New Years Day just released their fourth full-length album Unbreakable. I spoke with vocalist Ash Costello about recording the album, their upcoming first headlining tour, hearing “Shut Up” in an Uber, her non-musical passions and other topics.
Chad Bowar: As we’re doing this interview, the album release is just a couple days away. How are you feeling?
Ash Costello: It’s very exciting. All my nerves have completely subsided now that the snippets of music have been released. I’m seeing the feedback already and it seems like everyone’s really liking what they hear so far. So now I’m just ready.
As you started the the song writing process for the new album, did you have an angle or an approach in mind or did you just start writing and let the chips fall where they may?
I had a total approach in mind. I knew from before we even started writing the first note that I wanted to make a very poppy metal album or a very metal pop album. That was always the goal from day one.
How you came to work with producers Mitch Marlow (He Is Legend) and Scott Stevens (Halestorm, Shinedown)?
Scott I got hooked up with through my record label, but Mitch I actually met at a barbecue and we just kinda hit it off. I consider those two guys two of my very, very close friends now, especially Mitch, who I’ve been working with for quite awhile. So now it’s just like family.
Do you like the comfort level of working with people you’ve gotten to know well, or can tension be a good thing?
Tension is not a good thing, at least not in my world. I’m the kind of person, when I write, I just want to be very open minded. I want the other person to be open minded. I don’t want the word “no” to be a part of the studio. Let’s try everything, try every idea. I like it when it’s a very comfortable, supportive space.
Did you struggle with a track order at all?
With track order, I don’t really care. I let the record label do that one. I was like, you guys, you tell me the order. My input was that I wanted to end on the song “I Survived” because I feel like that really wrapped up what I was trying to say with the album as a whole.
When it came to your lyrics for Unbreakable, I understand you took more of a direct approach this time.
Yes. In the past I used to use a lot of metaphors. For example, one of our more popular songs is a song called “Malevolence” and the first line is “So soft, so gentle. This rose is kind and still.” I was just talking about myself, but why couldn’t I just say that? Why did I have to use rose as a metaphor? I got to the point where I was like, “Why am I hiding what I’m trying to say?” And after some soul searching realized it was because I wasn’t letting myself be vulnerable in that. When you’re putting out exactly how you feel and someone hates it, well that hurts a lot more than some poetry. So it was really hard for me, but I really pushed myself. I wanted to really sing literally this time instead of metaphorically.
As far as your lyric writing process, do you keep a notebook or keep things on your phone for later or do you wait to actually hear the music before you start with the lyrics?
I do both. I have a lot of song titles in my phone. I have a notebook with a lot of lyrics, a lot of song subjects and I save them. And then if a songwriter or a band member has a song and it makes me think and feel something, then I can go back and be like, does this line up with what the song was making me feel? And if I don’t have anything then I just start fresh. So a little bit of both.
With how much the music industry is changing, how do you go about determining if an album is successful? It seems the target keeps changing.
You can’t really gauge album success on sales anymore because sales don’t really represent what’s really going on in the scene, truthfully. I am the kind of person where I’m so close with our fans and I have my thumb so heavily on the pulse of what’s going on in our scene that I can gauge by the reaction if something is going well or something is a flop. But my biggest telltale sign is how many butts do we get in seats at shows and are those butts singing the words? And if they are and they’re loving it, to me I did a good job then.
One of the songs on the album addresses the social media world we live in. How do you deal with life under a microscope and that everything you put out there people see and judge?
I try to just take everything with a grain of salt and not it too personally or too seriously. And I don’t really put that much of my personal life online. I really don’t. It seems like I do and maybe that’s part of why I’m good at it, but I really don’t. I try to keep it about the music.
Later this year you’ll be embarking in your first headlining tour. What have you experienced over the years as openers that you’re going to apply to the bands that are going to be touring with you as your openers?
