The five-member band looks to stand out and inspire in the Sarasota music scene.
A psychic once told Shannon Fortner she would do a European tour with four bearded men.
When Fortner’s former band, MeteorEYES, retired after 10 years, she wanted to do something different, so she put herself out there and posted on Facebook. Two years later, Fortner found her four bearded men.
Well, technically three-and-half. Someone’s beard is still a work in progress.
“I’m working really hard,” Eduardo Correa says of his less noticeable facial hair.
His bandmate tease him as he rubs the stubble — it’s a ribbing that’s not out of character for the group.
Joking around is a staple of Astralis, a dream-pop genre band that prides itself on standing out in the Sarasota music scene and having “adorable” members, as Fortner describes them.
“I feel like we wanted to bring something that is a little bit more marketable to cater to the taste of the town, mainly the artistic side of the town, that a lot of people don’t know,” bassist Reid Parkes says. “I don’t think there are a lot of bands doing what we do. I don’t know of any other bands like us, which is great.”
Astralis, which means “of the stars” in Latin, is made up of five members. Fortner, founder of the Harvey Milk Festival, is the lead vocalist. Parkes is the bassist. Correa is the backup-vocalist, plays the synthesizer and keys and is the self-proclaimed stand-up comic. John Maddox is the drummer, and Michael Regina is the guitarist and soon-to-be cellist.
The group, which made its debut at the Harvey Milk Festival in May, co-writes their songs and draws inspiration from personal experiences and other bands such as Radiohead, Bjork, Washed Out and Beach House. They describe their sound as dreamy, atmospheric, chill and mellow. Correa envisions it as music people would listen to on their way to the beach.
“I think the biggest challenge has been kind of deciding what direction we want to go as a band, genre and sound wise because we do all have so many tastes, and there’s so many talented people in this band. It’s been a challenge to kind of focus on where to focus the energy because everyone is so good at so many different things,” Regina says.
As Maddox describes it, everyone brings different pieces to the table. In the future, the bandmates think they’ll write more songs with a beat like “My Dream or Yours,” which Parkes explains has a more “dance-y” feel to it than their songs “Bruise” and “Closer.” The song also gets the crowd more involved.
And playing for a crowd is clearly a favorite for the group. One of Maddox’s favorite parts has been getting their work out for people to hear. Parkes and Maddox were previously in a cover band, but this time around, it’s rewarding for them to have original songs that represent them.
Correa is the only one who hasn’t been in a band before. He’s found that not only can he produce music he likes with this group, but he’s gained four friends through it, too.
The bandmates didn’t all know each other before forming Astralis. Fortner and Regina connected through Fortner’s Facebook post about wanting to start the group, Correa and Fortner met through the Harvey Milk Festival and Regina knew Maddox and Parkes through school.
Now, they chat in a group text, go to brunch on the weekends and get to write and perform together.
“It’s really cool because I’m used to doing stuff on my own and writing music on my own. It’s been a learning experience that I think has made me a better musician and person, so that’s my favorite part,” Correa says.
Despite having careers, the band makes Astralis a priority. They meet at least once a week to rehearse, and on another day, those whose schedules allow often meet to write songs.
“We treat this like it’s a priority, like it is our job. It’s our love and it is our passion. It’s really important to make it a priority because without it being just as important as work, like on a calendar, it keeps a lot of things from progressing,” Fortner says.
Which brings Fortner back to the psychic. The five-year goal for her is a European tour. But first, the band has other
goals to meet.
Parkes says the band is working on creating merchandise and producing another single and EP. Once those are accomplished, they are aiming to play locally at least once a month.
“I think it’s important to have a band like this that can inspire other people to start doing something as well,” Fortner says. “That’s how it always starts. That’s how the music scene starts progressing. It’s the community. We have to inspire each other to be able to have a stronger music scene, and I think this town is thriving for that.”
Within six months, the group says they plan to perform a 10-day tour, whether it’s throughout Florida or extends into other parts of the United States.
And of course, Correa has to grow out his beard.