things that work and some that won’t work. We know when we’re both in the zone and we’re both really in it. That’s when the magic happens. We both have our own separate lives, so when we get in the studio and have other things on our minds, we might not write the best song, or we might write the best song ever. It’s really about capturing a mood or capturing an energy.

Initially you were an anonymous group. What made you decide to release your identity to the public? We got branded as “the shadow duo from Brooklyn” because no one knew who the fuck we were.  But it wasn’t like we had to protect our identities and be like ISIS, or some terrorist group operating from some remote place. That’s the way people were writing about us. I don’t think we ever wanted to keep [our identities] a secret. We didn’t want to be some shadow duo that just blasts the Internet with music. Zoe’s hot and I’ve got good hair that I want to show.

Any last words? I started this thing called No Belts 2015. It’s a really important cause that I’m now getting behind. I stopped wearing a belt in the beginning of 2015, and I didn’t know that this was going to start a whole movement, but I’ve found that there are all these guys out there who aren’t wearing belts either, and they haven’t felt comfortable enough to let people know. I did an interview in LA and the guy behind the camera winked at me and lifts up his shirt to show me he’s not wearing a belt. The Uber driver turned around and whispered, “Hey, I’m not wearing a belt,” and so now if there’s guys out there who aren’t wearing belts and don’t feel comfortable, I’m gonna be the spokesperson to let them know it’s okay. If you don’t wear a belt, it’s gonna be okay guys. We got each other. Let’s go out in numbers and let everyone know we’re not wearing belts this year. We’re gonna see where this goes. Let’s see how far we can take it

Text by Simone Archer