It's Déjà vu all over again, and indie rock in the U.S. may never be the same. In February, exactly 43 years after the Beatles came Stateside and ushered in the British Invasion, Asono — the guitar driven foursome that's become the talk of their native U.K. after less than two years on the London scene - is coming to the U.S. for the first time.
The rollout is expected to be as intense as lead singer and lead guitarist Jonny Ross' dynamic stage performances and the band's music itself. Just as their first single “Street Full Of Strangers” is catching on with college radio stations and Top 40 outlets around the country — as part of a massive promotional campaign - Asono will embark on a five-week tour in February and March.
This should all be heady, wide-eyed stuff for a foursome whose oldest member, drummer Oli King, is all of 20 (Ross, lead and rhythm guitarist Andrew Simmons and bassist Jason Denhart are 19). But these guys are wise and talented beyond their years, already veterans and a huge part of London's indie rock scene, which they've been playing regularly since the Summer of 2005. By a few weeks into Fall 2006, Asono had close to 50 gigs under its belt for the year.
A powerful rock singer with a stadium filling vocal power, Ross — who generally instigates the band's songwriting process for each tune - has quickly developed into a charismatic showman who rivets crowds the minute he hits the stage. His lead guitar work blends perfectly with Simmons' lead and rhythm guitar to create a unique mood for every song. Denhart's driving bass patterns and King's technical skin wizardry create an ambitious yet concrete platform from which the two guitarists can really express themselves.
Beyond all the intense musicianship and exciting stage presence, Asono's real heart lay in its songs, emotionally complex, stylistically diverse rock tracks that show a maturity way beyond each member's chronological years. The band has thus far released two EPs, the three song Someday (2005) and four song One Man Army (2006); they have combined them into a single mini-album which has been an extraordinary seller from the bandstand and whose sales are bound to increase with a distribution deal and the release of the single “Street Full Of Strangers.”
Taking it from the top and what were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your music today? Oli: "Well, the music itself has a lot of older influences like Guns n Roses, Pearl Jam, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, especially the vocals and lead guitar, but it’s more the individual musicians that have helped shape our sound, people such as Steve Tyler, Jon Bonham, flea, Jon Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and many other influential rock musicians."
Andrew: "We like people who can really play and those guys still influence us today. I think you can factor in a few other bands like Muse and The Arctic Monkey (that last one was a joke by the way)."
Jason: "There really isn’t anyone out there better than these guys."
Jonny: "These influences are certainly still with us today although I think we are probably taking on new influences all the time without even realizing it. I think our sound is still our own, which is a good thing!"
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying your debut US EP, how would you yourself describe your sound? Jonny: "Mmmmmm, a cross between broken speakers and listening to your grandmother’s favourite record from another room. No, I would say a massive mix of all our influences with something a little bit new thrown in. We often find it hard to compare, which I guess is good! We certainly aren’t your typical English ‘indie’ band, the songs are meant for full volume so make sure you let the neighbors know before you put it on, then crank it right up! It definitely has an an Anglo/American rock vibe to it because of our influences."
Andrew: "I don’t think my grandma would like it!"
Jason: "My grandma loves it!"
Oli: "Melody is key for us, we try and make every single one of our tunes stand up acoustically before we even start putting the full backing down."
Your EP title 'One Man Army' is an interesting choice, but perhaps it originates from a more personal standpoint for you? Is there a theme to it, perhaps? Jonny: "You know what; no one has ever asked that question before! Yes well the story goes that one night in the back streets, I was confronted by 10 . . . no 100 assailants and to cut a long story short ….no ok I wouldn’t say a personal standpoint! Although the character in our song is little more extreme than most, the idea behind it is that everyone is their own one man army; all individual with their own views on the way the world should go round! That theme runs right through the E.P and ‘One Man Army’ summed it up quite nicely."
"This E.P, being a collection of songs from the ‘One Man Army’ and ‘Someday’ E.P’s, represents our sound more fully, with quieter moments from Someday and more raucous moments from ‘One Man Army.’ We therefore very cleverly decided to name it after ourselves!"
Also, please reveal to us just where the bands name originates and what else it could so easily have been?! Oli: "I love this question, always a funny one. Jon and I were sat in a supermarket car park trying to grab some late night munch before picking up a mate from a club at 1 in the morning. The word ‘Asono’ popped out from no-where and that’s what it still is. I looked up the word and ‘sono’ means ‘sound’ in Latin apparently. I’m pretty certain that’s where it came from anyway?!"
Andrew: "I think we’ve made up our own word and haven’t yet defined it. Watch this space though…"
How easy (or hard) is it to constantly create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderment's/accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? Jason: "Well…it is almost impossible to always/continually write songs that the public like. Songs are very subjective. We try and stay true to our influences and styles and the way we enjoy playing. If that comes across as commercial then that’s great, if it doesn’t we still carry on playing it and keep writing until the songs come around that people class as “catchy” and “commercial.” Like I said, the most important part for us is to play the music in our own style and enjoy it."
Jonny: "You definitely can’t second guess the music buying public; it mystifies me how sometimes I can listen to a song and not get it at all and yet it sells by the bucket load. It can be frustrating but I guess that’s just the nature of the beast."
Andrew: "Sometimes I lie awake at night asking myself that same question…"
Oli: "It might sound selfish but if I like it I’m happy. That may have to change if we can’t pay the rent though. Then we’ll all have to dress up in leotards and write like the Scissor Sisters! I still can’t get their last tune out of my head!!"
Please tell us more (in a quick fashion!) about what was going on in your life when these songs were being written and recorded:
'Street Full Of Strangers' – "I’m a big believer in people making up their own stories behind tracks, to me, that’s what music is all about. We all feel lonely sometimes though right!?"
'She Loves L.A.' – "Filthy playboy bunnies! No just joking- we love those guys. Nothing really relevant to our own personal lives but the song’s about gold diggers!"
'Never Nothing Never' – "Quite an angry tune I guess. Again, not because we were particularly angry but more a tribute to anyone whose ever thought a bit of self preservation is in order!!"
Being that the average age of the band is 19, are you sacrificing anything by coming over here to the States to try and break it? Jason: "Some of us have given up college and our already dwindling social lives to play music!!! We wouldn’t really have it any other way. College can come anytime but the most important thing for us is the playing and response. It’s been a pretty tough year, putting the pennies together to do a tour like this takes a lot of effort and sacrifice, don’t feel to sorry for us though as we’re going to have the best time ever in the U.S."
Andrew: "I’m going to have a shit load of homework when I get back."
Jonny: "Hopefully it will all be worth it, we’re very much looking forward to playing for U.S. audiences for the first time. We will hopefully get to some sites and meet some cool people along the way - so make sure you come up and say hi!!"
Has work begun yet on the full-length album yet and is there already a title for it you can reveal to us here in this exclusive interview? Andrew: "We have most of our material recorded in some way or another but the difference in quality of these recordings means that we will have to go through them again re-recording, though no dates or plans or names have been decided yet. You’ll be the first to know when we make the important decisions!"
Jonny: "We’ve got a lot of new material we’re working on, which might make the first album. Some of which we’ll be playing on the tour – so make sure you come down and check it out!!"
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! Andrew: "'More Than A Feeling' by Boston. Fantastic cheese!"
Jonny – "I would love to cover Love in an Elevator by Aerosmith! In fact I’m going to do that when I get home!"Jason - "'99 Red Balloons' by that German band!!"
Oli: "'Karma Chameleon' by Culture Club ... It’s my favourite!"
Lastly, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you?! "Yeah we love them too!! They taste great!"
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