Famous Firsts: Ash Costello on loving No Doubt and playing to rednecks
The musical firsts of New Years Day's frontwoman Ash Costello
As the vocalist of New Years Day, Ash Costello is the archetypal goth princess. Her grandmother, a prop maker for horror films, introduced her to the dark side of life, and she grew up surrounded by gruesome film props, Fangoria magazines and a punk soundtrack.
New Years Day formed in 2005 and nurtured their fanbase through MySpace. Three albums and four EPs later (plus a few line-up changes) they’re still going strong, and are currently working on material for their fourth record.
We caught up with Ash to ask her about some of her musical firsts...
What was the first single you ever bought?
"The first single was probably Santeria by Sublime, and it was probably a cassette tape which dates it a little bit. I think I was about 12 or 13. I grew up in a pretty alternative household around Alice Cooper, Bauhaus, The Cure, The Cramps, Marilyn Manson, Blondie and David Bowie – I was exposed to alternative music pretty early on, so I guess Santeria was me rebelling and going kind of mainstream. It was definitely mainstream for my household!"
What was the first album you ever bought?
"It was Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill. She was also my first real concert, my mom took me to see her at the Palladium. I like that she was angry and that she screams. That got me into into, I don’t know why, but it’s what drew me in. I thought her lyrics were really clever and I thought she was so cool. I gravitated towards the angrier, more punk rock singers – I was never a Jewel fan or anything like that. So she really caught my attention when she was younger."
What was the first concert you went to?
"Alanis was my first real gig I went to. My mom took me and my best girlfriend. We were late, but we made it in time to see the hits. It didn’t make me think I wanted to do that as a career; the whole memory of it, I think I was too young to really understand what was going on. But the first gig that made me want to be in a band was the next concert my mom took me to, which was No Doubt at the Anaheim Pond during the [1995 album] Tragic Kingdom era. It’s the one they shot and made a VHS tape of. I have the VHS tape, of course! That’s when I was like, I wanna be Gwen Stefani. I wanna be on stage. She must be a vampire, because the woman doesn’t age!"
What was the first gig you ever played?
"The first show I ever played was at a coffee house that doesn’t exist anymore in California called Al Cappuccino’s. Very clever. It was with my high school ska band that I sang in, and I didn’t move at all, I read all the lyrics from a sheet of paper. But it was my first taste of being a frontwoman, and I was addicted ever since. I’ve never stopped being in bands since that day. We did our own stuff as well as covers; we did stuff by Reel Big Fish and No Doubt of course, and our originals were awful. The lyrics were literally like ‘I don’t wanna go to school today! I wanna play video games in my room!’ Shit like that. But you have to start somewhere! I have a picture of the first performance somewhere, I gotta find that. I look at it and go, why did I cut my hair that way? I had a mushroom bowl cut. My poor mom, why did she let that happen?"
What was the first ever New Years Day tour like?
"It was in 2005, and man, we played some shit-holes. We played a place where one of the members literally fell through a hole in the stage and was bent in half like a sandwich. His legs were up by his head, he fell in butt-first and was folded in half and his feet were just sticking out of the stage. We played some bad places. I look back on it and think it’s so funny how little we knew but we made it home in one piece. It just felt so good to finally be out there. Now, over a decade later, I’ve seen the whole world and I’ve seen every major state and city. It’s pretty wild to think I’m still doing it, I’ve made it this far and then some. But [the first tour] was pretty bad, it wasn’t a good tour! There are some venues that you’re like, how do you even stay open? There was one called the Arena. It was a little tiny venue, but they’d built arena seating around the stage. We played so many dormitory and common room events on that tour in the middle of college campuses. It was the bottom of the barrel, where you start out. We played one venue where it was in such a redneck town that they had a meat raffle between bands. While the bands were changing over they had a table with different kinds of raw meat on it that you could win. There’s one place that’s still there in Detroit called Harpos, and the stage is like 50 feet off the ground so no one can see you. There are weird places in this world!"
New Years Day's latest album Malevolence is out now, via Another Century Records.