If you’ve had the privilege of catching New Year’s Day live you know that they are truly a special band and a tough act to follow. The group’s last two South Florida appearances doubled in audience size as the band pumped out memorable sets that were short, but sweet. Led by vocalist and driving force Ashley Costello, this band of horror loving rockers is quickly making a name for themselves with intense live shows and songs that make you hit the repeat button repeatedly.
The last time we sat down with vocalist Ashley Costello she was hopping around the venue on crutches yet still commanding the stage with a ferocity that left the other bands on the bill to dust. At that time the band had just started penning tunes to what would be their follow-up disc, the newly released Victim to Villain. Now as the band is gearing up for their next tour we finally got a chance to track Ashley down again for another sit down to talk new music, Warped Tour, social media and all things NYD!
With today being Halloween we decided this would be the perfect time to post our New Year’s Day feature, along with two killer photo galleries from our own Scott Nathanson.
Enjoy and Happy Halloween!
Story by Matthew Pashalian
New Year’s Day just finished their first full-on Warped Tour, how was the overall reception to the band?
It was amazing, the whole tour and the fans were great. On top of it they put us on the main stage, so we got to play in the bigger amphitheaters of the venues. We had a lot of support and the organizers really believed in us a lot. It was a pretty surreal feeling.
How are the newer songs going over live compared to the ones that people already know from The Mechanical Heart?
The crowd reaction was great and everyone has been coming to the shows really into both sides of it which is awesome. I never thought once thought that people were like, ‘oh man, people really love the old one’s a lot more than they do the new ones, or people really seem excited for the new ones and not too into the old ones.’
The only real down side to playing Warped Tour is that you have tons of bands on the bill but a much shorter amount of time to play. With that, how tough is it to put together a set list and narrow down what makes the cut for the fans?
Totally difficult! We all have our own opinion of what songs we should play and which ones to hold back. I wanted to play one of our much older songs like “My Dear,” but there just wasn’t enough time so it didn’t quite make it. Then there are songs that you just have to play.
How did you come to the concept of what would be the stage show which is, by far the most interesting out of everyone on the tour?
I get asked that question a lot actually. Why we do what we do and how we think of what ends up on the stage is that it just happens really. It’s like, how cool would it be to have Mickey Mouse covered in blood with a chainsaw running around, or the living dead girl dancing. I don’t sit down and think, ‘what kind of weird stuff can we do on stage?’ These ideas just come to me and I get obsessed with them and just have to make them happen! I wish I knew but it really does just kind of happen.
How difficult was writing the songs that would become Victim to Villain compared to The Mechanical Heart?
It was freeing, you know we just did everything on our own terms. We were all pretty nervous when it came time to setting up the dates coming up to going into the studio. We had never been in real professional studio before or worked with a producer. We worried about, you know what if we sucked, what if we hate everything, what if we argue about what we should sound like. There were a lot of nervous, insecure feelings, but once we got in with our producer Erik Ron, who is a genius, everything really got set right. There were some songs that were pretty difficult to write because of how emotional they were. Overall it wasn’t very hard, they were just very heavy days and it’s crazy to think about it now.
Was there anything that you specifically wanted to do as writers, and as a band on this album?
We wanted to be more serious. I know that we have a tendency to goof off, be silly and have a good time with our songs, but this time we were more musically driven. I know myself, there were a lot of things that I had to say and I got much more reflective.
Last time we talked was on a Ft. Lauderdale, FL tour stop a little over a year ago. We discussed lyrics have tweeted a bit back and forth a bit as well about sacrificing your heart metaphorically and spiritually in pursuing the dream. In that respect, what song(s) have meant the most to you and were the toughest for you on Victim to Villain?
Yes, you know, each song has its theme and means something to me for a different reason. It’s hard to pick one. “Last Great Love Story” means a lot to me because it was written like four or five years ago. The first time we really played with it was during Mechanical Heart and to see the different progressions that it has gone through over the years is amazing. You’re right though, going after ‘the dream’ is really hard because you do have to sacrifice so much of yourself and see life go by. You miss out on things like seeing your family members, your friends, personal relationships; just a lot to sacrifice to be in a band.
A little over a year ago when you were on tour with, what we’ll refer to as ‘band that will not be named,’ you just started playing “Death of the Party” live. How do you feel about how that song has progressed from then to what we now have on record to be digitally played to death until the end of time?
It’s so different but a huge improvement! Back then when we first started playing “Death of the Party” live I wasn’t thinking, ‘this song is okay, we’ll work on it more later;’ we never think that. I know we may have jumped the gun in playing that song live so early, but we just really loved that song. When we got into the studio and buckled down and made some changes to it we just ended up loving it ten times more. It’s crazy to look back on it now and see all of the changes that we’ve made to it over a year; just like “Murder” is another one that underwent a lot of change as well. There really is this life span of a song; you know it’s like a person and it just grows over time.
Were there any songs that the band was really confident about that, in the end just didn’t make the final cut?
I don’t think so. I mean, we wrote a lot of songs for this album; like 35 songs, and there were some that we were really excited about and thought would make the album but I guess we just wrote some songs that were even better and kind of outweighed those others.
Chris Motionless from Motionless in White does guest vocals on the album’s first single, “Angel Eyes.” If you could have anyone do guest vocals or whatever on the next album, who would be your first choice?
One of my heroes like Davey Havoc, or Marilyn Manson would be really cool.
Victim to Villain is a much heavier album than Mechanical Heart was, especially with the incorporation of 7-string guitars. What brought that idea into the fold?
