Interview with Jess Stanley and Kyle Martyn Stanley of Ashen Reach
By Sheri Bicheno
Hi Everyone, Sheri here
I’d like to send huge thanks to Rachael Harrison and Enso Music Management for approaching me for this lovely chat I had recently with Kyle and Jess from Merseyside based Hard Rock band, Ashen Reach. Reforming/Renaming the band in 2018, Ashen Reach have a LOT to offer their audience. I was blown away by how humble and down to earth they are and that they have smashed their way from the first stepping-stone of the music industry, to now crossing its fast-flowing river, in such a short space of time! Be sure to check out this phenomenal band!
Sheri: What I wanted to do first is just brush up on the history of Ashen Reach…I know Ashen Reach reformed from Equinox, is that right?
Jess: Yeah that’s correct! We’re going way back sometime…I originally joined them when I was like…16 and I’m currently the only standing member from the very original line up haha!
Kyle: Oh wow!
Jess: Oh yeah, I got rid of them lot, no I’m joking haha!
Kyle: Hahaha absolute Axel Rose treatment right there!
Sheri: Hahahaha Lordy!
Jess: Hahaha. It was only I would say from about last year, hang on what year are we in now?
Jess: We’ve only been this line up as Ashen Reach with obviously Kyle and Joe for about just over a year now. I think we had our little one-year anniversary at like the 1st August.
Kyle: That’s the 8th or 9th, something like that…
Jess: Something like that yeah, where we just finally got them secured and announced Kyle to the world. Before that, oh going back, we were Ashen Reach still before that for about a year in total as well and then we obviously did the gigs, the two shows with Bullet For My Valentine in April last year. That year was probably the first year we started taking things properly seriously and then obviously the big change up happened…but, was it 2018 or something? It all seems to happen around Christmastime where like, names change, or members change haha. So…hopefully it doesn’t happen again this year because I think we’re quite comfortable with it now haha!
Kyle: Best line-up ever!
Jess: It is, it really really is. But, for the current line up as I say, last year we just finished the Bullet for My Valentine shows and we did one or two gigs and then we parted ways with our singer and Rhythm guitarist…then, after that, Me, Paddy and Mike (drummer, lead guitarist and bassist) were like “What do we do? We just played two of the biggest shows of our life ever!” And it was so good and exciting feeling like that cuz it was like 5000 people one night and 8000 the other to play to…it was just unreal!
Jess: And it was just us two as well, it wasn’t like it was a festival of 20 bands, it was really something special. So, it was kinda a moment where it was like “Oh no! We definitely have to carry on.” So, we just put some Ads on Facebook and we got Joe, who’s our guitarist with the dreadlocks, first. We did some auditions and then from there on he helped pick Kyle…and I think it was actually Katherine Murph, who’s a promoter on the local scene, she messaged me out of the blue and was like “You know what, I know a singer who’s looking for a Hard Rock band and I know a Hard Rock band who’s looking for a singer! Why don’t I put two of you together?” And then from then it has kinda just been perfect! He came in and did an audition and we were like “yeah!”
Sheri: That’s awesome!!
Kyle: Yeah, I think I had to send the little video in, didn’t I? But I had a chest infection at the time haha…
Sheri: Oh Noooo!!
Kyle: And I didn’t want to be like “oh can I wait?” Cuz I didn’t want it, to you know, sound like an excuse haha so I was like “I’m gonna have to power through this!” haha.
Jess: Oh yeah! He sang one of our old tracks and we were like “yeah let’s get this guy in, see what he’s about”
Sheri: Well, safe to say you smashed it! Haha.
Jess: Oh yeah! We’re so glad you did as well, it’s so much better and it’s like a proper, proper family now…aren’t we?
Kyle: Oh yeah!
Jess: Cuz we wanted to make sure that not only can everyone play their instruments or sing, like we are gonna do it properly, we’re gonna be together for a long time, if you’re gonna be on the road or recording, so it’s like we gotta like these people haha!
Kyle: We is one big family now and dat.
