Behind the Beat: Astronaut Folk

Citing their home base as “Space, Mass.—hovering in orbit over Amherst and South Hadley,” the members of Valley band Mass Air Flow clearly have no qualms about portraying themselves as a little out there. However, the story of how the band got its name is a bit more down-to-earth.

“[The band name] arose from thinking about the mass air flow sensor you would find on a car,” says Alex Abrams (guitar, vocals). “It’s the true regulator of the combustion in the engine. Thinking about how it balances the mixture of fuel and air gave us the image of how instruments and voices balance together dynamically to maintain the overall sound.”

Formed in 2011, after Abrams met and jammed with former Dude F*ckin Yeah members Mike Thurber (drums) and Richard Buonaugurio (bass) at a house party in Shutesbury, Mass., Air Flow has since gone on to cultivate a unique sound that mixes equal parts folk, rock and jam-band music.

For example, the track “Whoobye Cusion” rolls along for nearly eight wordless minutes punctuated by guitar flourishes and a steady bass groove, while “The Memory Industry,” which appears on the group’s EP Sky’s The Limit, features a more rocking delivery and vocal lines about meeting “in the middle.”

“Mass Air Flow incorporates a very wide variety of genres that reflect our collective ear,” Abrams says. “We’ll call it ‘astronaut folk.’ It’s a combination of roots, folk and rock, driven by vibrant rhythms and lots of time in the pocket—all original material. Expect anything.”

Part of the reason for the group’s free-flowing style is the members’ fluid songwriting process. Though sometimes spearheaded by Abrams’ bringing in a number that he wrote on his acoustic guitar, Mass Air Flow often listens back to recordings made during practice sessions and develops material culled from parts of much longer jams.

“We like to let the muse do her work and generally focus on the collective sound,” Abrams says. “Everyone has equal creative input.”

In addition to a series of upcoming shows in the area, Mass Air Flow’s next big project is a full-length album. The band already has an archive of close to 25 original songs, but with only an EP-length release listed to its credit so far, many tracks have only been performed live or posted online in the form of unfinished demos.

Abrams says, “We are now in the beginning phases of recording… We are keeping the [album] name a secret for now. Be on the lookout for a release show on the horizon. We will not disappoint.”?


Mass Air Flow performs Oct. 18 at The Elevens, 140 Pleasant St., Northampton, (413) 237-3550,

For more information on Mass Air Flow visit and

Author: Michael Cimaomo

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