Newly-minted Christchurch rock act Ashei released a strikingly confident three-song taster back in 2008, the strong vocals of Liam Muir and Emma Cameron, backed by sharp musicianship, promising much for the future. University studies and earthquakes have seemingly got in the way since, but that future has now arrived, in the shape of a punchy five-track EP curtly entitled ‘Music Is Boring’. Gary Farrow found the four Ashei members gathered around a coffee table in Avondale.
It’s a sunny autumn afternoon in the green suburbs of West Auckland. I have come here to meet Liam Muir, guitarist for rock band Ashei. We are sitting comfortably on the sofa, facing vocalist and guitarist Emma Cameron, drummer Daniel Perry and bassist Curtis Booth.
But those three musicians aren’t actually in the room with us. Instead, they’re on the screen of Liam’s laptop on the coffee table, speaking via Skype from Christchurch. Like us, they’re sitting on the sofa, but are dressed snugly, assuring us that the temperature down south is nothing like it is in Auckland.
Ashei originally formed in Christchurch, but Liam has recently moved to Auckland for work. The four now face the challenge of continuing to work together from different islands.
“We’re having an earthquake!” Emma seems excited to interject. “Just a tiny, tiny one.”
It’s a further reminder that we are speaking from very different places, making the conversation seem almost surreal. Emma, Daniel and Curtis are in Sydenham, close to the CBD so heavily damaged by the earthquakes.
“Roads everywhere are still just absolutely mothered. The amount that my car has gotten damaged in the last four years is just ridiculous, Emma laughs. “There are a few houses down the road that had to be knocked down, but have since been rebuilt.”
Ashei emerged onto the Christchurch music scene in 2009. They became known for their intense live shows, fronted by Emma’s powerful siren song, evoking angst and delicateness simultaneously, backed by lush rock instrumentation from the other members.
“We only really started taking it fully seriously in the last three or four years, though,” she clarifies.
Having completed their studies the band members are now holding down full-time jobs, which allows them to make a greater financial investment in their musical exploits. Emma expresses confidence that Ashei have formed enough of a bond in their time together to be able to carry on, despite their physical distance from songwriter Liam.
“Even the thought of not doing music with these guys makes me feels like, ‘No, I can’t not do that’. We’re all willing to still go hard at it, because we like what we’re doing.”
She admits to being “pretty devvo” when Liam announced he would be moving north.
“But so far it seems to be going okay. Liam’s the main force in writing, so he can go off and do his own thing there, and we can do our own wee efforts here. We can come together throughout the year and hopefully we can make it work somehow.”
Auckland-based since early this year, Liam agrees things are functioning well so far.
“We are kind of at the stage where it does work because we know the songs, and we’ve also just created this product.”
That ‘product’ is Ashei’s debut EP, ‘Music Is Boring’, which they recorded last year with producer Matt Bartlem at Loose Stones Studios on Queensland’s Gold Coast. The record was funded through a successful crowdsourcing campaign on indiegogo. Ashei also received an NZ On Air Making Tracks grant to help pay for the music video for first single Bright Eyes.
“Recording and releasing this EP is the biggest thing we’ve done so far, and it’s just a small taste of what we could be doing,” Emma says with a tone of excitement.
Ashei have played widely around the country over the past two years. They got some great support slots with local bands Midnight Youth and Villainy, along with international acts The Ataris and Scary Kids Scaring Kids. This year, they’ll take things a step further, touring NZ and also Australia to support the release of ‘Music is Boring’. The band agree that the record symbolises the life, ambition and bond that remains with them.
“I think it helps that we’ve got something actually happening,” says Emma. “When we come back together, it won’t feel like we’ve been stagnant. The excitement of the EP is enough for us to focus on doing the next thing at the very least. I think an album’s definitely going to happen.”
The other Ashei members give a unanimous, professional, undoubting nod. Technology (and a bit of money) gives Ashei the ability to keep creating and performing, regardless of geographical separation. They stand ready to take full advantage of this opportunity, and maybe even to set an example for other bands in similar situations.