From Ashes to New's Chris Musser on 'Downfall' EP, Hollywood Undead and Rock on the Range 2015 [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Chris Musser and the rest of From Ashes to New are making their way back across the country when he checks in with Music Times from Utah. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania, rap/rock crew just finished up a tour with Hollywood Undead. It was a big deal for the young band, which put out its second EP, Downfall, last month, considering Hollywood Undead has found success in the genre since 2008.
From Ashes to New formed around 2013 when Musser, guitarist/vocalist Matt Brandyberry, guitarist Dan Kecki, guitarist/vocalist Branden Kreider, bassist Garrett Russell, and drummer Tim D'onofrio ditched their previous bands to try something new. It's been a successful decision so far that's landed the group a recording deal with Better Noise Records and previous roster spots on the Vans Warped Tour and South by So What?
Musser and the band are gearing up for an appearance at the Columbus, Ohio, Rock on the Range festival, which is scheduled for May 15-17 and features acts like Slipknot, Marilyn Manson and Breaking Benjamin.
Music Times: You guys are described on your website as a "supergroup." How did everyone get together?
Chris Musser: Yeah, it was kind of cool. We all grew up playing in our different bands in the local Lancaster scene...so we all knew each other beforehand. [From Ashes to New] started forming one person at a time. We had a hard time finding a drummer for a little bit...but eventually it all fell into place.
MT: Were you all in bands that had a similar kind of sound?
CM: Yeah, we were all into that nu-metal kind of sound.
MT: Was it difficult bringing the band up in Lancaster? You're kind of right in between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and while there might be a good local scene, it's probably not the easiest to get national attention.
CM: This band is actually a completely different approach from all of our past bands. Previously, we did the grind for years. We kept going at it over and over again and not getting anywhere. The local scene was kind of rough. You've got a lot of the same people coming out, so the audience didn't grow too fast. But with From Ashes to New we did the social media thing and that's really what helped us take off.
MT: Yeah, I've talked to a few bands, and that seems be a key factor in getting their music out there.
CM: It's definitely the way to go. We had a pretty amazing following before we even played our first show.
CM: It feels completely backwards from everything I've ever done (laughs). You always have to be on the grind, playing show after show. But it's kind of cool doing it this way.
MT: Not that I would try to limit the band's sound, but you guys do mention that there is a Linkin Park influence to what you're doing, specifically the earlier stuff. What were some of the bands or albums that were inspiring you guys coming up.
CM: Linkin Park wasn't my big influence; I think that was Matt's [Brandyberry]. Personally, I grew up listening to alexisonfire. Nowadays I listen to a lot of Of Mice and Men. I use to listen to old stuff like Alice in Chains, Pantera. Glassjaw was a big influence for me too.
MT: What about the other guys?
CM: I know Branden listens to a lot of Pantera. Everyone has their own influences, and it's funny how they all come together. It's kind of how the band name came about. It was a lyric in one of our older songs from a past band. It's about how all of our other bands burnt out over the years and we had to make this new one that's like a crossbreed of different genres. So From Ashes to New - that's how the name came about.
MT: Are you all pretty excited about playing Rock on the Range? There are a lot of big names on the roster.
CM: Definitely. There is an impressive list of bands on there. I'm ready to get on that big stage and see what it sounds like up there (laughs).
MT: There has to be some advantages, too, when you're one of the lower names on the roster. I mean, if you're a headliner at a big festival and you don't deliver, people are going to be pissed.
CM: Yeah, there's a lot of pressure riding on them. I think right now a lot of people don't know what to expect [from us]. That's one of the best things about touring. You see a lot of people who are like, "Oh we just heard about you tonight." We just try to put on the best show we can and run them all over.
MT: Nice. So tell me about the new EP, Downfall. How did that all come together?
CM: We've been spending the last year working on our full-length, and it's been taking some time so we wanted to fans a little sampler. The EP's a little taste of what the full-length will be. [The full-length] should be coming out this summer.
MT: Do you have a favorite song from this new EP? Maybe something that could serve as an appetizer for people who haven't heard From Ashes to New before?
CM: I'd have to say that my two favorites are probably "My Fight" and "Stay This Way" [both from the band's debut, self-titled EP]. We have a video for "Stay This Way" and it has a good message that everyone can kind of latch on to. Those are my two favorites to play live.
MT: Speaking of which, you guys just wrapped up a tour with Hollywood Undead. That must have been pretty wild.
CM: That was definitely cool. This was our first tour so we were kind of getting our tour legs going and figuring out the whole thing. There's a lot of rushing around. It was cool getting to meet the guys [from Hollywood Undead]. They put on a hell of a show.
MT: That's what I've heard. Having been labeled a rap/rock or nu metal band, what's been the most difficult part trying to get that kind of band off the ground? Because you could say that the "golden days" of that genre are long gone. What was the most difficult part getting this thing going?
CM: For me, the most difficult part is actually explaining to people about the band. They want to know, "Well, where do you fit in?" or "What do you consider yourselves?" It kind of makes you cringe saying rap/rock. That just turns people off. It's just hard to win them over verbally and explain the band to them. That's been a little bit of a struggle for me.
MT: Why do you think people cringe? Why do you think rap/rock sort of carries a negative connotation nowadays?
CM: I don't know. It sort of got a bad name from bands like Crazy Town (laughs). And I know a lot of people hate Limp Bizkit. It just got a bad name over the years from certain bands.
MT: Maybe the market got too saturated? There were a lot popping up when it was popular.
CM: Yeah. And I think a lot of those bands came off in a cheesy way with the lyrics they chose. But I think with us, we try to relate to all of our fans and put out a good message. We try to keep the lyrics real, I guess.