Interview: Ash Costello (New Years Day) “I’m so happy with my voice these days.”

Ash Costello has become an icon within the alternative community. Leading from the front with her band New Year’s Day, trademark ultra long black and red hair flying like a proud flag. But dig deep within the lyrics and you discover a person that was once less certain, a person who has grown and overcome to become more assured over time. Here Ash chats to Gary Trueman about the long standing duality within her life and the band, the focus on that in new album ‘Half Black Heart’ and her growing vocal confidence

Duality has always been a central theme for New Year’s Day but it stands out much more on the new album ‘Half Black Heart’. Does that reflect a more personal awakening within you, and therefore the record has an openness about it?

“I didn’t really realise it at first because it wasn’t planned that way. But once I’d grown up, I’m what I would describe as a bit of a late bloomer, now I feel very self-aware and very in tune with myself. I have that ability to look at myself. I realise why I’ve had this hair for so long is because my keyword is duality. I just never realised it and never got to grab it and embrace it. But on the record I was like let’s take that and really run with it, for the first time.”

You have said in the past that you’re quite self-judgemental. Does other people’s negativity play into that as well? Is that something you’ve had to work through?

“Yes it affects me. I think anybody would be lying or they’d be a game show host if they said they weren’t affected. I think it’s normal to let other people’s opinions get to you sometimes because of being in the public eye, which kinda like everyone is these days, everyone has an Instagram everyone can look at. Being in the public eye and putting your personal life out there and putting my personal life into the lyrics so openly, being an open book, has opened me up to a lot of love and support and a family. New Year’s Day has the most familiar faced fans. But at the same time it opens you up to a lot of negativity and criticism, and hate. I’ve had to learn how to really toughen up and have a thick skin. But every now and again it gets to you.”

Do you think that a lack of proper policing of social media is responsible for a lot of that negativity as it emboldens people. Not just for you and other public figures but people generally who become targets?

“Yeah, it’s 100% social media’s fault and the lack of policing for it. The fact that people can just make fake accounts and just insult you and hide behind it. They’re like the little monsters that they have in their heads, it’s all the stuff we think we want to say to people but we don’t because we don’t want to get punched in the face. You can make a fake account and say it anyway without consequences.”

That hate is just a reflection of self and their own personality though isn’t it?

“Of course it is but somehow in 2024 the people doing it still don’t understand that. When you are bullying someone it’s a reflection, it’s a call for you to look in a mirror and ask why did this trigger me and what is it I’m lacking in myself that I need to outwardly project this. A lot of these people are so young. I’m so glad I was born in an era when we didn’t even have cell phones yet. I got to be a teen without having to worry about all that.”

Writing lyrics and being in the band is obviously a very cathartic thing for you to do. Is it also the same for the other band members and the group as a unit, does that catharsis rub off as well?

“Yes, I think it’ll always be more so for the lyricist because getting words on paper and getting your feeling out is always therapeutic for anybody. I’m a mind dumper, I have to get my thoughts out on paper even if I wasn’t writing lyrics. I think for the band there’s a sort of therapeutic feeling, but in all it’s mostly for the lyricist whoever that is.”

When you write do you put music to the lyrics or fit the words to the music? How did it work for the new album?

“Half Black Heart started out as a song title and I had the song subjects. Sometimes the boys have a catalogue of music that they write that they know I’ll be into. Then I can go through it and go I like this song, It’s giving the vibe of this message I’m trying to write. So I might start with a song title or maybe a hook and then the music comes in and then you still have the rest.”

It is very much a team effort with New Year’s Day isn’t it?

“Yes, very much. It wasn’t on Unbreakable, but for this record it was.”

You also have these new old band members that have come in. Would you like to say a little bit about that?

“I feel like when New Year’s Day started really becoming a band in the scene was around 2015. We had Brandon Wolfe and Jeremy Valentine who are incredible song writers and producers. They are what helped us find that sound. They wrote the song ‘Kill Or be Killed’ which kind of told the music industry – we’re here! We’re a force! That’s when we started to gain a lot of traction. They both left the band before the previous record and kind of left me on my own to write this record (Unbreakable). I had to write it on my own. I used song writers but it was my first time branching out with people not in the band. It was a huge learning experience for me, and a necessary learning experience. It was very hard. When they came back like a summer or two ago I was so relieved and I feel this is our best music ever. A lot of people assumed when someone leaves this band, I don’t know why, everybody assumes it must be my fault. I don’t know what that’s about. Nine out of ten times it’s not the case. We were very supportive of them leaving because touring and being a musician is a hard life. And they didn’t feel it was for them at the time, and then they went for some years and then wanted to come back, and we were instantly happy to have them return.”

