Alt-Rock Duo ASHLAND Discuss Their Newest Album ‘Over The Moon,’ Losing Their Long-Time Collaborator, All-Time Favorite Show and More!
On December 13th, the alternative rock duo Ashland released their new album Over the Moon via Rise Records. On this sophomore collection, they channel that spirit into a batch of songs spotlighting boldly inventive guitar work and radiant vocal presence. Mainly produced by Kris Crummett (Dance Gavin Dance, Issues) and partly recorded with their longtime collaborator and close friend Matthew Amelung (a producer/engineer who passed away from cancer in June 2019), the band’s Rise Records debut unfolds with an entirely original sound that merges perfect pop melodies, genre-bending experimentation, and a consistent element of rock-and-roll.
Check out the music video for the ineffably dream title track here-
Hailing from a small-town in Illinois, Ashland took their name from a long-ago phenomenon that speaks to both destruction and transcendence. “My grandma told me a story about an old town that had been burned down by a fire and was renamed Ashland once it was rebuilt. We love the idea of beauty and growth coming from pain and struggle, and I think it really connects with the whole spirit of our band,” explains vocalist Asia Marie, who co-founded the band with Aaron Wood.
Connect With Ashland Online Here:
Learn more about Ashland in the following All Access interview here:
Happy New Year! What are you excited about for this year? What are some of your 2020 goals or resolutions?
ASIA: I want to start making more vlogs for fun and record an EP of ballads I’ve written over the years.
AARON: I want to travel more & eat more pizza
What does a typical day look like lately for this duo?
ASIA: We usually discuss band business in the morning. Then I do about 30 minutes of yoga. Then make a kale berry smoothie. Then work on listing stuff on my Depop and Poshmark. I usually get distracted writing songs about 5 times a day, so that takes up a lot of time. Then before bed I watch movies and/or read.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this band together? Has anything surprised you about this musical journey so far? How did you come up with your name?
ASIA: This whole journey has been a constant surprise. Nothing we’ve done has been a part of a “plan” ya know? We started out as a four piece, kind of heavy rock band and I didn’t have much to do with writing the music even though I was a songwriter. We’ve gone through a lot of changes that just seem to come naturally with time, member changes, life experiences, growing up. It’s funny that we’re considered a duo now and that I’m doing most of the writing.
AARON: Yeah, Asia had been writing and hiding songs in this blue binder for years. She came to me one day distraught because “I have ALL these songs and they will never see the light of day, what am I gonna do?!”. 8 out of 10 songs on the record are from that secret binder & I couldn’t be more proud of her finally stepping out of her comfort zone and sharing her songwriting talent with the world. It couldn’t have come at a better time because I was getting burnt out as a songwriter before this record and had NOTHING I liked. Watching Asia’s songwriting blossom has been inspiring to me as an artist and I can’t wait to watch her keep writing and growing.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you both carry yourselves in this band?
ASIA: I don’t know if I can say my hometown has ever influenced the sound. The Illinois’ music scene, Champaign more specifically, is versatile but the strongest “scenes” seem to be EDM and underground indie music, which ironically became like the mainstream around there. I enjoy going to different kinds of shows but I’ve always felt more connected to pop and punk rock music. So maybe that’s why I started writing that kind of music- cause no one else was doing it haha. My hometown has definitely influenced a lot of lyrical content because obviously I draw inspiration for that from real life events and memories.
AARON: I have never felt any connection to my home town so I would say that it has never influenced the sound of the music I create. Although, coming from the middle of nowhere has made it harder to get connections in the music industry so we have definitely worked very hard for everything we have.
Why would you say that you two work so well together? Where is one of you weak where the other is strong and vice-versa? Why does this duo work?
ASIA: I’d say we work so well together because we are polar opposite people with a very similar music taste and career drive. When I write a song, I know Aaron is going to be brutally honest with me and tell me what is great about this part and what’s bad about another part. I’m kind of your cliche, over the top emotional, artist. When I’m not creating music, I’m creating other forms of art. And I am very hard on myself. Sometimes it’s bad enough that I genuinely feel like giving up on everything. And that’s where Aaron comes in and I’m grateful that he isn’t like that at all. He’s very calm and patient and helps me get my head screwed back on haha.
AARON: Yeah, Asia pretty much summed it up. The fact that we have different tastes helps us create something unique. Sometimes the process results in a lot of arguing, but when it all comes together it’s usually something truly awesome.
Let’s talk about your newest sophomore album, “Over The Moon”? What was it like putting this collection together? What was the inspiration for these songs?
ASIA: We actually took some of the songs I wrote over the past couple years, refined them and took a handful of them to the studio. I’d offered up a couple songs in the past for our last EP, MISC but this was the first time I’d ever written pretty much the entire album, so I’ve been really nervous about this whole thing. I’d been an artist with a stash of hidden work for years. I felt undervalued and depressed but part of me believed that was better than putting my hard work out there and finding out the world hates it. But that was a risk I finally decide to take and I’m learning to just own my work. If I love it and I believe in it, then that’s really all that matters.
I was sorry to read that your long-time collaborator and friend, Matthew Amelung, who recorded part of it passed away from cancer last summer. What did it mean to you finish the collection after he died?
