Astronautica, also known as Edrina Martinez, has already proven to be a powerful force on the electronic music scene—and she's only 24 years old. From regular appearances at EDM hub Low End Theory to producing her distinct style of lush electronica as a one-(wo)man band, the L.A.-based DJ is showing no signs of slowing down.
Martinez used her latest album Gemini as an outlet to revolutionize her typical approach to producing music. "I’ll be somewhere and hear some sound on the street and record it on my phone and then go and play it into the song and add that as a texture to whatever I’m working on," she explained.
This refreshingly raw technique is just one facet of the album's back-to-basics vibe. For anyone in search of a satisfying summer soundtrack, look no more. Gemini's upbeat fusion of infectious R&B, charged with house beats, sinewy vocals, and intricate guitar riffs, is it.
We caught up with Martinez to talk about her sophomore album, the importance of female empowerment in the music industry, and how artistic inspiration is always within reach.
Where did you grow up and what you were like as a teenager?
I grew up in the suburbs of L.A. County in a little city called San Dimas. In high school, I was really big on going to shows and stuff. Music always played an important role in my life. Growing up, I was surrounded by a lot of different types of music from my parents, my grandparents, from friends.
How did you get into the type of music that you like and produce now? Was it always EDM or did you just stumble upon that?
I got into the EDM scene in high school, and then I went to school up in San Francisco for a year. When I moved back to L.A., I got really into the L.A. beat scene and that whole genre and subculture. So, I started going to Low End Theory every week and was just really influenced by being there and seeing all the music going on there. Like I said, I was always kind of a musical kid growing up. I was like, “I like this music. Why not try to make it?”
You can sing, play guitar, and produce your own music. How did you learn to master all of these different skills?
Oh man, lots of practice! As a kid, I would take guitar lessons and stuff, but I never really learned to read music. I think when you’re a kid, you can develop skills a lot easier—they just stick. So now, I can pick up a guitar and kind of just play by ear, and that’s what’s really helped out with my production. It just makes it that much easier for me to produce, like knowing how to play that. I’m also using a program called Ableton so it’s cool because I can just record everything into there and then pick out certain parts of what I recorded—like on the guitar, what I sing —and kind of sample that, which is cool because it’s kind of like a mix of live music as well as visually engineered music. They are kind of going hand in hand.
Your music typically deals with lust, love, and loss. Why do you find yourself gravitating toward these themes?
To me, it’s like a story that I’m telling, and it’s something that I’ve been through. When I’m looking to write lyrics, that’s where I can tap into because it’s an experience that I can write about. I also want to try to be relatable to my audience and love, of course, is the number one thing that people can just relate to as a group. I find that writing about my experiences lets my listeners into a little part of my life that otherwise they wouldn’t really have any insight in.
How did you get into becoming a DJ?
I feel like I just really put myself out there. I started putting music online just for myself, just to see if other people would be into it, and then I just started getting plays. On SoundCloud, you can see where they’re coming from so it was crazy. I was like, “Oh my gosh, people from Thailand are listening to this,” which is super cool about the Internet. It kind of brings the world closer together, you know? So, I was putting all my music up online, and I got an email from Daddy Kev, who runs the label I’m with as well as Low End Theory, and he just said, “Astronautica at Low End Theory.” So I was freaking out because I was a huge fan. I would go to Low End Theory every Wednesday, so to perform there was a trip. I also opened up for one of my favorite artists, Bath, so it was just really cool being up there. That night, Daddy Kev was like, “Hey, I really like what you’re doing. Do you have any other songs? Are you looking to work on an album?” And then from there, I put an album out a few months later, and I just started getting booked for different shows and started playing with all of the artists that I was really inspired by. I think seeing that and being involved in that is what kept me going, like, “Oh, this is cool. People are really responding well and I’m getting to do what I love.” By putting myself out there, it opened up a lot more doors.
How much has your experience, growing up on the West Coast, influenced your music?
In L.A., it’s just kind of like a hodgepodge of culture. There are lots of different types of music here because there are lots of different types of people here. Like my grandparents are really big salsa listeners—that definitely had an influence. My mom really loves hip-hop and R&B, so that also had a big influence. Just being surrounded by all these different types of genres of music always resonated well with me. Going into the L.A. beat scene, I think the reason I was so in love with it was because I saw that it was all of these different genres in the scene. It was kind of jazzy, it was kind of hip-hoppy, it was kind of club-house-dance. There are a lot of similarities in that scene to the types of music I was listening to growing up. I also think growing up out here made me appreciate all types of music.
The title of your latest album, Gemini, is a reflection of your astrological sign. How deeply do you identify with that?
