Ash Costello has the gifts of theatrics, vocal chops and fashion. As the frontwoman of New Years Day, she is one of the most prominent rock singers of the music industry. As the lead vocalist of the band, she is truly the driving force behind their national and international success.
How New Year’s Day began:
In the beginning, Costello teamed up with lead guitarist Adam Lohrbach and guitarist/keyboardist Keith Drover. Together they worked on writing a few songs. Dubbing themselves as New Years Day, the group started promoting themselves on the then popular social media networking site, MySpace. They soon gained relevance and prominence. The band was also a feature on the MySpace Records, Volume 1 compilation CD. Additionally, they are also on the video game soundtrack for Saints Row.
Subsequently, the band inked a deal with TVT Records and released their first self-titled EP entitled Razor in 2006. From there, the band released several studio albums including My Dear in 2007 and Victim to Villain in 2013. The latter featured their breakout single “Angel Eyes.” Apart from releasing albums, the band also landed several prestigious tours. First, in 2010 on the Vans Warped Tour, they were a prominent member . In 2013, New Years Day performed at Warped Tour with Andrew Velasquez and the rest of Crown the Empire. Then, in 2015 Costello and her band took the biggest leap in their career. They became the headliner on the summer’s Vans Warped Tour.
2015 to Today:
Adding to their achievements, Malevolence the third full-length studio album, released in 2015, became a major hit. It debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard rock chart and landed at No. 45 on the Billboard 200. In 2018, New Years Day released the Diary of a Creep EP. They also spent a great deal of time out on the road touring with In This Moment and Halestorm. Then in 2019, they released Unbreakable, which featured hits like “Come for Me,” “Shut Up” and “Skeletons.” Loudwire, an online magazine, named the album one of the 50 best rock albums of 2019.
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Ash Costello from New Years Day. We talked about her musical influences, her songwriting and recording process, and her on and off-stage persona. Additionally, we discussed her love for Horror movies, her night with Marilyn Manson, and her short and long-term future plans.
The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician? Was there a first instrument that you learned how to play?
Ash Costelllo: I actually knew I wanted to be a singer at a really, really young age. Probably like four or five. I started doing musical theater when I was really young, like really, really young. But I didn’t know what it meant to be in a band until high school when I kind of joined a band by accident. My high school ska band needed a singer and saw me singing in a high school play and asked if I wanted to sing in a ska band and that’s how I started doing that and just never quit. I started writing my first song when I was probably around ten or eleven years old, but I never really played any instruments. I was always a lyricist and songwriter, though.
TCS: That’s great. The vocal is definitely one of the key instruments in the band. So, what famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences? And describe for us how they impacted and/or shaped your musical style?
AC: Well, you know, I’ve been doing music, writing music and a fan of music from a very young age, so like most people as we mature and grow our tastes change, but early on I was highly influenced by Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. That was my first major introduction to what being a female rocker would be like.
LHM: How would you describe New Years Day’s overall sound and musical genre? And, can you introduce us to the band line-up?
AC: Employing an opulent mix of spirited pop-punk and flamboyant, goth-tinged stadium rock, New Years Day invokes the dark pageantry of artists like Evanescence, Garbage, Alkaline Trio and Motionless in White.
The band lineup consists of:
- Ash Costello – Lead Vocals
- Nikki Misery – Lead Guitar
- Jeremy Valentyne – Rhythm Guitar
- Brandon Wolfe – Bassist
- Tommy Rockoff – Drums
LHM: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Ashley Costello or your musical career with New Years Day, please describe for us how you started out from Anaheim, California and eventually ended up being this band’s lead singer?
AC: Well, I was in a couple bands before New Year’s Day began. You know, when one band or one sound kind of ran its course we’d start another band. So, I was in a previous band called Face the Fact, which was like a whole 80s new wave and our representative from Chrysalis Music Group who have, like, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Smashing Pumpkins and a lot of my favorite bands at the time happened to be at one of my shows and asked to take a meeting with me almost immediately and I got signed pretty quickly as a solo artist.
After that, I wrote a couple songs with songwriters, some of them being Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy and Justin Pierre from Motion City Soundtrack and Adam Lazzara from Taking Back Sunday and it was kind of this experiment of what if we did a girl solo artist and her songs are written by more prominent rock artists at the time.