Sheri: That’s how it should be! As we were sorta saying 2018 onwards was like, we saw some pretty exciting things happening for you guys. As you just mentioned you supported Bullet For My Valentine on their Russian tour, wasn’t it?
Jess: Yeah it was 2 gigs there, in St Petersburg and then Moscow.
Sheri: Amazing! Then obviously you also played the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock and then of course there was a line-up change in 2019. So, there are some huge positives as a young band…What has been your favourite part of the journey so far?
Jess: Oh God, do you wanna go for this one Kyle as I just blabbermouthed the whole way through that haha
Kyle: I’d say so far it was probably doing the album. Obviously doing the tours as well, like touring with Fahran and then we toured with Nocturn Wolf, Ritual Spirit and Kilonova. Like erm, just before the world ended. And it was – that was amazing, doing multiple dates in a row, travelling everywhere, meeting loads of new people and stuff like that. It was awesome and then obviously writing and recording the album, getting everything that we’ve put our entire heart and soul into. It sounds so rewarding like, we’ve just seen our new video today and it’s just like – Ahh, it’s so good! It’s just amazing watching it and you know when it’s like – all our hard work is paying off, there it is, it’s right in front of us and it’s just BOSS. Haha.
Jess: I think my favourite part is he growth in general, obviously being there from the very beginning of everything when we were – not even this line-up.
Sheri: Still a baby haha
Jess: Yeah It was! I was 16 when I joined the band and I’m 21 now – still a baby but haha – to see the evolution of the music, the people and just how strong we seem to be right now. Like in one year, we’ve released two singles, about to release the third, gonna release an album, we’ve done two tours and that is in the space of one year of actually getting the band members and then writing it all, so it’s all completely fresh material as well. We’ve got one song that we’ve kept over, and we’ve changed the lyrics and how it’s sung but everything else is completely brand new. It exciting seeing how well it’s all gelled together, and I feel dead proud. Proud of it. Haha!
Sheri: And that’s the thing isn’t it that when you’re an artist, it’s like your band is your baby, you watch it grow and it comes out and it’s all beautiful.
Jess: Yeah haha!
Sheri: So, we were just saying about your new single, ‘Epiphany’, will be released on the 25th September. Do you have a video to go with it?
Sheri: Amazing! Cannot wait to see that! And then your debut album, “Homecoming”, is scheduled to be released in November. After what’s been happening with the end of the world haha, this is actually really great. There are a lot of Artists that are feeling bummed out as a lot rely on touring, selling merch and so on to make their way. So, it’s amazing to see new music during the pandemic.
Jess: Yeah, I think it’s been a make or break situation for a lot of bands.
Sheri: It’s been brutal for everyone. I listened to the album today, multiple times.
Jess: Ooooh, did you haha! Have you got a favourite song?
Sheri: I do! It’s actually the title track that is my favourite. I detect some really strong Alter Bridge vibes and a little bit of a…almost like Trivium – ish, vibe.
Both: That’s a new one!
Jess: Our lead guitarist Paddy loves Alter Bridge so that’s probably how that’s kind of rubbed off in there somewhere.
Sheri: It’s also vocally too, in the lyrics! It’s very Alter Bridge type too.
Kyle: I could hear it in ‘Tear It Down’
Sheri: That’s a really good example actually! There’s a good balance of heavy, classic, groove and even a little bit of proggy metal and hard rock in your sound. So how did you reach your style of songwriting? And what works for you as a band?
Jess: Collaboration. 100%. We’ll all do everything and we’ll all chip in with the lyrics or if something is sung different, we can say “change it like this” or “try a drum beat like that”. Everyone has a say in everything and we feel like that has given the best results and it has worked in everything we have done so far so that is our way forward, isn’t it Kyle?
Kyle: Yeah, it takes a lot of pressure off as well. It’s not like where in some bands you’re like… “well, you’re the guitarist or you’re the vocalist, drummer, you have to write that part” so all of us combined together, it just helps make the song better. The way everything is, the only ego that should be in the room is the song itself.
