Overland Park, KS, band Astronaut Merit Badge make energizing rock music deeply rooted in the sound of 90s alternative. Fans of Pixies, HUM and Smashing Pumpkins take note. Band members Emil Schutzel, Scott Stone and Brett Gerstenberger are three friends with a shared creative passion and a desire to bring back Sci-Fi Rock. These guys want to earn their Astronaut Merit Badge. Listen to some brand-new songs from the band, enjoy our interview with them and read their picks from the Johnson County Library catalog. Astronaut Merit Badge will perform live at Santa Fe Park in Overland Park on Saturday, August 8 @ 7pm. Learn more here.
Introduce yourselves and the band. Where do you guys live and work?
The band, hailing from the great city of Overland Park:
Emil Schutzel plays acrobatic bass and vocals. Emil is a graduate student getting a masters degree in psychology.
Scott Stone is the resident guitar wizard, effects master, and vocalist. Scott spends his days serving the community as an Information Specialist in the Johnson County Library system
Brett Gerstenberger plays drums, with much vigor. Brett works for a software company.
Fill us in on the origins of Astronaut Merit Badge. How did you three come together?
One fine summer day, Scott Stone was venturing forth on the interwebs navigating cat videos in search of meaning. On a whim he left an advertisement looking for bandmates in which he referenced the great band HUM, to which Brett responded with velocity. After some initial jamming as a duo, Scott lured Emil to round out to form a trio.
Describe your creative process with songwriting as individuals and as a band. What tools do you use? How does collaboration figure into this process?
Emil: I have strong coffee at my side, I clear my mind and try to tune into whatever feeling might be there. I play some chords and if I like it I sing a melody over it and then the rest of the song will just flow out unless I think about it too much.
Scott: I usually write on guitar, a riff that hopefully sounds cool and is fun and interesting to play. Then I try really hard to come up with a memorable melody, which can take a while sometimes. Lyrical content is usually a mood or an idea or an image that I find compelling.
Brett: I try to play things that are interesting to me. I try to focus on the mantra of WWJKP (What would Jason Kourkounis Play.)
How do you break through creative blocks?
Coffee consumption, starting at a blank wall contemplating symbolism of the color blue in 14 Century French poetry. When those fail Karate is employed.
Who or what has been the biggest influence(s) on your band’s music?
Emil: Marcel Duchamp, Luke Skywalker
Scott: Friends both past and present, they are mostly artists, writers, musicians and always introduce me to music, ideas, and options that I wouldn't have thought of on my own. And John Williams.
Brett: Sparklehorse, HUM, and Frank Pembleton,