by Chandler Christopher

March 30th, 2022

Astrachan is the lo-fi, indie rock project of 24-year-old Connecticut-native, Ben Astrachan. Ben grew up surrounded by creators, his mom a dancer and his dad a painter. He quickly discovered an artistic passion of his own when he began singing in the fourth grade. Ben grew up passionate about music and the arts and eventually went on to major in Theater and East Asian Studies at Brandeis University, where he met soon-to-be-collaborator Austin Koenigstein. The duo connected in an acapella group at the school and soon thereafter started Berta Bigtoe. They found cult success with the project, led by songs Hold The Fort and Can You Listen?  

Ben launched his solo project, Astrachan, in 2021 with the release of the Doh Dee Demos and eventually released his debut, self-titled record in May of 2021. It’s a smooth, lo-fi rock album with subtle hints of George Harrison throughout the album and even has an ode to Isn’t It A Pity with Astrachan’s song, Scandal. We released a cassette version of the album that you can find here! Check out our Q&A below and follow Astrachan on his socials to stay up to date!

Q:  Tell me about how you first got into music…

Astrachan: I didn’t have a musical family, but I had an artist family. My dad is a painter and my mom is a dancer. I started singing when I was maybe in fourth grade, and I just love singing. So that was kind of my intro to music. I was a part of some choir and acapella groups, which I really enjoyed. It was an all-male acapella group called Voicemail and Austin (Smushie) was an awesome musician, so that’s when I started really writing music and realized this was something I wanted to be doing by myself and with Austin.

Q:  You started putting out music as Astrachan in 2021… Did you have a solo project before that?

Astrachan: This was the first thing I had recorded myself. Austin and I had always done it together and Austin was always the one to helm the recording process, and I would sometimes mix here and there but not much. I wanted to try it out and the pandemic was the perfect time to experiment with that stuff. 

Q:  What has your recording process been for Astrachan?

Astrachan: 6 of us were in a co-op situation with cramped bedrooms and the studio was in the living room of the apartment. When we’d record that and there would be doors slamming and people walking around in the background, so it was a bit hectic haha.

Q:  What’re your goals as an artist? Why do you make music?

Astrachan: Maybe I should sit down and think about that. A great goal is to become sustainable from my art. That’s a goal and I’m feeling hopeful about it. I’m trying to step away from feeling my self-worth in my music. I’m really interested in making my music and being a human being and being an artist who stays sane and happy and not feel like I’m pulling teeth. 

Q:  What originally inspired your songwriting?

Astrachan: I haven’t completely delved into really using my voice in my music I’ve written. We had no idea what we were doing and we were just sort of jamming and seeing where it would go. Pink Floyd was the first thing that influenced my original music. I’m also really obsessed with Cat Stevens.

Q: Tell me about Berta Bigtoe… What’s the band situation?

Astrachan: Austin and I are starting the conversation about a Berta album. Writing wise it’s just us two for the most part. We’ve played with Ryan Gebhardt a lot as well and he and I actually have a side project together called Astroheart. We recently got a new band with the Lazarus brothers for Berta. We met the Lazarus’ over the summer and I needed a sax player for Astrachan. This guy Max was incredible so we just asked him to play with Berta. He said his brother is an amazing drummer so it just kind of worked out. When we play live, I play guitar and sing.

Q:  How would you describe your solo music versus Berta Bigtoe’s music?

Astrachan: Astrachan’s sound is a little more folksy and chamber-pop. I feel like when we played Berta, we’d be a little more hardcore with head bumping, but when we played Astrachan it was a little more laid back with like a saxophone. 

“If anyone can, Astrachan”

Check out some of Astrachan's tunes and support artists by following him on his socials linked below! :)