It’s funny because Gemini is known to be “the twins,” and even though I don’t think I have a split personality or anything, my first name’s Edrina and my middle name’s Kayla. Half of the people I know call me Edrina, the other half call me Kayla. It’s this funny dynamic. With the album, it all kind of ties in together because if you listen to it, it’s not just one genre or sound. It was inspired by a lot of different types of genres. That kind of goes into play with the whole idea of the Gemini being very dual, and the duality of all these different things coming together, so that fit perfectly with the entire project. I also worked on the album art —that little logo I have, I designe—and it was one of my paintings. It is kind of an abstract Gemini logo, so I wanted it all to be a packaged project. I put a lot into it.
What was your creative process for putting the album together?
It kind of took me a while to finish it; I think it took me a couple of years. Within those years, I was just working on a lot of songs. There are a lot of songs that also didn’t make it on to the album. One of the things I did was that I sat there one night with a bottle of wine, and I listened to every single song. I was like, “Okay, where can I find the story here? Where can it be a complete story?” You’re your biggest critic, so not critiquing it too much and just really letting it talk to me like it would to another person was a process in itself.
What makes this album different from your previous works?
My first album was a little bit more down tempo. There were a lot of things I was doing differently. I still wanted to maintain my sound while also experimenting with new sounds, so this album is a little more upbeat, a little more dancey. I’m also sampling my own voice on the whole album whereas before, I was using other types of samples. I’m playing more guitar as the guitarist. With my previous work, I was manipulating the guitar sounds to make it sound like something different whereas with this one, I really just wanted it to be like, “Oh, I can distinguish that that’s a guitar.” With my earlier work, it’s like, “Oh, what is that? It could be a guitar, it could be a different instrument.” I wanted to highlight the guitar and my voice in this record, as well as play around with creating more upbeat beats.
Are there any artists that you look up to and are inspired by?
Oh man, there are a lot of artists. I think going into the scene, I was really inspired by old-school hip-hop, old-school R&B. One of my all-time favorites is A Tribe Called Quest. Missy Elliott and Timbaland were my favorite producers, so hearing the way they would produce their beats and sample certain things definitely influenced the way I started out early on. I feel like I’m even inspired every day by my friends who produce and doing what they love as well. I’m really inspired just by the whole creative scene.
The electronic music industry has this tendency of being thought of as a boys' club despite the fact that there are so many talented women in the scene. What has your experience been like in the field?
It definitely is. You definitely see a lot of guys doing this, but not recently. I feel like more female-orientated groups, organizations, and clubs are coming out supporting female artists. I think they’re getting a lot more recognition whereas a few years ago, even if it was out there, I didn’t notice it as much. But now, I’m really starting to take notice. My friend dot, Kate Ellwanger, she has a female collective called Unspeakable, and it’s not just females. It’s not singling out females like a girls-only club at all, but females need the recognition and I think it’s awesome that certain groups and artists are starting to talk more about that. There was even a group from Norway who came out here called KOSO, and we all had brunch at the Ace and just talked to other females who are doing the same thing, who are also creative. I think it’s great to see that, especially for younger girls to see that there are females doing this because a lot of times, I think the reason why there aren’t as many females in the scene is because it’s not out there. These girls don’t have anyone to look up to because it is all boys. But I think there’s definitely a change coming with all of these female-empowerment groups in the industry coming more to the surface. It’s cool because I’ve also been seeing—aside from the artist aspect—I’m seeing more females on the business side of things, taking on more leadership-type roles and being badasses. I think as time goes on, there’s definitely more female empowerment in this industry.
What are some of your favorite types of shows to play?
I really like playing in cities I haven’t played in before because I like seeing the vibe everywhere else. It’s always cool to me to see that even though I’m in a different city, there’s always that consistent feeling that people are just there to hear the music. It’s that unifying thing that kind of brings everyone together, which is cool because it’s everywhere. I can play in L.A. or New York, and I feel like everyone’s just there for the music. That’s one of my favorite things about performing. My favorite types of shows to play are here in L.A. at Low End Theory because that’s where I started and what inspired me in the first place to start doing this. Whenever I play there, it’s like I’m playing at home. I know I can play something I’ve never played out before and I can premiere it there, and the crowd is always so receptive in a positive way. It’s such a tight space, like literally really small, so you can really feel the energy coming off of everyone. It’s cool that I’m not forced to play super club music there; I can just play the most down-tempo song that I have and really feel people’s energies bouncing off the walls to it.
What do you have coming up?
I’m going to be going on tour in June on the West Coast, so we’ll be hitting a few dates out here. It’s San Diego, L.A., San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, Portland, and Santa Cruz. Be on the lookout for that; it’ll be pretty cool. I’m going on tour with Eureka The Butcher, Gypsy Mamba, and Elusive.