Kyle: As long as it makes the song better, we should all chip in and as Jess was saying we could say “oh why don’t we try this” There’s a couple of songs that lyrically is 100% one person, maybe only 3.
Jess: But it’s still like “Ok guys what do you think?” No one calls the shots, do they?
Jess: And because we all have different influences musically anyway and what we listen to – I think that’s why there’s so many different vibes. Obviously Alter Bridge has stood out a couple of times but other than that, we’ve had a different name from each person. Basically, which is nice because we don’t want to be a carbon copy of anyone.
Kyle: We get Bowie quite a bit too, which is odd because Bowie isn’t an influence haha!
Sheri: So, it’s a collaboration and a bit like a puzzle where everyone makes it a bigger picture. I really loved the title track ‘Homecoming’ I think it’s beautiful. I was sitting here with it on repeat through my work and I was like WOW. There’s a lot of power, emotion and diverse energy to the lyrics and the way your songwriting and music is put together. How do you feel some of your songs on this album reflect the rawness in your sound?
Kyle: I’m glad that people are feeling it because every song has some meaning to it. There’s a couple of songs that have really personal meanings like ‘Alive Again’ but there’s other song’s, like ‘Epiphany’, kinda one we all put together because we all had the vibe of it and we were all like “Okay, we can all understand what’s coming with that” so we all kind of feel within the song if that makes sense? Because we all are right in it, we all get into that mode of feeling and that.
Jess: The album is not a concept album so there’s no running story, so some of the songs might be about something else like, you know ‘Epiphany’ is about abusive relationships basically and then ones like Kyle said are more personal, might be about something that’s happened to someone in the band but overall, we just wanted to show everyone each side of what we can do. This debut album was basically like “This is what Ashen Reach can do” we can do long epic songs, we can do fast jumpy, upbeat songs and do a whole duet basically. We just wanted to show everything we can do but have passion all the way through. None of them are just album fillers. We just wanted to show all our sides, that it was 100% us and that you can hear the passion and effort that’s gone into every track.
Kyle: Even with ‘Ether’ the 1 minute 40 interlude, we didn’t just throw that in and just beef up the track, we put that in because we wanted it to make the album blend better. We just didn’t want to just change the vibe quickly.
Jess: Is it from “Prey”? It would be “Prey” straight into “Here I go” and “Prey” quite like a dark psychological thriller song – but we thought all that out and the order of the album, we just wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just going all in super-fast, super hard, there was a proper build up and I think I feel after you’ve listened to it, you feel “What’s just happened”…like I’m glad I feel like that.
Kyle: Yeah the ending blows you into a false sense of security as well because you think it’s dead relaxing and dead chill, melancholy and then you forget your album is on repeat and it goes DADADADADA and you’re like ARGH!
Kyle: It’s happened when driving and having to swerve out of the way because I’ve almost sh*t myself haha. It just slams back in and you’re like “Oh there it is…Okay!”
Sheri: How do you feel that “Homecoming” is different to your previous work, for example you released a single in 2018 called ‘Gone Tomorrow’?
Jess: That’s one of the ones we took down because we thought it’s a fresh start but we really really loved ‘Homecoming’ so much and everyone would ask us to play it when we perform so we thought we have to keep it but we will just rework it to make it better and more suited to what we are now and it just had something else, it’s difficult to describe. You can tell when you’re playing a song and it’s not even my favourite song now but back then it was just like… this is just epic, we’ve written a nine minute song, people always cheer for and it was known as That Epic Song At The End – we’d finish on that song all the time because it was just a rollercoaster of a song.
Kyle: It doesn’t feel like a nine-minute song.
Jess: Oh no, we’ve heard people say, “oh you’re finishing” and you say, “it’s a nine-minute song” and they’re like “no way!”
Kyle: There was a guy in Scotland, and he was like “Oh really enjoyed your set but I have one criticism.” And we were like “Okay, what is it?” and he said, “Homecoming is too short” and we’re like “Its 9 minutes!!” He was like “IS IT!? Does not feel like nine minutes!”
