New Years Day: New Nightmare

Ash Costello is where any good upcoming young singer should be: sitting in a van, travelling to a show. “If you could shout a bit,” the New Years Day singer asks, “it’s pretty loud in here.” It’s undoubtedly going to start getting even noisier for her band, because after years of slogging around America’s toilet circuit honing their sound, and an unbelievable amount of bad luck, it looks as if New Years Day are finally on the verge of fulfilling the ambitions that they aspire to. And it’s been a hell of a mission to get there.

“When we first started the band, I didn’t know what we wanted to be,” Ash admits. “I didn’t even know who I was! I was still learning to be like, ‘This is who I am and if you don’t like it, then fuck you!’ you know? I felt like we were doing things just to please the label. You can’t do that straight away. We were just teenage kids.”

The band’s sound has undergone a significant evolution, too. Following on from the ‘hauntedhousecore’ fun and games of 2013 breakthrough Victim To Villain, their latest EP, Epidemic, continues to show that the change has been quite startling. /o:p

Long gone is the smiley, unthreatening pop punk-heavy sound played by a group of teens that just looked happy to be there; instead NYD are now a sonic and visual feast for the senses. Displaying the confidence to dress, move and play in their own individually theatrical style, the music has shifted, with the drums and guitars now pumped up as if on steroids to create a thick, groovy wall of contemporary metal for Ash to spit fire over. As changes go, this is the definition of a total 180 ̊ turn.

“We have now got such a strong belief in our band and who we are,” says Ash. “It’s always been there. People can say that we’re jumping on a bandwagon to make ourselves relevant, but I know that this band was always meant to be this way. It just took some time for it to come out fully.”/o:p

There’s a quote by the comedian Eddie Izzard who says that stand-up comedy is a 10-year apprenticeship. Maybe the same is true of being in a band? “God, I think that is so true!” Ash exclaims. “We’re all big fans of his anyway, and we’re coming up to about that sort of timeframe now. This is where you’ll start seeing the best of us.”

If the “best” is on its way then fans of the spectacular and bizarre should start licking their lips now. New Years Day are one of a growing number of bands that are committed to making rock music a spectacle again, and if their recent UK run with Escape The Fate is anything to go by, people are taking notice. “We’re influenced by lots of things outside of music,” explains Ash. “For example, in the band we all love Tim Burton; his influence is quite clear on us.”

If you need evidence of that, then head over to YouTube and look at the video for Angel Eyes, which features Chris Motionless of Motionless In White (another band that are helping to bring back the idea of the rock star that is larger than life). It’s beautifully shot and conceived, and features a bleakly macabre tone throughout.

“That video was so much fun,” states Ash. “In our head it was meant to be one part Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, one part James Bond and one part Rick Astley. And getting to do the song with Chris was just a pleasure. He was so easy to work with. We sounded him out through our manager, because he was at the very top of our wish list, and one week later he’s sitting there in the studio with us. It was really that easy.”/o:p

So is it fair to say that Motionless In White are a pretty good example of the kind of band that New Years Day might feel a certain affinity with? “Absolutely,” comes Ash’s response. “You know money isn’t that easy to come by these days, so if you are spending it to go see a show, then you really want to see a show, you know? I look back to the Rob Zombies and the Marilyn Mansons and the Iron Maidens and I love that they always try to give that to people. Obviously, we aren’t in the same league as those bands but, if you are creative enough with your thinking, you can give people a show. I said to you that I was always interested in theatre. And we want to give people a Broadway show in a tiny rock club. “Will that tiny rock club eventually become an arena? We certainly hope so,” she continues. “I want fire and smoke and dragons… OK, well, maybe not dragons. But, you know… That’s where all the fun is. If you’re a musician doing those shows, it’s like you’re in a theme park for an hour.” There are things that Ash says that in print may appear to be wildly, hugely over the top. This band, currently touring in their van, are going to put on a musical theatre show? That’s aiming far too high, surely? But the way that she talks is so matter of fact, so full of determination, so lacking in pretence or arrogance that even when talking about her days before the band you accept the words at face value. This is a young lady who’s grown up dreaming of being a star. She talks and acts onstage with the confidence of a person who has felt a single-minded desire to connect artistically with people for as long as she can remember. “I always wanted to be a performer,” she begins. “I didn’t know whether that would be in music or in theatre or whatever. I just knew that standing up in front of people felt good. And I think that, even before I was in the band, I was a rock star. I used to walk around my school acting as if I was this huge rock star, which sounds stupid, but it’s true.” You might have balked a bit at that, but, really, what is so wrong with it? To listen to naysayers, it almost seems that if you’re in a band, you’re not allowed to harbour any ambitions of following in the footsteps of the true greats these days. So to be bold as brass and court it? You’re setting yourself up for the cynics were you to fail. That takes guts. “This band has opened up a lot of doors for me and I’m very grateful for that.” Ash admits. “For example, I’ve got a clothing line coming out in the UK on the label Iron Fist and I have a big say in the videos we make. But it all goes back into the band. Whatever we do is to progress our ambitions. People who say, ‘We just want to be an underground niche band’ are lying. Playing small clubs is fine but that’s not my goal. I feel like, if we make the music that we want to make and carry on the path that we are heading down, then we can do all of the things that we’ve just spoken about. The rock scene is changing and making room for bands like ours, and if you can’t compete, you’re going to get left behind.” New Year’s Day are on well on their way to bringing a piece of Broadway glamour to the world of metal. Any rewards they receive will be well deserved… and hopefully they might even get a quieter bus.

So WTF Is Hauntedmansioncore?!

When we heard that New Years Day have been tagging their unique sound with a rather unusual genre, we had to investigate…

So, Ash: what exactly is Hauntedmansioncore?

“Spooky, creepy, sad, dark and ominous! It came about when I heard a band call themselves ‘circuscore’. I thought, ‘If they can call themselves circuscore then we can be hauntedmansioncore!’”

Isn’t that a tad specific? It’s not exactly a very big genre, is it?

“Well, we don’t really like to categorise ourselves anymore, but ‘dark rock’ is also fine, because it has to be hard and heavy but have those elements of something unnerving and scary, too.”/o:p

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.