And so, I played by the rules, I did what they wanted for, you know, a couple tries and then I wrote my own music and kind of planted it on the desk and said what if it was a band. And I turned in our first song called “Ready Aim Misfire” and after they listened to it, they said, “You know what, do whatever you want. Go get band members, make it a rock band and pick a name.” And that’s how New Year’s Day got started.
New Year’s Day: “Skeletons”
TCS: How would you describe your on-stage personality and how is it both similar and different from your off-stage persona?
AC: Well, I think if you’re a genuine artist then you’re good at pulling elements of who you are and putting it out on stage even if it is delivered in very subtle ways. You know, it doesn’t have to be very obvious. I’m a big horror movie fan, a big Halloween fan, a big haunted house fan and a big fan of goth and alternative subcultures and it just weaves naturally into the art. How I dress on stage and how the whole band dresses on stage works with New Year’s Day because it isn’t contrived.
In fact, it’s very genuine and very natural. The boys in the band get asked a lot of questions concerning makeup, including, “so, was it tough when Ashley, like, made you guys wear makeup?” And that’s all those guys, like that’s all them. They do their own makeup, that’s what they want to do. I’ve actually tried to stop them from wearing makeup, but that’s what they want to do, and I think it’s why New Year’s Day really stands out from a lot of other bands of our genre because it’s very, very natural and very genuine.
Ash Costello make up tutorial
TCS: How would you describe your overall songwriting style?
AC: Um, gosh, I have a love-hate relationship with songwriting. I truly love writing music and writing lyrics, I really do, but I also, like most artists my own worst critic and I’m very self-deprecating and I’m very hard on myself. So, the final product you hear took a lot of time and effort in singing and a lot of good moments and a lot of bad moments to get to that point where it’s even listenable and I feel good about even releasing it out to the world for everyone else to hear.
So, my style of songwriting is just a lot of trial and error and a lot of time. When I’m songwriting mode I’m songwriting seven to eight hours a day seven days a week and so last record I spent about a year on and off doing that and that’s all I did. So, I think the hitting my head against the wall a lot is my major songwriting style, if that makes sense.
TCS: Personally, one of my favorite tracks off your Unbreakable album is “Come For Me” which you co-wrote. Can you share with us some of the background behind your hit and the video?
AC: Okay! I’m actually really proud of the song “Come For Me.” From all of the New Years Day songs that track means the most to me. I had the most say in it because, I don’t want to say it wasn’t a joke, we were just playing around not in a joking way, we just weren’t really thinking about trying to make it anything specific. We were just having fun. And my major inspiration for that song was the song “Hella Good” by No Doubt which is one repeated riff throughout the entire song.
So, I thought why doesn’t New Year’s Day have a song where it’s one riff that just repeats the whole time, but maybe the dynamic shifts from verse to chorus to intro to re-intro. So, we made our own version of that which is the initial riff you hear, and I just wanted a fun, heavy dance song like Hella Good. But that’s how “Come For Me” was born.
And then the music video, I love making music videos because I get to play director and producer, and I’m a big movie fan. I’m a big cinephile! So, I wanted to be Quentin Tarantino for a day. So, the music video is a nod to From Dusk Till Dawn, Pulp Fiction, Planet Terror, etc. Even though I know that Quentin Tarantino only directed some of those and produced others, but anything Quentin Tarantino is related in I wanted a strong influence from that. And the character that I play in the music video was heavily based off of Santanico Pandemonium portrayed by Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn.
New Year’s Day: “Come For Me”
TCS: Not being a performer myself, I can’t imagine what it felt like to walk out on the stage for the very first time. Could you tell us about that experience and is it much easier for you today?
AC: There’s really not a big difference actually. I still get really nervous and I still kind of don’t know what I’m doing. Every time I get on stage I just kind of hope for the best but I still get nervous. So, there’s really not a big difference except I have learned a lot. I feel like I learned how to play with the audience and connect with the audience more as I go along, but I’m still pretty much the same.
TCS: Exactly, we learn from each of those experiences and take it to the next one. Over the years, I’ve interviewed a lot of singers. They’ve expressed how they really like being on stage and in the spotlight while performing as it brings out their inner personality which may not have otherwise in other social settings. I don’t know if that happens for you too?