Jess: So yeah, people get lost in it and I think that’s what made us think “No, we have to keep it and rework it somehow, this has gotta stay and be a staple part!” haha.
Kyle: Its nice seeing people singing along to it at the end of the show, people will start singing the chorus and that’s the first time we’ve heard that as well. You’ll see people just singing along and it’s just like “wow, this is their first time seeing this and they’re already singing along to it”. It’s an absolutely surreal feeling and it’s like… it’s actually happening.
Sheri: That’s when you know isn’t it – when people are catching onto your songs and its humbling.
Jess: We couldn’t be more grateful of people who just listen, share or you know, it is as you say humbling – when you see a couple bands and it doesn’t really matter what level, I know a lot of bigger bands don’t look at their own social medias but when you know when it’ a bit lower level, you see people that don’t reply to comments or they don’t react and these are the people saying “I love it” – I really hate that so much because people have taken time to listen to your music and if you’ve really put that much effort in, you care what people think and you know – we all care so much so we make a conscious effort to make sure we tell everyone who says anything you know “Thank you so much” because it really does mean the world to us when we say it.
Kyle: Yeah, we always try and message people back or reply to them or after a show we will always try and hang around and have a conversation with people and we try to get to know them, the people who listen to our music. Because it makes it personal. It turns a fan base more into a family, because you’ll see them come back and you end up becoming friends. You get a new level with people and its really nice.
Sheri: I love that. I mean, that’s how I essentially got doing what I’m doing now. Years and years ago, I met a band called Breed 77.
Kyle: I’ve heard of them!
Sheri: Really nice guys, I was introduced by a family friend at the studios and went to a couple of their shows and they were mingling and mixing and then making friends with some of them. Doing that, I met lots of different people, friends and circles and now I’ve ended up doing what I’m doing now and that is what I love because bands like you that actually take the time to make friends and mingle with people, you don’t know what your impact is on that person’s life you know…it can make a massive, massive difference. So… that’s amazing, I love it!
Kyle: Yeah if we can make people forget about their problems, even if it’s for like 10 minutes, then we are doing something right and makes everything worthwhile.
Sheri: Do you have plans to tour or promote “Homecoming” after the pandemic dies down a bit?
Jess: We do, nothing is booked or set in stone but Rachael, our manager is working extremely hard to try and get something. I think she said she was aiming for March next year, but we have no idea, nothing is booked yet. But that is the idea.
Kyle: We do have a gig in December as far as we know. It’s not been cancelled yet. So, we are playing December at Planet Rockstock in Trecco Bay, Porthcawl.
Jess: We were like yay we have all these gigs set up, things are going great and then… the world closed down haha.
Kyle: Yeah, we had some really good gigs as well. We had some like… supporting Ryan McCombs from SOiL and stuff like that. And I was so excited, like I was in work when we got the gig confirmed and I’m running ‘round the shop like YESSSS! Because I LOVE SOiL!
Jess: Kyle’s 31 by the way haha
Kyle: Yeah, I was absolutely chuffed! Headbutting the cookies haha going mental and some people were like “Whos’ SOiL?” And I’m like, “You don’t even…how dare you!! Haha I don’t care if you’re 67 Barbara…” hahaha.
Sheri: Educate yourself, like haha!
Both: Yeah exactly! Hahaha.
Sheri: What did you do before creating your way with Ashen Reach/before Equinox? What drew you into making music?
Jess: Paddy our guitarist, he was in a band before and I used to always go see them. I was doing my GCSE’s before I was in Equinox. I just knew I loved playing the drums as well, I was playing my lessons since I was about 12. So, I was a Grade 5 and my teacher was like “Go Forth my child, I can’t teach you anymore, go play in a band.” So I basically set off to join a band and I joined Equinox on JoinMyBand, I just found an Ad and I went to Vulcan Studios in Liverpool and did my practice there and they didn’t have a singer or anything at that point. That’s sort of where I went on and over time was new members and we evolved. We didn’t actually, with the very first line up of Equinox, we didn’t gig at all, we just spent loads of time in the practice room. But it’s because we knew we weren’t ready and then we went from there. But that’s personally how I got into it, seeing Paddy doing gigs on stage and I wasn’t in a band the whole time yet. And I was like I know I definitely want to do it now. Seeing your favourite bands on stage as well isn’t it? It’s like “Oh my God”. Haha.
