ASHFIELDS (from l-r): Tom Cotterill (guitar), Josh Boam (drums), Louis “Dev” Devonshire (vocals), Carl Kynaston (guitar/synth), Jay Sanderson (bass)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
PHOTO by JAY WHITEHEAD
Shortly after forming in 2015, things were not looking great for Nottingham indie-pop outfit Ashfields.
They had just played a gig at a local pub to an audience of zero, and had been described as an “awful Coldplay tribute band” by a reviewer who had seen them perform at that year’s Dot To Dot festival.
However, three years on, the quintet have shown that perseverance can be of long-term benefit, as they are currently riding on the crest of a wave, having signed to a record label, released some well-received output, supported a range of highly-regarded musical collectives, and amassed a fan base that just keeps on growing.
Having recently brought out a new single, ‘We Don’t Talk’, as well as playing a brilliant headline set in their home city, one of the band’s guitarists, Carl Kynaston, spoke to me about a journey that is been at times challenging, but has now turned out to be highly successful, with much of the music press tipping them for big things.
How did the band get together?
We were all mates from the same town, and me and Tom are cousins and grew up together playing guitar.
We had been in a few bands before, but we started Ashfields together and rang up Dev to come and sing, obviously, he replied “Get proper jobs!” and hung up, however, after a few pints, we were able to persuade him to join, and then shortly after, Josh joined on drums.
I wish that was a joke, but that’s literally how it happened.
For those who have yet to listen to your music, how would you describe it to them?
Number 1. Why haven’t you listened to us yet, is your Spotify broken, because I can’t see any other reason?
Number 2. The best music in the world.
What are the band’s main musical influences?
We listen to literally everything, from Nothing But Thieves, right through to Dr. Dre, but I think the main influence to our writing style on guitar are the Kings Of Leon, as back when me and Tom were both learning to play guitar, we were obsessed with them, as we’d go through song after song just learning all of the different riffs, and I think that’s something that has stuck with us ever since.
Josh is influenced more by the sort of heavier tunes that he listened to growing up, and I think that is why he is such a heavy hitter and gives us those huge crashing choruses.
Now Dev, well, he likes to listen to Dolly Parton and Shania Twain on his daily commutes, and I think this really really comes across with his vocals, because man, he feels like a woman!
What would you say was your songwriting approach?
It varies really. Half of the time, I’ll sit at home writing a song on piano with chords, riffs, vocals and melody, before taking the finished product to the lads and telling them to just do their thing.
The other half of the time, one of us will have a cool riff or drum beat, we will then just jam it out together, and Dev will then stroll in and be like, “Yes lads, I’ve got a sick vocal melody for that“, and nine times out of 10, he’s right.
What inspires the band lyrically?
I think for me over the last two or three years, I’ve written mainly about my struggles with anxiety and how gradually it’s sort of taken over my life, sometimes, there can be a song about wanting to just give up, other times, it can be about the positives and learning to cope, it depends on the day.
Dev writes a lot about love and feelings, as he has a massive heart, which is one of his many amazing attributes, so if you hear a song of ours about break-ups and misery, then it’s probably been written by me, if you hear a song about falling in love, then it’s probably been written by Dev.
You’ve performed several sold-out gigs in Nottingham, as well as supporting such outfits as Judas, INHEAVEN, and The Sherlocks. How is it, for the band, playing live?
I think having the opportunity to support so many amazing bands made us realise just how awful we were, we thought we were top class, then we’d see these bands get on stage after, and we would just go, “WOW!“, and I think that really pushed us towards the solid unit that we are today.
Now, we’re in the situation where we’ve become that headliner where bands support us and it makes their piss boil for how good we are now live.
And the start of last year, the band opened for Biffy Clyro and Brand New at Birmingham Arena. That must have been quite an experience.
We walked into an empty arena, and Biffy Clyro were sound-checking. Simon Neil did a wave and we were like, “Nah, surely he’s not waving at us. Hang on, he is!”
That’s really all you need to know about that day, because that in itself is up there on the top 10 things to happen in my life, or at least that year.
On top of all this, you have a vastly growing fan base, have had over 150,000 listens on Spotify and 25,000 views on YouTube, as well as being tipped for a bright future by much of the music press. Did any of you expect to achieve what you have within the first three years?
It’s funny you should say that, as we found a video the other day from our very first practice, which was in a garage.
At the time, we remember posting this little jam video recorded on a potato, and thinking, “Yeah, this is sick! Let’s get it on Facebook!” It only got about three likes, and they were from our mums!
Now, we are signed to a record label, working with some of the industry’s best producers, playing major festivals, and about to support The Libertines in front of around 30,000 people.
That process between garage to main stage festivals has literally been a blur of hard work and passion. Three years ago, when we played at Dot To Dot, a reviewer called us “an awful Coldplay tribute band“, yet after playing this year, we were described as “the highlight of the whole festival“, so I think to answer this, we didn’t expect it, but we wanted it enough that we made it happen.
The band have a packed summer of live shows ahead, with sets at Splendour and YNot still to come. I can imagine you are all looking forward to them.
It’s an absolute dream. At Splendour, we’re playing on the Confetti stage before Toploader, the very next day, we play the main stage at Jimmy’s Fest with the Happy Mondays, the weekend after, we play Wellowfest, the weekend after that, we play Kendal Calling, then it will be straight to YNot the next day to play the Quarry Stage with Peace, and then we have a little break before we get to support The Libertines.
Just saying this out loud is madness, as literally three years ago, we begged our local pub to let us do a gig which lasted half-an-hour and that nobody turned up to watch, and now, here we are playing the shows that I’ve just mentioned.
And finally, what do you hope to achieve in the next three years?
Firstly, I hope our van passes its MOT, or we are taking the “Shoelace Express” to these festivals.
Secondly, I want to be able to one day buy my parents a bungalow and make sure they live comfortably.
Thirdly, and in all seriousness, it doesn’t matter what we achieve as long as we are all still together having the best time of our lives, remembering that friendship started this band, and just enjoying this journey together.
Also, we want to headline Glasto.
‘WE DON’T TALK’, THE LATEST SINGLE FROM ASHFIELDS, IS NOW AVAILABLE TO STREAM, DOWNLOAD OR PURCHASE FROM SPOTIFY, GOOGLE PLAY, DEEZER, BANDCAMP, SOUNDCLOUD, AND THE BAND’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE www.ashfieldsband.com
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