SMU Theater Grad Turns to Rapping

Andy Bothwell, aka Astronautalis, settles down long enough to enjoy a Pomegranate.

HIP, HOP: Guess who in this photo has been compared to Beck.
photography courtesy of Eye Ball Records

Andy Bothwell has no home. Not just in terms of locale, though that’s an always-changing thumbtack on his touring map. The 26-year-old “gets the shakes” if he’s not on the road, and it’s onstage that this SMU theater graduate shines, inventing new freestyle raps every night. Bothwell also has trouble settling on a genre, apparent on CDs recorded under his alias, Astronautalis. He’s a bona fide rapper, but it’s not that simple. For his latest album, Pomegranate, locals he’d performed with years ago—Midlake, the Polyphonic Spree, and the Paper Chase, among them—convinced him to hole up with them in a Dallas studio last year to bring his hip-hop vision to life. Pianos and strings flutter between pounding, jazz-inspired drums, while Sarah Jaffe croons like an indie-rock Beyoncé. Bothwell chooses some off-the-wall subject matter to jaw about—the British opium wars, the man who watched Abe Lincoln die—and still has room for a few Springsteen-style anthems. Beck’s the usual genre-busting name check, but this time, Bothwell reaches deeper. The poppy thrills of Gnarls Barkley meet the literate ache of Tom Waits in an album that will make Bothwell’s career. But will it make Dallas his home? Bothwell smiles, getting his things together to prep for a concert in his latest hometown of Seattle. “I like the more romantic notion of a drifter,” he says.

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