by Chandler Christopher

December 30th, 2021

Smushie is the Chicago-based DIY indie project of Long Island-hailing Austin Koenigstein. Currently with a discography of only a handful of singles, his unique and raw sound captured my ear’s attention immediately. There’s an effortless feel to Smushie’s tunes that makes his music really satisfying to listen to, and he has pieced together an impressive catalog since launching the project in 2020. Austin has been a part of another project, Berta Bigtoe, which was started by him and longtime friend/collaborator (and maybe seventh cousin?) Ben Astrachan. The duo met through an acapella group in college in Boston at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where Austin graduated as a film major. It was at Brandeis that they started their project Berta Bigtoe, which has garnered enough steam to be able to play dozens of shows around the Midwest and Northeast. Austin started Smushie to begin to explore music on his own, using the persona as a platform to experiment with different instruments and recording techniques. He’s currently working on a debut album for Smushie, with goals to finish it by winter and “make something weird and experimental.”  Check out Smushie’s current tunes on Spotify and Bandcamp for a taste of what may be to come from this exciting new artist and check out our Q&A below!


Q: Tell me about your musical upbringing, how did you get into it?

Smushie: I’ve been doing music for pretty much my whole life. I started playing guitar when I was 10, and at first, it was sports and music competing with each other. But I got mono when I was about 10 and then started really playing music. When I first started playing music, it didn’t feel as authoritative as sports did. I was in a Kiss cover band growing up called “Lick it Up,” hahaha. We did one show at a biker bar called Jugs-N-Strokers… I remember overheating from the makeup haha.


Q: Tell me about how Smushie started, where does the name come from? What’s your songwriting process?

Smushie: I started Smushie to explore music on my own. I recorded the songs you find on Spotify pretty quickly, and I record analog with the way I record… I like to have less control, so I record on a cassette tape.

I loved writing the song Strong Lady… I was observing an old lady that was stretching and I was just writing nonsense about it. After, I went home where I didn’t have a bed at the time because of bed bugs… I just had a studio in Brighton, Massachusetts… I set up and recorded it in like two and a half hours.

Q: What is your song Faxing It In about?

Smushie: I wrote that about this time last year when the pandemic was really bad. That’s actually the first song where I wrote the bass part first. I was just sort of messing around and wanted to do something simple. Things were shut down… It was a hard time with Covid and everything. At times I was feeling kind of hopeless with it all… That’s my only song so far that is a little more somber. 

Q: Tell me about your collaboration with Ben Astrachan, when did y’all start collaborating? When did y’all start Berta Bigtoe? 

Smushie: Ben and I met in college doing acappella together. Ben was the best singer at Brandeis… He could sing Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, it was incredible. He wanted to make music with me so we started making music together our senior year. We made our first song which was called “Jolly Rancher Salesman.”  Before Berta Bigtoe, our name was Gurndy Skansky.. but we figured that was too weird. 

Q: Was this past tour y’all’s first tour as Berta Bigtoe?

Smushie: Our tour just finished up. It was our first time doing it together… We were supposed to play a tour for the project at the beginning of 2020 but Covid messed that up. We played Mercury Lounge in NYC and at Fordham University we thought we were going to break the floor. It was interesting to see in certain cities like Boston and random cities like East Haven, some people were turning out because they knew us which was really cool. 

Q: What are your future hopes for Smushie?

Smushie: I’m currently working on an album for Smushie… I’m trying to make something weird and I hope to finish it by winter. The plan is to record it onto the eight-track tape machine, send it to a computer, then back through the 8-track, which creates this sort of filter. I like this method because it alienates you from the song… When I do tape I find myself doing no more than eight takes of anything and that gives me a more raw sound. I’m interested in taking more intricate songs and using this approach.

Check out some of Smushie's tunes and support artists by following them on their socials linked below! :)