Ashei – The Perfect Mix
‘Cracked And torn‘ is Ashei’s fifth single to date, and possibly the most difficult. Not that the song isn’t great, it is, but it’s a rock ballad, something bands a band wouldn’t release as a single until way after the album is on the charts. But then again, Ashei isn’t a band known for doing things conventionally.
If you’ve not seen the four-piece Christchurch based rock act yet you’re missing a real treat, being one of the most energetic and exciting local bands you will see – no shoe gazers here. A powerful live performance is one thing, but keeping the group on track and focused is another. Vocalist Emma Cameron organizes most things in the band and to her its a full-time job…minus the pay cheque. She looks after everything the band is doing, particularly the social media side in which Ashei is so strong. Not that the rest of the guys are relaxing on the beach with Martinis. While you need someone in charge of managing and marketing a band, the songwriting and live performances are equally important. Guitarist Liam Muir pens the vast majority of the song currently, with Dan Perry on drums and bassist Curtis Booth contributions to the backline rounding out the four-piece group.
‘A good live show is very important to us. We have people coming up to us and say – wow, you’re actually really good live! Bit of a backhand compliment,’ she laughs, ‘but we’ll take it.’
Gone are the days of giant record contracts and indulgent rock bands living the ‘rock’n roll’ lifestyle, it’s up to new bands to carve their own way and create opportunities themselves. But there still is an incredible amount of money out there for a band that wants to work hard for it, and nobody does it better then Ashei. With a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign under their belts, there’s nothing these guys can’t accomplish – TV appearances, magazines and a widespread social media presence, if you haven’t noticed Ashei yet you, Sir, are living under a rock.
Fundraising is one thing, but spending the cash wisely is another. We spoke to Emma by phone recently at her place in Christchurch, shortly after the dust had settled from their New Zealand and Australian tour for the release of Music Is Boring.
‘We discussed with our producer Matt Bartlem from Loose Stones Studio over in Queensland who offered us a deal. It was $10k for the EP, which was 2 weeks in the studio to do 5 or 6 tracks, including mixing with J.R.McNeely, and accommodation in the studio. We thought wow, that’s a really good deal, as we’d researched into what it would cost in NZ and it was about the same, and we were really keen to work with Matt and Tyse at Loose Stones and J.R over at stateside give all their track records. We were also keen to fly over to Australia as something new exciting as a band, and really concentrate and getting immersed in it.’
Travelling to another country can be a breath of fresh air a band needs to get the creative juices flowing. Of course, it can only be good for your profile as well. They knew a couple thousand dollars would be reasonable for them to raise through crowdfunding but decided to put the target at the full ten thousand, just so people were, in general, more aware of how much the recording process costs for bands.
‘We were like, Hey ok – ten thousand dollars is what it’s going to take…how we gonna do this?’
The Golden Ticket
‘With Indiegogo you can set flexible campaigns, which means that even if you don’t reach your goal you get to keep and use the donations you did manage to raise. It comes down to having good rewards, a really clear and a concise description of what you want to do. No one wants to give money towards a project they feel isn’t organised right down tot he very last minute detail as much as possible, people want to know their money is going towards something that is going to actually happen. Our mindset was that whatever we could get would be awesome and a big help. We raised nearly five thousand just with our family, friends and fan base alone.’
And then in an almost fairytale ending way a genuine Kiwi music fan came to the rescue.
‘He was a friend of someone who donated to our campaign. He said whatever we don’t raise on the last day and the last hour, whatever you don’t have I will donate the rest. And that’s how we pulled it off, just this one amazing guy that just wants to see local artists do well, and he liked our music and that we were serious about it and he just helped us out, and he’s just amazing! We were blown away when he got in touch with us…we couldn’t believe it was a real offer. We kept thinking there must be a catch…but there wasn’t’
The right stuff
Most of the band packed their bags and headed over the ditch to Queensland. Unfortunately, due to some bad timing having just started a new pay-the-bills job, Dan couldn’t make the trip and gave his blessing to be subbed by local Aussie Luke Williams from Dead Letter Circus on the drums. As soon as the band touched down on Aussie soil it was straight into the studio for two weeks of solid hard graft.
