Indie-pop, four-piece Ask Elliot have just released their new EP ‘Way Too Cool For Me’. Emily Campbell chatted with the band about their experiences as young musicians growing up in the Liverpool music scene and what they hope to achieve as a band going forward.
Despite Ream, Tom, Liam and Archie joining the Zoom call separately, it was apparent from the start of our conversation that the band had a close bond that transcended their musical connection. Liam, Ask Elliot’s drummer, outlined the steps that led to the band forming back in 2018. “Basically, Tom and I are cousins and I started drumming because our second cousin, who is also a drummer, was giving a drum kit away and we happened to have room. I gave it a go and Tom also started learning guitar, so we started together. Then I’d gone to school with Archie since like reception and he started playing bass. The band began to come together, then I finally met Ream when Archie and I went to Sixth Form in Liverpool.”
Collectively agreeing on a name for your band is always tricky. A band name is like a tattoo that sticks with you through the years, so ensuring it is rememberable is essential. Ream (lead vocalist and guitarist) told me with excitement the intriguing story behind the creation of their catchy name Ask Elliot. “When they wanted to name the band, Tom’s sister had a friend called Elliot who’s really good at naming things, I don’t think I’ve ever met him but apparently, he’s really smart so they were like we should ask Elliot!” Liam quipped in saying, “My Dad was like Ask Elliot, and it was like yeah, alright then!”
As an avid indie listener, I was immediately drawn to the summery, laid-back yet upbeat blend of songs in Ask Elliot’s discography, like Olivia and 2032. Ream recommends their music to fans of indie bands like The 1975 and Circa Waves, but they do like “to add a bit more spice. I think we are as an umbrella genre indie pop but within our music you can hear loads of other influences. We listen to all sorts of music so whatever we’re listening to at the time comes through in the music.” I asked if there were any artists that particularly inspired their sound. “I think at the very start it was Catfish And The Bottlemen, it changed to The 1975, and now it’s the Bombay Bicycle Club. It’s a changing thing, but there’s always going to be those foundations there from bands that we started out wanting to sound like. As we kind of grow into ourselves it’s changed a little bit, it’s more pop focused now.”
Ream emphasised the band’s desire to create exciting new songs through their collaborative song-writing process, that allow them to stand out in the indie scene. “Obviously, we’re different people, what we make is different to what everyone else makes. In terms of the process, I’ll bring a song to the band and then we’ll all make the parts together, so every single part is made by everyone. This allows everyone to have their own ideas and express themselves within the song. It does change though, when we started Settle Down, we had a little snippet then I wrote a verse and then Liam and I wrote the rest of the song. Normally I’ll bring the bones of the song, so like the chords and lyrics then I’ll take it to the band, and we’ll flesh it out and give it life. Sometimes it doesn’t work out but the ones that stick are the ones that are good.” Alongside this, they have worked with The Night Café’s producer, Robert Whiteley, who gave them useful advice when they were establishing their sound. “I feel like he’s taken us under his wing.”
“There wasn’t a theme to start with but as we pieced it together, we saw that it told a narrative”
Ask Elliot’s new EP ‘Way Too Cool For Me’, is made up of four songs that all have their own distinctive styles, yet flow seamlessly when listening to the EP as a whole. “There wasn’t a theme to start with but as we pieced it together, we saw that it told a narrative. It’s quite loose but they are all about certain scenarios in a relationship. Then in terms of the actual name, we were thinking of one for ages but the lyric ‘Way too cool for me’ kind of stuck, so we decided to just go with that. It kind of encapsulates the songs we liked at the time.” Compared to their first EP ‘Seventeen’ released in 2019, ‘Way Too Cool For Me’ feels a lot more self-assured in its sound. “I think if anything it’s more to do with maturity, because we were 17 when we released that one. I guess this is how we started and how we wanted to sound at the time and this recent EP is how we’ve matured and grown into ourselves a little bit. I think you can tell just in the performance recordings as well, it’s not just the writing it’s the playing and the feeling of the tracks.”