It must be something you can get to hate when you’re doing it but miss it when you’re not doing it?

“They always do.”

Your vocals on this new record really stand out. You’ve always been a strong vocalist but your range, power and crucially depth as well are just so much stronger. Each note sounds like it has more confidence behind it. Is there anything you’ve done vocally or is it just a natural maturing of your voice?

“Thank you. I definitely agree with you. I’m so happy with my voice these days.  On the last record when I had to branch out recording with outside producers, top notch, best in the business producers working with all the top ten artists, I learned a lot vocally. I was pushed a lot vocally and I gained a lot of confidence because of that. Going into this record I felt I was on top of my game. I was so confident to try new things, to use different tones in my voice and find what really made me happy.”

That really comes out and the production is great too which brings your voice out. You sound like the vocals are healthy too. Sometimes a recorded vocal sounds like it might struggle to work in a live setting but yours does.

“We consciously did that. On the last record, Unbreakable, it was all about let’s see how high we can go. Let’s see how far we can push my range. I was like how am I going to do this live? It’s so fucking high! How am I supposed to do this every night? It’s going to be impossible. And – it was. And so when we went into this record, it was like I want to write songs in my range. I want to write songs that are comfortably in my range. It’s not about how high I can take things it’s about what feels good for me. So we wrote with that in mind knowing that I would have to perform these songs 30 nights in a row. It wasn’t about making it easy it was about finding the home my voice lived in. And we did.”

Touring wise are you going to be coming to the UK in 2024?

“Yes but we’re not announcing it yet. We were actually in the UK when Covid happened and had to cut our tour short and come home, and we haven’t been back since which is really weird because before Covid it felt like we were in the |UK like twice a year which was so fun for us.”

If you could sit on a bench somewhere peaceful and quiet and then a teenage Ash Costello comes and site next to you. What would she think of the 2024 version of herself?

“She’d be so stoked because teenage Ash Costello would lay in bed every night and imagine singing for thousands of people in an arena. I used to envision it every night before I’d go to bed. I would imagine how I would move on stage and what I would look like. I had big hair and big make-up and big eye lashes. I would obsess over this image, and I really have become that.”

So you get these private moments on stage where you’re actually thinking to yourself I imagined this and now I’m doing it?

“Oh! I think that all the time. I’m grateful every day that I get to step on stage especially if it’s a bigger show. I am so grateful.”

You have fans that go beyond simply buying merch and going to shows. They’re very supportive of you, almost in an emotional way aren’t they?

“I think with New Year’s Day the thing I see the most more than other bands is the desire to fit in with us. We see a lot of people doing their make-up like us or dressing like us, and a lot of girls with their hair like mine – which was never the goal. I didn’t do this hair hoping it would become a trend, it was just something I wanted to do. So I think in that way our fans are very special.”

We ought to talk about that iconic hair style you have. Again there’s kind of a duality symbolism thing there too. Is it something you’re going to stick with?

“I don’t see right now any possibility of changing it. I’m sure some day I will but as of right now – no.”

What about looking after it on tour. Do you have to do anything special with it?

“It’s so tedious, I joke all the time I’m going to cut it short and get rid of it. It’s such a pain in the butt. The upkeep is so time consuming and so expensive to have hair like this. The upkeep is tedious and rigorous.”

But worth it?

“Totally! The boys call it all my goos and potions. I travel with like 30 different hair products”

So if you had a girl fan ask you what you use on your hair what would be the one product you’d say use this.

“Whatever you do use perfect ten deep conditioner. That’s the one product if I don’t have it I’m screwed.”

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans just to wrap things up.

“I just want to tell them we love them and how happy we are that they’re a part of this and we can’t wait to see you on tour.”  

New Years Day – Facebook

Interview by Gary Trueman