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Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009

Dear Astronaut: Space-Swamp House Band for the Planet of Misfit Toys

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Jeb Ebben swung his guitar and stomped on the row of effects pedals in front of him, the glow-in-the dark shoelaces of his Chuck Taylors radiating in the dimly lit stage area of the Borg Ward Collective. He spun and spasmed in the walls of fuzzy, distorted sound. He wailed and howled. Nathan Riddle was beside him, wearing a black coat and striped scarf. He kneeled down with his guitar, adjusting his spaceship console of effects pedals. Barely visible in the dark behind the two were drummer Scott Emmerich and Frank Knaebe on bass, doling out the distorted chugging of the band Dear Astronaut.

“This song is ‘No Hibernation.’ It’s about the Borg Ward, in a way, and not giving up,” Ebben says into the microphone to the crowd as the band started the sonic fuzz crunch again. The audience swayed and rocked back and forth on their feet.

The band was playing with eight other bands that night as part of the Borg Ward’s three-day “It’s About to Be Cold as Fuck Fest,” organized by Riddle.

Ebben describes Dear Astronaut’s sound as “no-wave stoner metal.”

Riddle, reflecting, says the band’s sound is “probably like sitting in a swamp, potentially getting stoned by yourself and thinking about the world. Then there are these random moments of happiness that come out of nowhere. But basically sitting in a swamp. It’s dark but there’s a lot of power in the songs.”

Dear Astronaut started as Ebben’s solo project in 2003, adding Knaebe and Emmerich on rhythm in 2005. The trio recorded an album, Escape from Rainbow Mountain, which is recorded but not released.

Last year they added Riddle as a second guitarist, helping balance the band’s low-end sound.

“He was able to bring a shrill, piercing, high-end sound,” Ebben says. “It complements us really well and it feels really natural. At band practice we talk about the ‘brain beam,’ just being able to play together and all being on the same page.”

The band has developed a long-term relationship with the Borg Ward, their practice space and most frequently played venue.

Ebben is a Borg Ward Collective member and the band began practicing in the Borg Ward basement a year and a half ago. Since then they’ve played more shows at the Borg Ward than any other band.

“So I guess we’re kind of like the house band in a way,” Ebben says.

“It’s nice not having to lug equipment up more than a flight of stairs,” he adds, laughing.

The band has found an appreciative audience at the Borg Ward.

“We never really went over well with the basement scene. That scene is very much about having fun, fun music. It’s really kind of dunderheaded, and energetic,” Ebben says.

“The Borg Ward is more of a refuge for weirdoes,” he continues. “There’s a lot of different shows here, but we definitely make a point of noise shows and stuff that’s a little more out there—stuff that doesn’t fit in the basement or bar scene, so I guess it’s natural this place would end up being our home.”

“It’s a place for bands that don’t have homes,” Riddle says.

“Yeah, Borg Ward is like the Island of Misfit Toys,” Ebben agrees.

Dear Astronaut plays Nov. 14 at the Borg Ward with Microwaves, The Conformists and IfIHadAHiFi.