Ashen Reach have just had the best month of their lives what with playing gigs left right and centre culminating in a two day stint in Russia with metal heavyweights Bullet For My Valentine. Hailing from Liverpool, this five-piece band have already won their leg of Metal to the Masses and played Bloodstock last year amongst a whole host of other gigs. Ashen Reach have certainly gathered a new fan base wherever they play. Ashen Reach have developed a catalogue of music varying from in-your-face anthems to emotional ballads to progressive soundscapes, and still maintain the sound that makes the band what it is, a hard-hitting, no-holds-barred hard rock band. I caught up with the band who had quite a few things to say about how prosperous things are for the band right now and I wish Ashen Reach the best of luck.
Simple things first – where are you guys from?
We were all born and brought up in Liverpool and its surrounding areas!
How long have you been playing together as a band?
As this current line-up, we’ve been playing together for around six months.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
That’s quite a tough one really. It’s like a classic/hard rock and modern metal hybrid, with quite a few elements of more progressive music and bluesier stuff too. Pretty much a culmination of our different backgrounds and influences. We always make a conscious effort to make every song sound as different as possible to songs we’ve done before. There are certain types of songs which are similar in nature and have a similar job to do within a set or an album, but the main goal is we don’t want every song to sound the same!
How did it feel to win Metal to the Masses in Merseyside in your first attempt in 2018?
It was an amazing feeling. We felt like we’d taken a huge step towards where we wanted to be going with this. We were quite surprised at the time as there were some very good bands on alongside us, but when they called our name, it was like a mixture of relief from the tension of waiting to find out and pure joy.
You are very active on the live front, from local pubs and clubs to having played one of the biggest festivals the UK has to offer in Bloodstock. What should we expect from a live show and how was the experience playing in front of a huge crowd at Bloodstock for the band?
Live shows are so important. We try to make them as enjoyable to watch as possible because at the end of the day, people might love your music and may listen to it all day. But if they’re paying to come and watch you live, it’s your duty to perform and put on an actual show. This means being active on stage, (which can sometimes be quite difficult if the stage is the size of a bathmat, which isn’t unheard of). It means getting the crowd as involved as possible, clapping along with songs, chanting, singing, whatever you can do to make them feel like part of the experience, cos at the end of the day that’s what you want it to be, an experience. People who actively go to gigs see thousands of bands in their lifetime, you’ve got to stand out and make them go home remembering you.
Playing in front of the Bloodstock crowd was fantastic. We really thrive on bigger crowds and the more people there are, the more at home we feel putting on a proper show and getting people involved.
You recently came back from a huge two gig stint with major headliners Bullet For My Valentine in Russia. How did that come about and how was this experience for you?
Our manager Rachael, received a message from an agency saying that a band was needed for the slot, do you have anybody to put forward for such a show? We then get a message from Rachael asking if we’re interested, which of course is a stupid question, we were all over it like a rash!! And the rest is history as they say!
The experience was incredible, by far the best week we’ve ever had as a band. The crowds were insane, the people of Russia were beyond welcoming and supportive, we made tons of new friends and fans across St. Petersberg and Moscow. It was unforgettable. We’ve been absolutely snowed in with messages from fans asking us when we can come back and when we will have more music to buy online. The answer to both being, hopefully, sooner rather than later, but we’re working on it and we can’t wait!
Towards the end of 2018, you revamped everything about the band and basically started again from scratch, including a new direction, focus and energy. Do you feel that you are now writing the music you wanted to record?
We’ve always been writing whatever we want. The moment you try to force a direction or actively try to write something, you often fail. We tend to just pounce on moments of inspiration and whatever comes out, comes out. We have definitely evolved since the introduction of Paddy, our guitarist. Musically, the songwriting has a bit more intensity, punch and a higher impact. His goal is always to write songs that sound huge, songs that would fill arenas, songs you would hear on albums. It gave a modern edge and power to what was already going on within a more classic rock/prog foundation.
What are the lyrical themes of the songs on the new songs “Gone Tomorrow” and “Phoenix”? Is there a main lyricist within the band?
“Gone Tomorrow” is based around the end of a relationship, but not necessarily a super toxic or hostile ending. It’s more of a way of saying, “look, this is the end, but things will get better for both of us and we’ll look back knowing this was the best thing to do”. One of the lyrics in the chorus being “the tears shed today are gone tomorrow”. There is a comfort within it behind the heavy riffing and driving nature which is interesting.