AC: It’s really different every time. Sometimes I love being on stage, but just like someone who loves what they do they’re going to have their bad days, too. There’s some days where I walk off stage and I’m like, “well, that fuckin’ sucked.” And then there’s other moments when I walk off stage and say, “well, that was the best moment of my life.” So, you know, it’s like everything else. You just try and do your best.
TCS: Tell us about the background of your hit single “Angel Eyes” from the 2013 release Victim To Villain. As well as your experience in working with Chris Motionless of Motionless In White on both the track and music video?
AC: The song “Angel Eyes” is about the classic internal battle between Good vs. Evil – with the devil on your shoulder while having that angel in your ear when you first meet someone new that you know is trouble, yet you just cannot help yourself.
I met Chris Motionless from Motionless In White during the 2010 Warped Tour, when we played on the same stage. We were the only two goth looking bands and quickly became friends. For the track “Angel Eyes,” we wanted to have a male vocalist perform with us and having Chris join us was a no brainer. We asked him, and he agreed.
When Chris came in to record vocals for the song, it really felt like the last puzzle piece had fallen perfectly into place. Upon laying down his first vocal track, I knew we had something brilliant on our hands. He was a dream to work with and in my opinion, sounds incredible on the song! About a year following the recording, I contacted Chris with a music video concept and once again he agreed to join us and together, we made something epic. “Angel Eyes” remains our most popular music video as well as most requested and streamed song too.
New Year’s Day: “Angel Eyes”
TCS: From a song writing, studio recording and accompanying music video perspective, can you share with us some of the details surrounding the single entitled “Shut Up”? Also from Unbreakable?
AC: At the time when I wrote “Shut Up,” I was going through some pretty heavy personal stuff. The song was co-written by Chrissy Costanza, frontwoman from Against The Current, and Scott Stevens who has produced such bands as Shinedown, Halestorm and American Authors. This marked the first ever song that Costanza has written away from her own band. From a recording perspective, “Shut Up” came together pretty easily and was completed within a day. The original version was very poppy and was heavily influenced by an artist called Kehlani.
When we recorded the song “Shut Up,” I knew right away what I wanted to do if we were ever to make a music video for the song. In fact, the idea came to me immediately. So, when “Shut Up” was chosen, I was thrilled because it meant that I’d finally get an opportunity to make my vision come to life, which was to recreate one of my favorite horror movies of all-time, American Psycho. Yes, it’s a homage to the 2000 Christian Bale-starring film, and actually features the original axe from the movie. The song’s bloody music video was directed by Galileo Mondol (e.g., Raging Nation Films) and stars Sirius XM’s Jose Mangin.
New Year’s Day: “Shut Up”
AC: During my musical career, I’ve had so many strange experiences. Someday, I swear that I’m going to write a book. The first encounter that comes to mind is when we were touring with Marilyn Manson. While Manson sang “The Dope Show,” a classic song from his 1998 album Mechanical Animals, he held my hand and together we walked around the entire stage. Even stranger was that I was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Marilyn Manson Is My Daddy!” He changed the lyrics to “I’m Not Your Daddy” as we walked the platform.
With Manson, you never really know what you are going to get. He might be in a very playful mood, like that night, or he could be in a standoffish mood so you kind of get a little nervous being around him. But, for me that was a special night. I felt like I had finally broken through and kind of bonded with him. Then unfortunately Paris, France was attacked, and the rest of our concert tour was cancelled.
Ash Costello talks about her heroes
TCS: If you weren’t in the music industry what would you see yourself doing instead?
AC: If I weren’t involved in the music industry, I could easily see myself doing something along the lines of set decoration or special effects for horror movies. Perhaps decorating haunted homes or anything with a Halloween-based theme.
TCS: Amid this pandemic, what does the short and long-term future look like for Ashley Costello and New Years Day?
AC: Once everything has been declared safe again, New Years Day will once again return to the song writing process and daily grind. Our short and long-term goals include recording new music, creating videos as well touring and playing for our loyal fans. Although we don’t have a planned release date for our new record, I am scheduled to start writing new music next month.
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