Story by Laurel McLean.
Photo by William Geier.
With a unique sound that layers folk influences with psychedelic pop-rock, The Ashley Hundred have established themselves in Calgary’s music scene with a genre they coined as “folkadelic.”
Since their inception in 2012, band members Andrew Franks (guitar, keys, vocals), Carson Stewart (guitar, keys, vocals), Jordan Moe (bass, vocals), and Brett Cassidy (banjo, lap steel, vocals), who were later joined by Michael De Souza (drums) at the end of 2015, haven’t been shy about experimenting with their music.
“We’ve been playing around with our sound for a little while,” says Franks, adding that The Ashley Hundred plans to incorporate more soul and hip-hop influences in their forthcoming songs.
The band’s exploratory nature is well-matched by their namesake, which alludes to an advertisement sent out by General William Ashley in 1822 that called for one hundred men to “ascend the River Missouri” on a fur-trading venture. Prior to being called the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, this group of mountaineers was originally known as “Ashley’s Hundred,” which—with a slight variation—the band deemed a well-suited name for themselves.
“They were explorers of a landscape and we are explorers of a soundscape, so we just thought it was a fitting name,” explains Moe.
And if the story of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company sounds vaguely familiar, the tale was recently popularized by Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Hugh Glass, one of Ashley’s Hundred, in The Revenant, but Franks was quick to point out that the band was named before the release of the popular film.
In the nearly five years since their formation, The Ashley Hundred has taken the stage at a wide variety of venues nationwide, often frequenting Calgary’s Palomino, Broken City, and Dickens.
“[I like] the adrenaline of performing live,” raves Moe. “It’s something you’ve done a million times, but getting the reaction from the crowd and feeding off their energy and how they’re reacting to your songs is the best thing about playing music.”
“Seeing fans come out and seeing people sing your songs and really get into it… you can’t really describe that feeling,” adds Franks.
“It’s almost like the songs aren’t yours anymore; it’s like they’ve become everybody’s thing to enjoy and hold on to.”
When asked to cite the influences of their unique sound, the band explains that each of the five members has their own musical inspirations, whether that is Tame Impala, Queens of the Stone Age, Childish Gambino, or traditional folk music.
However, a shared source of inspiration the band can agree upon is science fiction—namely, Star Wars.
“The Force is kind of the glue that holds us together as a band,” jokes Franks. “Each one of us could definitely tell you a thing or two about Star Wars.”
Another abundant source of inspiration for the band is found in novels, comic books, and, most recently, the animated science fiction sitcom Rick and Morty.
“We’re all big Rick and Morty fans, so I wrote a song based off an episode I really liked,” reveals Franks, referring to the episode “Rick Potion #9.”
The song will appear on The Ashley Hundred’s third album, which will be released in May. The nine-song, self-titled LP was recorded at OCL Studios with Juno Award-winning producer Josh Gwilliam.
“It was a different calibre of recording than we’re used to,” describes Franks.
“Usually we’re tracking in somebody’s basement or home studio.”
The Ashley Hundred released their debut EP, Postcards From The Moon, in 2014, which was followed by the 2015 release of Split, a 12-inch LP collaboration with Calgary’s 36?, featuring five songs from each band.
“I think our song writing has progressed [since previous albums],” says Moe. “With this album, we took our songwriting even further and nit-picked even more. Each album is a little cleaner than the last.”
“We’ve been growing in our sound; our style has changed. Postcards is more classic indie-folk stuff, Split we get a little more psychedelic, and with this one we’re even delving into some more stuff.”
Moe goes on to explain that with their soon-to-be-released album, The Ashley Hundred reverted back to a simpler sound, trying to leave space to be tasteful and consider the atmosphere of each song.
“We never want to get too comfortable doing the same thing,” adds Franks. “We should be writing to grow as musicians and explore different soundscapes.”