“Phoenix” is more based on growth and change within yourself. It revolves around finding a way of moving on from all the things in your life that are dragging you down. This could be, people you call friends but really aren’t, your own attitudes or feelings, negativity in general. Just trying to let go of it all and be reborn and revitalised in a new environment which promotes prosperity and positivity, allowing you to better yourself and those around you that you care about. It’s an uplifting song for inspiring people to make positive changes in their life!
Up to now, our singer Dan has written almost all of the lyrics. We pretty much leave him to it really because he has a knack of making things sound interesting, catchy, and memorable, without anything sounding naff or littered with clichés.
Are there plans in 2019 to record a longer release?
Definitely yes! We hope to record our first album towards the end of this year. It’s going to be a lot of work and some finalising needs to take place, but there may be a way that fans can help us out and speed up the proceedings in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
How often is the band able to get together and rehearse in the studio? Where do you get together and record?
Lately, not very much to be honest, due to our insane gig schedule we’ve been powering through! We have a less intense calendar going forward at the moment so we’ll be getting in as much as we can, working on new material which will hopefully you will hear at the end of this year! We get together at Pirate Studios for rehearsals and writing sessions most of the time, and the two singles you will have heard were recorded in the Motor Museum Studios with the fantastic Loïc Gaillard, who will be recording the previously mentioned debut album!
How are the songs constructed in the studio? Are there the main songwriters of songs that take care of everything or is Ashen Reach a band where all members contribute to the songs?
Usually, songs stem from an initial idea, like a riff, or a cool melody/lyric, which we use as a foundation and build the song out from there. In less frequent instances a song may be brought to the group, in a virtually finished state. A bit of a show and tell will take place, where we’ll decide if anything needs tweaking, or if anything needs adding/removing, if the structure is good or if certain sections need alterations. The main goal though is to have everyone as involved as possible in whatever way they can, rather than having one person locked away doing everything and basically teaching everyone else their songs. Collaboration means everyone has their input and can put their views and feelings forward, and it keeps everyone happy about ultimately, what we’re showing to the world!
Being a five-piece and having different musical influences within the band, is there sometimes a lot of negotiating in the studio or do you feel you are writing the music you want to for the band?
From a writing perspective, even though we have different backgrounds and influences, we usually end up taking ideas in similar directions. We know our sound and what we want to sound like. Different influences are helpful in that they sprinkle added variety within our music which aids in keeping our catalogue from becoming monotonous.
How hard has it been to juggle the touring side of things with the everyday jobs? Do you have plans to go on more bigger tours and further afield in 2019?
It’s not too bad really with the nature of the jobs. Our employers are aware of what we’re doing which is necessary, and a lot of the time they’re understanding of what needs to be done to succeed in what we’re trying to do. Gigging, more often than not, is in the evening anyway. Realistically, unless you’re playing on the other side of the country or need a few days for a tour, time off is rarely needed.
We’re always hoping to go further afield and play where we haven’t played before. It’s important to spread the word and show people who you are in as many different places as you can. Word of mouth is very powerful. Even if a handful of people see you, if they tell people about you, chances are your audience will be a little bigger each time you go back.
How hard is it for a metal band like Ashen Reach to survive in the current climate where bands have to tour non stop and sell merchandise in order to bring money back into the band?
It can be tough, especially when you’re on a small scale and every run of merch is coming out of your own wallets, along with van hire, petrol money and accommodation if you’re travelling very far, to name a few things. But we’re committed, and determined. Our aim is to look back one day on our financial murmurs we have now, in years to come, knowing it was all worth it. This is what we all want to do and whatever it takes to be able to do it for a living, we’ll do.
Being from the Liverpool area, are there any other bands from your local scene that you would recommend?
Indeed there’s a few names to mention! Raised by Wolves, Vulture Cult, Scare Tactics, Nesh. They are all good friends of ours and are worth checking out!
A fun question to end this interview. If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would they be?
Our 5 CD’s would be:
Dan: Pointer Sisters – Breaking Out Deluxe Edition
Paddy: Alter Bridge – Fortress
Ian: Queen – Greatest Hits II
Mike: Dream Theatre – Octavarium
Jess: Don Broco – Technology
Any last message for our readers here at Moshville Times?
If you’re not aware of us, then please make yourself aware of us! If you’re into hard-hitting rock you won’t be disappointed! If you know who we are, have listened to our music, seen a show, or been any part of our journey so far, then thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Hopefully we’ll see you soon!