Kyle: Oh, mine is a long time ago! I was proper into music as a little kid, I used to sing a lot when I was little but then as I got older, I was obsessed with Slipknot and Joey Jordison so I wanted to be in a band. I was actually a drummer for years. I was in a brick punk band kinda like the Artic Monkeys but with a double pedal haha. I was in a few bands, so I ended up forming kind of a Tenacious D double act with my friend Adam at Butlins. It was dead funny because we were told we had to do normal covers and we were like “No, we’re doing Tenacious D!” hahaha. We’re covering ‘Wonderboy’ hahaha. Just before I joined Ashen Reach, I was in a Take That tribute haha.
Kyle: Yeah haha.
Jess: You were like the biggest in the UK, weren’t you?
Kyle: Yeah we were in at number 1 so I toured with them for three years but my itch was like, I wanna do rock and stuff like that so, I was in a proper djent-y metal band but I didn’t want to scream as much anymore. So, I spoke to Murph and I said “I wanna be in Hard Rock band, I don’t wanna scream anymore, it’s killing my voice” and Murph was like “Oh! I know a band!” and that was it!
Jess: Oh, I remember that as well as actually! I only got to drum as Rock Band haha like playing Rock Band with the family and now I can’t play Rock Band because I’m playing the real instrument haha
Kyle: It’s so annoying because as soon as you can play an instrument, you can’t play Rock Band or Guitar Hero haha.
Jess: I’m a boss on the guitar on it though. Expert! Hahaha.
Kyle: Rock Band makes me rage. I was trying to play Everlong by Foo Fighters and it’s like “You’re doing it wrong” and I’m like “No I’m not!” hahaha.
Sheri: Hahaha don’t dictate to me, computer! So, you’re from the Liverpool area?
Jess: Kinda yeah! Some of us are from Merseyside, Cheshire, Wirral. Kyle is from Runcorn.
Kyle: Runcorn is the posh area hahaha. It’s not posh at all…
Sheri: Are there any local Artists you would recommend checking out?
Jess: Oooh, there are good bands but the scene in Liverpool isn’t heavy on the Rock at the moment. We’ve got really good friends in Raised by Wolves; Liv in Raised by Wolves is a really awesome girl, so she definitely needs a shout out! But I think recently, because we’ve not actually gigged that much in Liverpool with Liverpool bands since being in this line up. But we can recommend like…Fahran and when we toured with Kilonova and so on, those guys are awesome.
Sheri: Aye, we had Fahran play at Rabidfest last year and they were amazing. Your first two singles off the album ‘Prey’ and ‘Tear It Down’ have been a hugely promising taste of what’s to come in November! What’s the reception of the singles been like for you? I know Kieran Scott of Ashen Crown did a reaction video to ‘Tear It Down’ recently!
Jess: “Tear It Down” has definitely been taken a whole lot better than ‘Prey’ but not because ‘Prey’ is worse, I think the seven-minute number scares people off. I think we may have just promoted ‘Tear It Down’ more but all the feedback we’ve had ourselves has been great. I think we had one guy though, which makes me laugh, who commented on the Ad on Facebook and was like “I hate this. This is too produced” or said it was too good and that he just didn’t like it. He thought it looked too clean and good, so I don’t know what it was…it didn’t make sense. And we are a local band with no money – so technically, you thinking that we are that clean and super great is like… a compliment haha. We’re not a Sludge, Death, Growl band so…
Sheri: It’s a complementive insult haha!
Jess: Yeah! Sorry hahaha.
Kyle: It like sorry we’re not one of those really (GROWLS) bands haha.
