For the past 12 months ASHWARYA has been continually impressing listeners with a dominative sonical fusion that has made her one of the most tipped newcomers. From the release of her introductory single ‘PSYCHO HOLE’ right through to her recent single ‘TO THE NIGHT’ with Vic Mensa, the Melbourne based singer-songwriter has delivered a strong vision that has steadily explored her growth with immaculate production, slick vocals and captivating hooks. But on her debut EP ‘Nocturnal Hours’ she knocks down all the walls and allows listeners to hear the many different and important sides to her artistry with some of the most experimental tracks in her discography yet.
From the slinky 80’s pop inspiration behind ‘HIDE YOU UP’ to the stripped back nature of ‘LOVE AGAIN’, she highlights a contrast that maybe you didn’t expect to hear from her, but it’s certainly an important one for her to reveal as she further explores who she wants to be as an artist. And she is truly a star on the rise, and once international touring becomes viable she will quickly become one of our biggest exports to date.
I recently chatted to ASHWARYA about honing the creative process of her debut EP ‘Nocturnal Hours’, channeling vulnerability as a strength instead of a weakness, and the difficult process of filming the ‘BIRYANI’ music video on her own in her garage. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your debut EP ‘Nocturnal Hours’ is a bold and definitive collection of tracks that fiercely introduces you to listeners through your first body of work. What is one thing you want listeners to take away from listening to this EP in full for the very first time?
ASHWARYA: Before anything meaning wise I really spent a lot of time trying to figure out the songs I wanted to be on the EP to represent all of the different sounds I enjoy to listen and also like to make. So it’s a bit of a mixed bag of sounds, and I hope that whoever comes across the EP finds something on it that they like.
But in terms of the “takeaway”, a lot of the meaning and intent behind the music I’ve made is that it’s okay to be and feel vulnerable, and that it’s okay to use that as a strength moving forward. I like to play with things like vulnerability, power, control and any sort of obstacles that come in your way. So I hope anyone that listens to it feels main character vibes and can boss it up.
TB: A lot of people look at vulnerability as a weakness but it honestly is such a strength, and we need to celebrate that more.
A: I still struggle with feeling that vulnerability as a strength. I used to think of it as a weakness and something that you shouldn’t showcase to people. But over time I realised that being vulnerable is something that can help you allow yourself to overcome whatever you’re trying to overcome. It’s okay to feel and express yourself towards others, and I think that is just what comes out naturally when I’m writing.
TB: Looking back on the creative process of this EP, what was the first track that really took shape? And what was the very last song?
A: ‘PSYCHO HOLE’ was actually the first one! All of the tracks that have been added to the EP are sort of in their natural progression of finishing the writing. And ‘HIDE YOU UP’ was the last song I finished writing for the EP.
TB: What did the journey between those two songs really shape for you? What did you learn about who you were as an artist and what this EP meant to you?
A: The next song I wrote after ‘PSYCHO HOLE’ was ‘LOVE AGAIN’, so there is a lot of back and forth even just there. I had to do a lot of pre-work before I even put myself out there as an artist to really nail down where I needed to head. With the tempo changes I had to be really confident within the fact that this was who I was. The kinda growth I had before people could hear it versus after realising it was very different. Before it was very me thinking introspectively to figure out my sound, and afterwards I was just really glad that people liked my music. It kinda solidified anything I had to really believe in my own vision.
TB: ‘HIDE YOU UP’ is a slinky 80’s pop inspired that hears a more clean pop production. Can you explain the creative process behind this track?
A: Like a lot of the songs I’ve written and released, it happened vey naturally. But it take some time to figure out the melody and overall how it was all going to be placed out. So I guess this was one of the tracks that surprisingly took me the longest to finish. I’ve always had a very big obsession with The Weeknd. I think he’s just amazing, and I think a lot of the music that is coming out at the moment has definitely influenced ‘HIDE YOU UP’ specifically. There is a lot of nods to the 80s and there are even heavy nostalgic synths specially in The Weeknd’s new album.
Once I figured out the melody, the rest of the song came very quickly. I really wanted it to feel like I was criminal and that I was doing something wrong. I just visualised myself doing something terribly wrong for the sake of my sanity.
TB: On the other end of the spectrum, closing track ‘LOVE AGAIN’ is the EP’s most intimate and vulnerable moment. When you were writing this track what was guiding you to keep it completely stripped back and allow the raw storyline take centre stage?
A: Originally it was all on piano, and the plan was to develop it into something different production wise with Jarrad Rogers who has produced and co-written everything with me so far. But then we just kinda heard the track and there was so much truth, and the vocals were very present, and there was the rawness of the song that really stood out. So we decided that having a stripped production would allow the story to stand out.
I remember being like I need to shut down for this vocal take because I need to be 100% present with how I’m feeling right now.
TB: Your debut single ‘PSYCHO HOLE’ is an absolute foot stomper. What is one of the weirdest or coolest facts you have about this song that maybe no one really knows?
A: Jarrad and I finished the song in 3 hours, which is crazy! It was absolutely fucked, but it was possibly the most incredible session I’ve ever had as I think it just sparked everything. The foundation of the song was done, and we just needed to add in scratches of new vocal takes. But I showed my mum the same day and she cried, which was weird to cry to a song like ‘PSYCHO HOLE’ but she cried *laughs*.
When it first came out I wasn’t really comfortable explaining the song as I just wanted people to perceive it the way they wanted to. But the song is really just about me struggling with my mental health and in particular with my anxiety and just trying to navigate how I can actually overcome that. I know it’s fairly obvious in the chorus with the change in tempo and melody that is more positive, but it shows my understanding that I can overcome it.
TB: ’TO THE NIGHT’ hears you teaming up with Vic Mensa which is a huge feat for your very first EP. What was the collaborative experience like with him? Did you get to talk much about the vision for the song?
A: I actually told him all about the song and what it means to me just so he has a bit of background and I was hoping he could emulate the story in his own way. I am such a big fan of his lyricism and the way the he’s able to take about such important topics in his music. I was hoping he could bring that same flavour to this song, and he did and I was so happy when I got the first draft back.
I knew for that song especially that I needed a feature and particularly a MC, and to get Vic on it was insane. I am still shocked that it happened.
TB: The music video for ‘BIRYANI’ is a very playful and trippy affair which looks like it would’ve been super fun and wet to film. So what was one of the funniest things that happened on set?
A: I’m not going to lie to you, because I had to film ‘BIRYANI’ and ‘PSYCHO HOLE’ at home in the garage, that was the most intense time of my life. There’s no one professional to do the lighting or the cameras, so you have to act and make sure everything is running at the exact same time. With ‘BIRYANI’ I had to use mathematics, and I’m awful at maths, so I had to time the amount of time it would take the bucket to fill up by the duration of the song, but then I had to add my weight. I practiced it countless times with water first, and then I practiced it with paint. I was stressing out because on the day I was mixing the paint with water and it wasn’t mixing properly and it was getting really chunky. So I had to buy this paint mixer and it was this whole process *laughs*.
TB: ’COMIN@ME’ reflects on the toxicity of being stuck in a cycle of constantly coming back to someone who betrayed you and continues to hurt you and break your trust. So what advice do you have for someone who is stuck in a similar situation, because it is so hard to get out.
A: I think if you find yourself in that situation that it’s important to put yourself first. I think it’s really easy, especially for empathetic people, to rely on someone else to fulfil your happiness, but I don’t think that is something that is ever going to work. You need to be happy and please yourself before you can please someone else. I just hope they realise that they’re good enough and don’t need to deal with that toxicity as it’s not going to help them move forward.
‘Nocturnal Hours’ is out now!