The band enthusiastically spoke about their favourite songs to produce and perform from the new EP. Archie (bass) began; “Production wise, Settle Down is really fun, and to play live, probably Flowers Of White for me.” Liam confidently followed on; “To listen to, if I had no connection to the band and I listened to us, Flowers Of White probably. Production-wise, I really like Olivia, there are a lot of layers. I like the sort of ‘wall of sound’ vibe of the last two singles, so they stand out to me in that sense. However, I do change my answer every day.” Tom (guitarist) quipped in, commenting: “That’s like me, it’s how I’m feeling at the time. I think at the minute, it would be like Archie said, Settle Down, but then live it would be Olivia because it’s upbeat.” Ream finished off by saying: “I think for me production, like the actual process, Settle Down was fun. However, I think Take It Back, because we have become more articulate with how we want things so we can get that across to Rob therefore the process became more streamlined so we could try new things. I think live, Olivia is really fun to play.”
“We’ve got COVID!” they all chuckled in unison
As young musicians in the industry and with the pandemic affecting two of the four years of the band’s existence, I was keen to understand their experience of attempting to get their name out there within their hometown of Liverpool. “I think it’s been quite supportive; we’ve had a lot of good opportunities. We got some good streaming numbers on our first couple of singles, we still do but it was just better back then. I think that kind of propelled us a bit more and people realised like oh there’s this band doing this thing and we should give them some opportunities. We’ve been really lucky to play loads of good shows we’ve done Sound City for two years in a row now!” However, two years on they are still feeling the effects of COVID-19 on gigs. “We’ve got COVID!” they all chuckled in unison, “three of us have COVID right now.” Ream, being the only one to avoid the virus, took over to explain. “The sad thing is we had a gig on Friday and everyone in the band except me got COVID. There was a little bit of an outbreak, our parents and people we knew also got it, but I guess it’s natural when we’re trying to get back to normal and just being near people. However, it’s generally a lot better people are starting to come to the gigs. A lot of people leave it really late to buy tickets now. We’ve found that the last week before the gig is when we get the most ticket sales but it’s nice that everything’s getting back to normal.”
The band have done so well starting out within some of the toughest years for the music industry, I asked them if they had any advice for aspiring musicians. Ream began, “In terms of industry advice, I’d say get yourself out there and let people know you are there. In terms of creative advice, you just need to keep writing stuff. I’ve written a lot of songs and the majority of them aren’t great but the ones that are good are good. It just takes time to put the work in to write the bad ones to get the good ones.” Archie followed on; “Networking, that’s how we’ve done most things recently, by the people we know helping us out.” Tom also offered advice: “We started with battle of the bands we were quite lucky with that, that’s how we got into the music scene in Liverpool and got to play at sound city because we won that. We had quite a big friendship following then and now it’s gone to more fans than friends.”
We lastly spoke about their hopes for the future of Ask Elliot, firstly discussing potential collaborations. Ream commented; “I am really into Phoebe Bridgers at the minute, but I feel like it would be a really depressing song because all her songs are. It doesn’t really fit the outfit, but it would be cool to work with her.” While Archie proposed a slightly more realistic collaboration: “I really do not know, I could say something ridiculous, and it would make no sense for us to collaborate with. Probably in our space, The Night Café would be really fun to collaborate with.” I can’t wait to see what Ask Elliot decide to do next; there are definitely great things to come from them. “There’s a lot of plans for stuff, we want to get out gigging and push the EP through live shows. We weren’t planning on recording any new music for a while but because we got playlist support from Spotify we will try and get another single out soon to ride the momentum we have. We also want to spread out because we’ve been in Liverpool for four years gigging there with a few Manchester shows here and there.”
Whether you are already one of Ask Elliot’s dedicated fans, or if you give ‘Way Too Cool For Me’ a listen and love their sound, you can catch them playing at the O2 Academy in Liverpool in May, and RivFest in Warrington at the beginning of August.
Featured image courtesy of James Camp. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes made to this image.
In-article images courtesy of @askelliot via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.
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