By Sebastian Mackay
It's a long road breaking through the NZ music industry, the scenes and then funding an album or EP releases. That's never been a secret. Small country, small market, it's just one of those things and while we could talk and talk and talk about how much it sucks or how hard it is, we're not going to because who really cares? And sometimes you've just got to suck it up, clench your teeth and keep pushing through.
So let's talk about Ashei, shall we?
In brief: they're a Christchurch bred rock outfit that have opened for These Four Walls, written a bunch of seriously great songs (new single Bright Eyes - if you've not heard it, what are you doing with your life? Seriously.) and they raised $10,000 US dollars to cross (insert overused cliche "the ditch") to sunny Australiya and record the EP Music Is Boring.
Is it really? I didn't ask. But when I got vocalist, guitarist and co-songwriter Emma Cameron on the phone (which we arranged over Twitter #godblesssocialmedia) we talked about all of the serious shit that comes with being in a band.
Me: "Hey, so if you could have a superpower, what would it be and why? You're not allowed to say flying because everyone says it."
Emma: "Aw, man. You got me. I was just about to say that! It would be invisibility."
(When invisibility comes up you can't help but think they're either a creep or a criminal...maybe it's just me. Emma isn't either!)
"So I could sneak into big gigs that I can't afford to go to."
Speaking of gigs, Ashei are hitting the road starting this Saturday (July 5) in support of the EP and they'll be driving around the country a while before teaching Australia a thing or two about good music (details at the bottom).
Music Is Boring is at times open and heartfelt and for Emma the balance between sharing the tender moments of life and not being Axel Rose (self obsessed) is important.
"You gotta take a step back and decide where the line is," she says after a moment of reflection. "As a listener if I'm listening to a song and it's too self indulgent then I'll think the person is a dick and I won't listen to it."
Music's not an experiment in self obsession for Ashei and as much as the balance is about not being a dick, it's also about a sense of self (that's a rabbit hole much deeper than we're about to go).
"For me the line," between not enough and too much, "is when I can't show it to people who are close to me and I feel too vulnerable, embarrassed or like I'll get into trouble for putting it out there."
(There's a story about Frank Turner's Anymore that says he got a thunderous transatlantic phone call from the woman it's about when the album came out, but I digress.)
In theory it's easy to say: "Hey, let's start a band, let's write some songs, and we'll get famous." Everyone from Kurt Cobain to We Are The In Crowd has written about themselves and someone, somewhere has bought the album (a lot of someones in a lot of somewheres in these cases) so it's easy. Right, right?
"That's the worst thing you have to go through," Emma says with a sigh. The thing: wondering whether or not people will buy your music if you sound this or way the proverbial that.
"You're thinking ‘Am I going to put time and effort and money into writing what we like and people won't give a shit or are we going to write something that's good for the radio and go somewhere with this?' It's such a horrible dichotomy...when we started off we were going to write music that we wanted to hear and we wrote ‘Beautiful Surrender' and it was catchy and we thought people would like it."
They loved it. Beautiful Surrender has over 12,100 views on Youtube.
Doing what any desperate and broke band would, they turned to pop (closer to Courage My Love than J Beibs).
"...It was soul destroying taking that route. So we decided we'd write songs that we liked and then we wrote Bright Eyes which is catchy but it came naturally and we liked it. We're going to...hope that people connect with the passion in our music."
That's exactly what the EP is. Passionate.
Self funded and self released Ashei decided they'd try to their try before you buy. The idea came out of the problem: do we sell it because people are going to steal it anyway or do we give it away for free?
"...I've gone from ‘we should charge people for it, we should get paid for this' to ‘we should give as much of it away for free as we can'."
Saturday July 5th: Dux Live, Christchurch
Friday July 11th: Backbeat, Auckland
Saturday July 12th: Valhalla, Wellington
Thursday July 17th: The Bearded Lady, Brisbane
Saturday July 19th: The Reverence Hotel, Melbourne