Astraluna: ‘There’s hope and there’s promise’

It’s four and a half years since Jennifer Pugh released her debut album as Astraluna.

Astraluna

In the intervening period the multi-instrumentalist – who was once a member of the indie band Helen with Corinne Bailey Rae – has been busy running the Woolpack Music and Arts Studios in Otley with her partner Richard Sabey as well as being part of the Sisterhood Music Collective with Fuzzy Jones, Miranda Arieh and Fran Wyburn.

“It felt like a lot of time that I’d put aside in the week for being creative was put into that project for a while, so my own songwriting went on the back burner, but it was great because I was still making music and I really loved the collaborative feel of Sisterhood,” she says.

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After attending a women’s Brighter Sound residency led by Beth Orton at Leeds Conservatoire in 2019, Pugh decided to take a masters degree in composition, songwriting and production. Halfway through that year the Covid pandemic struck, nonetheless Pugh says she “really learnt a lot” from the course and it inspired her to start writing for herself again.

“It gave me the excuse to go, ‘OK, I have to write this music, I have to learn and I have to hone this craft’. I think if I hadn’t done that I don’t know how self-disciplined I would have been,” she says. “Working and keeping the business it always felt like you’re torn in a tug of war.

“I love both things but when you’ve got people turning up to do a session you can’t be unprepared.

“The course was brilliant, and with Richard’s support as well, I was able to say, ‘For this time in the week all I’m going to do is songwriting’.”

The first tangible result is a six-track EP, In The Half Light, with an album to follow next year. The EP’s theme, she explains, involves astronomy and astrology. “I’m really into reading Greek myths or Aboriginal mythological stories that civilisations over the centuries have made up about the stars and constellations,” she says. “One of the songs on the EP is called The Swan, which originally came from the Cygnet constellation and there’s this myth around that.

“Every time it appears in the sky is at daybreak. In some cultures it was seen as like the dawn of a new day. I loved that image that every day is a new day and although that’s obvious to say, if you’re having a hard time or if you’re struggling with things from the past (it reminds you that) the world keeps turning, time changes things. Changes can be really gradual but they really do transform situations.

“So In The Half Light is ‘OK, it’s not dark and it’s not yet day but there’s hope and there’s promise’. All the songs have that theme to them, some may be more obvious than others. Some are like this is a struggle I’ve had or people might infer their own meaning on it. One is about helping someone with their grief after losing someone close to them. It’s how you find hope in that situation.”

The EP is available from astraluna1.bandcamp.com