One of my biggest things is when we used to tour in a van and the other bands had buses, but would still take all the dressing rooms, even though they already had a space. So we are going to be in a bus for this tour and I’m not going to take any dressing rooms. I want the other bands to feel comfortable and have their space. And I just think it’s so shitty to keep a band locked up in their van with nowhere to go. So we’re gonna make sure that they’re happy and that we’re having fun and we’re not segregated from them. Why should you be?
It seems some bands don’t remember what it was like to be opening acts.
Or they do! I’m not gonna mention the band, but there was a band that headlined over us and we had asked for a privilege as the opener. And they said, why should New Years Day have that privilege? When we were the opening band, we didn’t get that privilege, so why should they? So the mentality wasn’t that we didn’t get that privilege, so we want to make sure that the opening band does get it. They were like, no, we didn’t, so they shouldn’t either, which I don’t think it’s a good mentality to have at all.
Later on this year you’re going back to Europe. What is the band’s level of awareness and popularity over there compared to North America?
It’s really good, surprisingly. We’ve actually done two headlining shows in the U K and one in Germany and they sold out and we couldn’t believe it. So we are actually really excited. We have a really good draw over there and I think it’s because maybe over in Europe and the UK goth is more trendy and more popular. So they see an American goth band and I think they just love it a lot quicker than here.
Your current single “Shut Up” is getting a lot of airplay. Do you remember the very first time you heard in New Year’s Day song on the radio?
I do. But my most loved memory isn’t necessarily the first time. It was Thanksgiving last year and we were in an Uber, we were on tour. Uber drivers always ask us if we are in some sort of band. And we always say yes, and sometimes we get played on the radio. If you have Sirius you can turn it on and maybe hear us. And she turned it on right then and there and they were playing our song! That was a really cool moment. It was the first time we were actually in the car to hear it. We had been tagged in videos from fans and stuff. That was the first time we all got to hear it together. So that was cool.
Did she crank it up for you?
She sure did! I think we scared her because we all started screaming and filming and jumping up and down in the car.
You released Diary Of A Creep EP last year that was mostly cover songs. Do think covers like that help introduce younger fans to some classic artists?
Yes. I hate saying this because it feels blasphemous, but a lot of the younger kids didn’t know Pantera. I know to us that sounds crazy, but yeah, so maybe we did introduce them to stuff they hadn’t heard and it was a really good exercise for us. It really helped us start our songwriting journey on a good foot because it helped exercise our songwriting and what we wanted to do, to take songs we love but New Years Day-ify them.
I think that’s the key. So many bands when they do cover it’s a karaoke version of it. You guys were respectful to the original arrangement, but put your own spin on it too.
That was the first thing I said. My exact words were, I don’t want to just do karaoke versions of these songs. I don’t get the point of it.
New Order is one of my favorite bands, and I enjoyed the “Bizarre Love Triangle” cover.
Thank you. That was the hardest one. We did that with Mitch Marlow. I really wanted to do this one because they said you’re picking too many ’90s nu-metal bands. You’ve got to spread it out a little. Okay, I’ll take one of my favorite ’80s goth/new wave songs. So when I played “Bizarre Love Triangle” for Mitch, he’s like, “How am I supposed to do guitars with this?” And I was like, “I dunno, but I believe in you, dude. You’ll figure it out.” (laughs) I was really happy with how it turned out.
What are some of your non-musical interests?
I’m actually very passionate about animal rescue. When I’m not doing music I’m pretty much spending time spoiling my animal rescues that I have. There’s a local animal rescue that we partner with. We’ll sell shirts or will give a free video shout out if you buy something off an Amazon wish list, like a dog bed or a cat treat, stuff like that. So that’s my other biggest passion outside of music and being creative, just taking care of the fur babies, really.
That’s a lot more productive than just sitting around playing video games.
That’s true, even though I love video games. I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about video games. It Is a good way to waste time, I guess. But something I’m passionate about? Definitely animal rescue.
Is there anything else that you would like to mention or promote?
A lot of exciting things are going on right now. It’s going to be a great year!
(interview published April 27, 2019)
Listen To New Years Day – “Shut Up”