On ‘Personal Life,’ Two Inch Astronaut Delivers Explosive Songs About The Mundane

By Alison Baitz

Maryland's Two Inch Astronaut has grown into one of the D.C. area's most promising rock bands.
Maryland's Two Inch Astronaut has grown into one of the D.C. area's most promising rock bands. Matt Gatwood

Maryland rock group Two Inch Astronaut has been around since 2009, but it’s taken seven years for the group to seem as confident as it does now. In its early days, the band may not have been bold enough to write songs about running errands.

But the new album from this rough-hewn, ‘90s-influenced troupe — Personal Life, out Feb. 5 on Exploding In Sound — takes a chance on the mundane.

personal-life-two-inch“A lot of this album is a little weird, because it’s sort of about the smaller moments as opposed to big, epic or romantic topics, like break-up songs,” says guitarist and vocalist Sam Rosenberg. “It’s more about, like, different jobs that I’ve had, or just little things like that — like walking to 7-11 to go get Cheez-Its.”

After some personnel shakeups and shifts in sound, Two Inch Astronaut — named after the phenomenon of an astronaut’s spine lengthening about two inches in space — has taken a decidedly down-to-earth approach.

But that doesn’t mean the group, which has become one of the D.C. region’s most promising bands, is thinking small. What started as an acoustic guitar and cello duo is now a full-fledged rock trio, composed of Rosenberg, bassist Andy Chervenak and drummer/vocalist Matt Gatwood. And now, they’re using a studio. A real one.

A whirlwind weeklong recording session with J. Robbins at his Baltimore studio, Magpie Cage, produced Personal Life. Previously, the trio had messed around in a friend’s “makeshift basement studio,” Rosenberg says. This new approach, though intense, came with some surprising benefits — like barring the band from overtinkering with its songs.

“We were just totally immersed in [the recording] for a week, and you’re done before you have a chance to get sick of it,” Rosenberg says. With more time to mess around, he adds, it’s too easy to lose perspective. “Before long, nothing sounds like anything.”

The band’s creative process has also changed. Previously, Rosenberg would bring skeletal demos to the band, who would work together to flesh them out through practice. This time, they worked more collaboratively, writing songs together and taking some of the pressure (and spotlight) off Rosenberg, who also writes songs under the name Mattress Financial.

Feb. 7, Two Inch Astronaut celebrates the release of Personal Life at D.C.’s Black Cat. It’ll be the latest in many local shows over the years; Two Inch keeps its calendar packed. But still, Rosenberg is leaving his mind open about what could happen. The vibe could depend on the day, the band’s state of mind, the weather.

“As many shows as we’ve played,” Rosenberg says, “as soon as I think, ‘All right, I’ve kind of got an idea of what this is like, how this is gonna go,’ the next show is just completely different.”

Two Inch Astronaut plays Feb. 7 at Black Cat with Hemlines and Laughing Man. Listen to Personal Life, below.