That was totally our producer Erik Ron. I have all of these memories of being in the studio that you’re just rushing back to me now, but I remember the guys seeing all the guitars and these 7-strings and they were like, man, we definitely want to write a song using a 7-string. They just really wanted that deep, heavy sound, and they definitely nailed it I think.
Did you guys do any other experimenting in the studio that you wouldn’t have had you not had the opportunity of being there?
For me personally, Erik really pushed me vocally so much. The chorus in “Victim;” I have never sung that high in my life! Every time I would record it he would say, ok, you need to sing that higher, and he kept pushing me more and more. I was like, no way, you are crazy, there is no way – you’re insane. But he kept pushing me, and I would do it and be like holy crap, I had no idea I could even go that high!
What does the title of the album, ‘Victim to Villain’ mean to you and the band?
In reference to ‘bands that will not be named,’ I had a really hard year. It’s about being sick of being pushed around and standing up for myself, and a big part of that had to do with being on that tour and how they treated us. One of the songs is about just that – not being pushed around anymore. As for the albums theme, I just kept the idea of ‘Victim to Villain’ in my head. I kept seeing a girl who was being pushed around and having to put up with things that I shouldn’t have just because I was a girl.
Do you feel like that is somewhat of a problem in this industry that just doesn’t get talked about? Being made the victim because other bands feel like they have the right or power to treat women the way that they do?
Totally! I’ve heard way too many horror stories about bands that go out on tour and finally get to the place where they’re headlining and just completely let the power go to their heads. They aren’t necessarily even big bands either! There was this one band that we toured with called Me Talk Pretty who, aren’t a band anymore, but they were drawing like 30-40 people as headliners with the most ridiculous rules. Stuff like bands not being allowed to walk around until the show is over, all opening bands having to park far away from the venue because you’re the opening band. Just really dumb, completely unnecessary rules. Sometimes bands let power go to their heads for sure. There’s more, but there were some pretty stupid rules. We’re like, really, we’re drawing more fans then you.
Speaking of drawing fans, you guys definitely take full advantage of social media to reach out to yours. How do you feel about Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as new medium of promotion?
I do feel like it kind of over saturates the scene way too much. I remember when the only way you could find out about underground music was by a friend making you a mix tape or getting a flyer handed to you at a show. It felt really cool, special and secretive, but now there’s just so much shit music out there by bands who really don’t care and just go to Best Buy and pick up Pro Tools and think it’s so easy to do this and it makes it difficult for real music fans to actually sift through everything to find something that’s really worth listening to. As an artist though, from my perspective it’s very cool to get to talk to fans, but it does make it hard to have a private life and it makes some fans feel entitled to know everything about you. Before you only heard a little bit about an artist through magazines, or seeing the band live. It’s become a necessary evil now though.
I can’t say that I’ve seen a band take to social media and spin it in such a positive way as you guys have.
Thank you, we try to. It’s really hard to juggle it all, but we do try our hardest to be there for our fans.
Before you went in the studio to record Victim to Villain I saw, probably the most different thing I’ve seen a band do in, selling custom jewelry and phone cases to fans via Instagram, how did that happen?
I just make this stuff for myself and people would ask me all the time where I got them, so I just decided to kind of share the wealth since I usually have a lot of the stuff anyways.
You’re also going to be doing some painting over the next few weeks as well; I know Wes Borland from Black Light Burns and Limp Bizkit has been emptying out his studio on eBay the past few weeks too.
Yes! I love to paint but I just don’t get enough time to do it. I’m going to try and do 15 paintings in a week. They usually go pretty fast; people like my work.
Outside of Warped Tour I noticed Nikki Misery was giving guitar lessons, as well as you talking to people who wanted incite and advice on breaking into the music world.
A company called Band Happy approached us about these teaching lessons. I never heard of them before, but they get musicians to reach out to teach kids. It’s really cool, I mean when I was a kid I didn’t have anyone to help guide me and ask advice, so I made a lot of mistakes. There are definitely girls out there who want to start bands, so I figured if I’m going to give advice I may as well do it professionally.
Besides the upcoming tour with Otep, what are the bands plans for the rest of the year?
We have another tour coming up very soon that’s actually really cool, but as usual we aren’t allowed to say, but we’re really excited to end our year with this tour. I know our fans will be really excited too.
In regards to these upcoming tours, will they at least have a longer set time?
I’m pretty sure we will, but you’ll definitely know very soon!
Will you be expanding the stage show from Warped Tour? Every time I see you I keep getting reminded of ’96 era Marilyn Manson tour.
Oh my god I fucking love you! It is so fucking awesome that you said that! I study him! I watch every documentary and every live show and just love that he puts on a show! I hate when you go to see a band and have these four or five people on stage that just stand there, it’s so boring. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but I always want to do something bigger and better. It’s like, do we retire Murder Mickey, or do we bring him along again? I have some pretty bitchin’ ideas turning in my head, you have no idea!
How do you feel about the ever-changing state of the music industry? I know that the past two years have become very down and depressing.
I know right? I mean it’s like you have no choice but to roll with the punches. You just have to work really hard and figure out what works for your band. I wish I could say I know what’s going to happen but I really don’t think that anyone has a clue.
Band you would recommend people should check out.
I’ve been listening to Deer Hunter a lot.
It’s been a little over a year since we last talked, so now having that time and experience behind you, what advice do you have for local, unsigned bands just trying to be seen and heard who want to take it to that next level?
Never ever ever ever ever take no for an answer! Never let someone push you around. Never compromise what you want for someone else’s musical ideals. Never stop. Never. That’s the best advice I can give.