Did they enjoy the process of recording? ‘Yes it’s personally my favourite thing to do, and on our way home from the tip we were already excitedly talking about “the next one!” I just love hearing ideas come to life. Recording vocals is my favourite thing because you have more opportunity to sing things heaps of different ways to get the best delivery of a lyric. To cope with singing solidly for 5 or 6 hours, I do long vocal warm ups, use a nasal spray to clear my airways, and I like to have fresh cups of hot tea and Lemsip nearby, which could be quite dangerous I guess because of all the Panadol in, but it’s a crutch I developed when I recorded with the flu a couple of years back,’ she laughed.
‘We had such a good time over there, it was horrible we only had two weeks. I would love to be at the level where we can just go into the studio for two months and just disappear, that would be amazing.’
The new single Cracked and Torn is more diverse then the previous singles. A rock ballad of sorts, a stand out part of the arrangements is, of course, the amazing string section backing. ‘I love, love that song for the orchestral part. Its my favourite track off the EP. Right from the beginning, we thought, how amazing would this be with an orchestra in the background? But hey who can afford to hire in a bunch of session musicians from an orchestra.’
‘Our producer put us onto a guy in the states called Chris Carmichael, a very accomplished and amazing string arranger, he writes and plays all the bits. You basically just send him your track and he writes the entire instrumentation for an orchestra and he records every instrument himself individually. He does an amazing job, and the turn around was quick something like 10 days. He sent it back and said let me know if there was anything to change, and we were like – nope, perfect! haha’
What about the role of a producer, how much influence did Matt have on your final recordings?
‘For the most part, Matt didn’t change much, he sat us down at first and said ‘look, there isn’t much we need to change with these songs. He added some stuff like the string arrangements and harmony ideas. But if you listen to the demos and the final product, there isn’t a lot of major changes, which I guess is a nice testament to our songwriting to begin with.
What about artwork?
‘Even though we don’t really talk about it much as a band, it is very important to me because I am a graphic designer. The guys are still critical of my designs, I run everything past them because we’ve all got to be on the same page. The cover image of Music Is Boring was actually done on the way back home from the photoshoot for the EP.’
‘Dave our photographer signalled us to pull over as we were driving past the location, which I saw and liked earlier on the way in. Dave and I often share these epiphany moments,’ she laughs, ‘The photo on the cover is a genuine candid shot – He pulled his car up further down the road and we were just setting up for the shoot – I was moving gear in the back of the van, Liam was on the phone to his work or something, Dan was having a smoko break and Curtis was doing…well, whatever Curtis does! We asked Dave where we should stand, and he was like, yeah-nah, we go it, let’s go! We chose that photo because it was genuine.’
Music Is Boring was released as an EP, but in reality, it’s more a showcase of the bands potential, each song in it’s own right being capable of release as a single.
Tying it all together
“The best sales outlet for us is definitely Bandcamp. We get to keep a bigger cut of the income. If iTunes sells a song or Spotify streams it we only gets cents. When you’re new to Band camp its a little confusing, but once you get used to it its pretty good. I think once the band gets known globally iTunes might work better.”
So users should stream on Spotify and buy on Bandcamp? ‘That would be The perfect marriage’
So when is the album coming?
‘Well that’s what we’ve been talking about a lot recently, but since we’ve been on tour we’ve been wanting to change our thinking a little bit, we kinda want to put our funding towards playing more shows and tours, then maybe doing another EP. Its all subject to what happens in our future path, something might come up that we do have the opportunity to do an album.’
We asked if Emma felt the band found their niche in the market yet?
‘No, because its really important not to relax. We’ve still got places and things to explore with our music. Previously most of the songwriting was done by Liam, but heading into the Music Is Boring EP I wanted to start writing as well because I’ve always admired Liam’s ability and I want to get on his level. We collaborated on a few songs for the EP, and moving forward I’m trying to write as much as possible to keep up with him – we think it can only be good to have more ideas, perspectives and influences on the songs.’