Interview by Ian Morales.
What Panic at The Disco is to the genre “circus rock,” Orange County based four-piece New Year’s Day is to “Haunted Mansion rock.” Fronted by the eccentric Ashley Costello, New Year’s Day has been grinding it out on the entire leg of this year’s Vans Warped Tour. This year was the band’s second time on Warped, having been on in 2007.
Formed in 2005, the band became an official, legitimate working band in 2007. The former TVT Records recording artists are currently unsigned and are hoping being on Warped Tour again will help land them a new home on a new label before touring in the fall. We caught up with front woman Ashley Costello recently and talked about everything from Michael Jackson and Freddy Krueger to her dark musical influences and life as unsigned band.
How do you guys describe your own sound?
Ashley: We’re definitely dark, pop-punk. It describes what we are going for, something darker but yet fun at the same time. Some would even say we’re like a female-fronted My Chemical Romance.
What has been your experience with Warped Tour before this year?
Ashley: We’ve done the entire Warped Tour in 2007 and we were on the Hurley Stage that year. It was the best experience. If you are in a band and on Warped Tour, you can’t that exposure anywhere else. Warped Tour has such a history and such a unique vibe. It’s something your grandma can understand. If I say “Grandma we’re on Warped Tour” then even she knows it’s a big deal.
Being that you hold Warped in such high regards, why didn’t you do Warped last year?
Ashley: Label problems. We spent the last year suing our label, TVT Records, for the rights to our name and our music. They got sold off when they went bankrupt to another label, The Orchard. We go shelved because we were kind of won in an auction, so to speak, and they didn’t really want us. After suing this October, we became free and back playing shows again as a band.
Yet, there you were on Warped Tour after all that. How did that happen?
Ashley: Typically you do need to have a label or a record coming out. However, if you are a good band that makes good music, and are good people, then people will help you out. Kevin Lyman, just the fact that he believes in us makes me want to tear up. He’s so awesome.
So right now you are currently unsigned?
Ashley: We are currently unsigned but shopping. Hopefully by the end of the summer we’ll have a new home, a really good home.
It sounds like you aren’t shopping because something is already in the works.
Ashley: If it is one thing I’ve learned in this business, it is “it ain’t money until its money.” So until then, I lock it. [zipping her lip)]
So what is it that you are wanting a label for? Do you have an album you are working on or already recorded?
Ashley: We have recording production done for our second record. We still want to do some more writing but it is already moving forward. There isn’t a name for the record yet, but we will know once we picked the tracks and get the overall vibe of it. It may be called “Let’s Get Dead.” Possibly.
How did you guys come together? Were friends growing up?
Ashley: You can say that, but none of us went to the same school or anything. Orange County has a very tight knit music scene. Everyone knows everyone. I was in a band when I was seventeen while Dan (Arnold) was in Sad Lullabye, who are actually Warped Tour veterans. We played together when we were younger. The same goes for our drummer and bass player. We just know each other from a lot of different bands. It just so happened that all our bands were breaking up so we figured since we were hanging out anyway, we’d form our own band.
Tell me a little bit about your music video for “I Was Right.” What concept were you going for?
Ashley: Well, if you like cute girls and torture devices, you’ll like our video. It was directed by Shane Drake who did all the Panic At The Disco videos and all the Paramore music videos. The safety word is “poodle.” We went really dark out of the gate with that one.
Pardon my ignorance here, but what about Orange County has you playing anything “dark” so to speak? Isn’t it all beautiful and sunny out there on the beach?
Ashley: [laughs] Well we have to strive pretty hard to go dark. To be honest, I was born that way. My family is really weird. Instead of Disney movies my grandma would put on Nightmare on Elm Street movies for me to watch. Really, this is who I am. I have always stood out in Orange County. No one actually believes I’m from there.
Again, maybe this is my ignorance speaking again but what are you “supposed” to be in Orange County?
Ashley: You’re a cheerleader, go to a fashion school or learn how to surf maybe. I kid you not, what you see on The Hills or Laguna Beach is really what the majority of people out there are like. We do have a good music scene though, including a dark underbelly to Orange County.
What are your plans for the next album your recording? How are you looking to expand on what you’ve done on My Dear?
Ashely: With that record, I was younger obviously. More so, I was trying to make a record label happy. I was trying to be “marketable.” I was really being pushed to not do some things I wanted to do. I was definitely being pulled back from being as dark as I actually am. My goal with this record is not to be scared of doing what I really want to do in my heart. I know what I want to say, how I want to say and how I want to present it visually. Since we currently don’t have a record label, I can do what I want. I can bring out the fake blood, more torture devices and crazy dark lyrics. I think kids will really be able to relate to this record because it is more me than the first one was. It is more “us” as a band.
I know you said Disney Land’s The Haunted Mansion and Freddy Krueger movies influenced you, but what kind of music were you listening to growing up that contributed to this darkness?
Ashley: Michael Jackson of course. Michael Jackson is what made me want to be in band. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but I used to watch Moonwalker all the time when I was little. He would have people screaming and doing everything they could to get to him on stage. I saw that and I knew that’s what I wanted for myself.
Where does your darker taste in music come from?
As far as the dark stuff, I grew up with a Wiccan grandmother and my uncles were like ‘80s goths. I grew up hearing a lot of Blondie, Susie Soux, The Cure, Bauhaus and all the other popular ‘80s Goth stuff. I’m pretty certain that’s why I have such dark musical taste. Now I like bands like Rob Zombie, AFI, My Chemical Romance, Rammstein and stuff like that.
So in a perfect world, what happens during the rest of 2010 after Warped Tour is over?
Ashley: In a perfect world, Kevin Lyman asks to stay on Warped Tour forever because it is so much fun and we never want to go home. In the real world, we are definitely going home to start our record and finish talking to labels and are putting the final touches on a winter tour. We will be touring in the fall right after Warped nationwide.