Owen Ashworth has announced an extensive July tour in the UK. The latest album Animal Companionship, which was released to critical acclaim in October, is available now via Run For Cover and Ashworth’s own Orindal Records. It’s charming, authentic, and wonderful.
After hearing problems forced the end of his electronic pop project Casiotone for the Painfully Alone in 2010, Ashworth started making music as Advance Base. He has recently shifted his focus to his label, Orindal Records, and put his efforts into helping other artists release their music.
I caught up with Owen to find out more…
What did having a bit of a break afford you in terms of your music?
After I ended Casiotone for the Painfully Alone in 2010, I needed to take some time away from music to recuperate. Years of touring had damaged my hearing & my mental health, & I needed some quiet time at home to figure out an identity away from being a musician. I had developed an unhealthy relationship with my own music, & it was causing me a lot of anxiety. Post-Casiotone, I continued playing piano as a means of meditation, and over time, I figured out a way to write & perform music in a way that was easier on both my ears and my psyche. I still haven’t figured out the best way to explain the difference between Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and Advance Base, but something about the music I’m making now feels more emotionally truthful to who I am, & performing the songs just makes me feel really good.
Advance Base is described as ‘quieter’ than your work with Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. What do you mean by this?
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone shows could be very loud & abrasive. After years of abusing my ear drums, I knew I had to take better care of my hearing moving forward. With Advance Base, I perform at a much lower stage volume, & the frequency range I’m working with is much less extreme. These days, I’m really focused on reigning in the live sound & trying to keep things precise and delicate, as opposed to blasting everyone’s head off with giant bass and crushing distortion. There are still loud moments in some of the Advance Base songs, but it’s not aggressive in the way that Casiotone could sometimes be. I want the music to feel welcoming.
Dogs play a big part in your new album! Can you explain more?
Animal/human relationships is one of the big themes on Animal Companionship. A lot of the songs are about love, and I took a lot of inspiration from the way people & their pets love each other. My songs are usually focused on psychology and interpersonal relationships, but I try to find a new angle with each record. Writing about people’s relationships with their pets was a new way for me to try to understand why people do what they do.
Why did you move from your four track at home to Palmetto Studios in Los Angeles for this album?
When I was recording the previous Advance Base album, Nephew in the Wild, I really leaned into the sound of my little makeshift basement studio, & tried to take advantage of the limitations I was working with. I really like how raw that record sounds, but I didn’t necessarily want to do it again. After making a couple of home demos of some of the early Animal Companionship songs, I realized I had grander ambitions for what I wanted the new songs to sound like. I had never given myself permission to record in a real recording studio before, but it finally felt like the right time to try something big.
What was it like being reunited with old friend and former Casiotone for the Painfully Alone collaborator Jason Quever?
Jason and I have been friends since 1998 or so. We had seen each other play shows around San Francisco (Jason used to play in Duster as well as his own band, Papercuts), and we recognized each other while walking across campus at San Francisco State University, where we were both students. Our mutual appreciation of each other’s music quickly turned into a close friendship. We played in each other’s bands and did a few little tours together and got to know each other’s musical tastes pretty well. Before I moved to Chicago in 2006, I spent a lot of time hanging out in Jason’s little home studio. We’d talked about trying to record something together for years, and in that time, Jason moved to Los Angeles and opened Palmetto Studios. He engineered and played on some beautiful recordings for Cass McCombs, Beach House, Luna, & bunch of other great bands. When I signed with Run For Cover Records, they paid me a nice advance to record Animal Companionship, enough to cover travel expenses & two weeks of studio time at Palmetto. It was a really positive experience. Jason has a ton of amazing vintage gear, & he knows how to use it. We had a lot of fun applying my cheap home recordings tricks to really high end equipment, and I think we ended up getting some great sounds, far beyond what I would have been able to manage on my own. I wish I could have spent another month recording with Jason. I’m already planning on recording the next Advance Base album with him. I just need to finish writing the songs.