Jess: If you are one of those bands, that is fine! Haha. ‘Tear It Down’ has been played on Planet Rock and a load of stations. We were actually surprised because ‘Prey’ has had some radio time as well. We thought that was never gonna happen because seven minutes is a big chunk. But the Hard Rock Hell competition we were supposed to be taking part in got cancelled, when we did that, we sent them both tracks and they obviously have the segment on their radio show to show off each band who could be getting through and they played ‘Prey’ and we were like Wow!! It’s just really surprising. It’s been really great. I think we definitely kept it solid all the way through and we have done what we aimed to do.
Kyle: You can hear, there’s so many vibes that we were going through as the album has progressed, we wanted to experiment with stuff like in ‘Epiphany’ there’s Mongolian Chant and stuff. All five of us, even Jess is doing some haha. If you hear it, the higher vocal, that’s Jess!
Jess: I don’t sing anything else haha, my claim to fame with the vocals is the voice on “Prey” haha.
Kyle: Every single voice, every one of us have their vocals in the album as well. It’s not just where we wanted to just do me doing every vocal, because we’re not gonna do that live. So, there’s a lot of three-part harmonies. There’s a lot of me, Paddy and Mike all together. Joe has some proper guttural screams. It just adds depth to it so yeah, we wanted to do stuff that we could do live as well.
Jess: That definitely came off well because obviously the voice, the full breakdown as in Kyle’s breakdown in the song. Not like even in the music, that was very experimental for us especially as a second single haha.
Kyle: Yeah, we were like…is this too brave? But we thought let’s just go for it.
Sheri: It works! What advice do you feel is relevant to Artists at the moment?
Jess: I’d say that you have to be proactive. We’ve had lots of help, like my family, we’ve been really lucky to have my Dad who is a photographer and driver so – just make yourself look as professional as possible. You don’t need to look like it’s a business or job, people want to see you having fun. You have to choose what you post; you don’t want to be seen posting really silly things on the page, you have to keep people up to date. Because of the algorithms on Facebook at the moment, if you don’t post for like a day, you don’t get seen. Be as active as possible and make sure you’re professional while you’re showing your personalities I guess because you have to be careful. You have to treat life like you’re on stage all the time. Even if you are a small band. Don’t have the ego but act where you wanna be basically.
Kyle: Don’t be scared of writing what you wanna write as well. Don’t try and fall in with the grain that’s what I would say as well. So, if you’re like “Ah yeah let’s do a 20-minute space ballad, why not?” As long as your full passion is in the song, it can be anything but as long as it sounds like you’re putting your passion and love into it. It’s gonna sound great, regardless. Like you can tell when people write soulless music.
Jess: Always release the highest quality things as well. I was listening to this nine-hour audio book because I was researching “How do we be better?” haha. But rather than releasing a load of demos, if you’re gonna release an album, because it’s gonna take away the impact straight away and it’s not gonna be like “Let’s show them a little teaser before we do the full thing.” Practice videos are different, but it will definitely take away from everything if you release little demo tracks when you’re going to release the full song. Give away some things but don’t give away so much that you ruin it for yourself.
Sheri: Yeah because then people will know what to expect won’t they?
Jess: Yeah, you wanna have an impact and not just like Ah, this sounds almost the same… you want a full impact straight away.
Sheri: Finally, tell us a joke…
Kyle: I’ve got so many what would you like? Haha. I’ll do a family friendly one. My friend said to me “Eh Kyle, for that fancy dress party, I’m gonna dress up as a small island just outside the coast of Italy.” And I said, “Don’t be Sicily” (so silly)
Sheri: Hahaha that is the Dad joke of all Dad jokes.
Kyle: I love it, I know so many Dad jokes haha!
Sheri: Thank you so much for your time guys! It’s been really really lovely talking to you. I’ll look out for Jess’s vocals in ‘Epiphany’ haha.
Jess: Thanks so much Sheri, we really appreciate you having us.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jess and Kyle for the wonderful interview and to Sheri for putting it all together. I too have been listening to “Homecoming”, the album, and it is a fine debut. You are all in for a treat!
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Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Sheri Bicheno and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.