ASIA: This was actually really fucking hard. We didn’t have a clue that he wasn’t going to experience this release with us. We knew he was sick. But he had beat the cancer before and I wouldn’t even let the thought cross my mind that he wouldn’t beat it the last time. We talked about going to the Grammy’s together and I truly believed that was going to happen someday. He was our dude from the beginning. We were in this journey together. And in a way, we always will be. He’ll always be apart of us.
AARON: Losing Matt was the most difficult thing we have experienced as a band & as people. It completely changed us. I can’t tell you how many times a week I find myself about to text Matt to tell him something or ask a question about production only to be reminded that he’s gone.
Where do you think you are both happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
ASIA: I’m 100% happiest when I’m in a room alone writing a song on guitar or piano and then building production around it in garage band. I’m not the most technical and I don’t have the best equipment but I LOVE what I can do. I could do it without sleeping or eating for days.
AARON: I can’t choose. My two favorite places to be are when you’re writing a song and you FINALLY figure out the perfect chorus after being stuck on it for hours/days & being on stage performing.
What has been a favorite show of yours to date? What do you think makes an ideal performance for this band? Do you have any upcoming tour dates to wrap up the year with?
ASIA: A couple shows come to mind. An older show we played at POP’s in Sauget Illinois with Matt Amelung’s band, Fivefold. We opened for them and I think it was the first show Matt got us on. I remember he pulled me side stage and was like “Make me proud.” I was like “MATT! I GOT THIS! DON’T WORRY!” Haha But we had no idea what to expect. It was WILD! That was like THE show that broke us into the St. Louis music scene which is really how we got to where we are today. There’s a video of us performing our cover of “Bad Blood” on Youtube at that show and you can just tell the energy that night was incredible. The second show that came to mind is the one we played in Seattle during this last tour with Our Last Night. The energy was incredible, and I think it was the first show of that tour where I looked down at a brand new crowd and saw people singing our songs. And I was just like “whoa…this is badass.”
AARON: I think my favorite shows have been when we played a sold out show at The Pageant in St. Louis & when we played with Motion City Soundtrack at House of Blues Chicago on New Years. The Pageant was my “home” venue growing up so to finally be able to play it was literally a dream come true.
How do you think being musicians and in this band gives you all the most joy in life today?
ASIA: I’m just really grateful to have an outlet to express myself as an artist. I mentioned before that it was easy hiding my art from the world but I’ve reached the point in my life where I don’t want to hide who I am anymore. There will always be people in the world who don’t like you and don’t connect with what you’re doing. But if you love what you’re doing and you’re trying to use whatever gifts you have to help other people, then nothing else matters. It’s impossible to live a lie and be happy at the same time. We need to learn to accept our strengths and weaknesses and work with what we have. I admit, this is something I’ve struggled with a lot. I’m the type of person who wants to try everything and be the best at everything. So I have to choose what to focus on and hone my real skills so I can be the best version of myself, instead of trying to be someone I’m inspired by on Instagram who has an entirely different skill set than I do. For example, I might see a pretty girl on Instagram who has made a life career out of being a gorgeous chef. So I go to the store and buy all these exquisite cooking utensils when I know damn well that I am not a good cook. So why am I wasting my time with that? I need to learn to simply appreciate other people’s talents, maybe be inspired by their work ethic but apply that inspiration to my own gifts, talents and passions.
AARON: I have ALWAYS had self confidence & self image issues, I still struggle with them often but being a musician and being able to connect with people from all over has really helped be view the world and myself objectively and not really give a shit what anyone thinks about me. Anytime I’m creating or onstage all of my issues and self doubt just melt away and I don’t think anything else can make me feel that the way music does.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period? If you don’t think it is, why is that?
ASIA: I don’t think this is something that necessarily reflects our music, since a lot of my lyrical content is inspired by life relationships and experiences. Politics has always been an overwhelming topic for me as I’m very passionate about the overall well being of people. I came from a family absolutely torn down the middle of politics and religion. I’ve seen it destroy relationships, break hearts. And I couldn’t ever understand how people could let politics or something on the news come between a lifelong relationship. This kind of turned me into a hippy haha I believe that there is nothing more important than showing kindness and love to the people around you. If you want to make a lasting change in the world, it has to start at home first. It has to start in your own community. Volunteer, start a small group, do extra chores around the house, talk to every homeless person you walk by, acknowledge the small things your friends and loved ones do that you might be taking for granted. Everyone wants to make these huge changes in the world by giving their opinion on Facebook, but what are we doing to help the people right there in front of us?
Who would you love to work with in the future? Who are some of your favorite artists right now? What do you think would be a dream collaboration for this duo?
ASIA: Julia Michaels, Lana Del Ray, Alicia Keys, The Weeknd
AARON: I’m really open to work with anyone! Right now I’m really digging The Weeknd’s new singles & Halsey’s new record.
Where would you love to hear your music being played? A TV show, a movie, in your favorite store, etc…?
ASIA: I’ve been dying to get our music placed in some TV shows and movies. We also work out at Planet Fitness so it’d be pretty awesome to see our music video show up. The dream is to see a music video played on Time Square!
AARON: Everywhere. I want our music to be mandatorily played in everyone’s home and on every movie & TV show 24/7.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
ASIA: I want people to know that it doesn’t matter where they come from, what they’ve been through, how rich or poor they are….anything is possible if you have a dream and you’re willing to work hard. Listen to our song “Gotta Go” and “Motivation.”