Musical quartet composed of NU alumni to release EP “True and Toxic”


Graphic by Carly Schulman

Lead vocalists Aaron Messing and Anni Hochhalter from the NU-originating band, “Late Aster.” The quartet is set to release their premiere EP titled, “True and Toxic.”

Diego Ramos-Bechara, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor


The musicians in the band Late Aster began a friendship in their freshman year at Northwestern, where they bonded over late-night jam sessions around campus. 

Aaron Messing (Bienen ‘12), Charles Mueller (Bienen ‘12), Cameron LeCrone (Bienen ‘14) and Anni Hochhalter formed the musical quarter after graduation in 2012. The band plans to release their debut EP, “True and Toxic,” on May 21. The EP is the culmination of a decade of work and years spent “rediscovering their musical voice,” vocalist Messing said. 

“We’ve kind of changed musical directions a number of times,” Messing said. “It’s the culmination of this new thesis, this new voice, that we’ve been developing for almost 10 years.” 

The band would perform on campus and were all part of the improv group “Mee-Ow.” After graduating, the group began to freelance, playing gigs in Chicago before officially becoming a band. It was at this point that Hochhalter, who was introduced by mutual friends, joined the band. 

Over the years, the band used different names and experimented with different types of music before officially becoming Late Aster. With Hochhalter and Messing on vocals, Mueller on guitar and bass and LeCrone on drums, the band finally settled on a style of music. 

“Our songs are heavily driven by brass instruments, electronics and voice,” Mueller said. “We produce new music that’s rooted (in) classical and jazz traditions merged with the sounds of bebop and alternative rock.” 

“True and Toxic,” an EP the band had been working on since before the pandemic hit, is the culmination of this mashup of styles and genres.

Messing said years of listening to and talking about music helped diversify the group’s sound,  reshaping the way they think about the trajectory of their discography. 

“I love being able to articulate all of our influences at the same time,” Messing said. “Instead of asking, ‘I like this song or I like this band, so how can we emulate them individually?’ we’re trying to stitch them together.” 

Hochhalter said the reason they’re open to experimentation is because of the band’s trust in the skills and tastes of the other players. She and Messing want to create new sounds, like melding electronics and brass, drawing out the intimacy and versatility of instruments commonly relegated to a passive, secondary role in rock music. 

“True and Toxic” lays the foundation for these experiments, Mueller said. 

The EP, which is available to stream on most platforms on May 21, also includes accompanying music videos that “aim to stylize and personify the music,” Messing said. The videos don’t present a formal narrative — instead, each video stands on its own, using unique cinematic elements to present each song. 

The band’s musicianship is not just attributed to their knowledge and love of music, Hocchalter said –– it’s also due to their love for one another. 

“Honestly, the band is successful because Charles (Mueller) is a phenomenal engineer and guitar player and Cam (LeCrone) is a killer drummer,” Hocchalter said. “After almost a decade of making music, the band’s chemistry and success is built upon years of friendship and collaboration.” 

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