Two years after Bonjour, Ashtray Electric have launched their second album, Measured in Falls. Perdeby caught up with André Pienaar (vocals and guitar), Rudi Cronje (guitar), Regardt Nel (bass and backing vocals) and Rupert Nel (drums) at the Pretoria leg of the band’s tour to find out more about truth, deception and swabbing.
André, the lyrics on Measured in Falls centre around the concept of truth and deception. What’s the inspiration behind dealing with this kind of subject matter?
André: I think Measured in Falls is about, well, the title basically is trying to say that in the past two years we’ve all grown up a lot and I feel that your age is [not a] depiction of your maturity. I think it’s more about how many times you f**k up and what you do to correct that. And I think that we all f**k up and we all lie about it. It’s subject matter that everyone deals with.
Rudi: I don’t think people really want to admit that sometimes you c**k up and you’ve got to live with it. The sooner you make peace with things the sooner you can deal with it and move on with life. And obviously you learn a lesson. Just don’t c**k up again.
André: Let’s not disguise everything in metaphors. Like in “Angst”, the first line it says, “Baptised in angst … I’ll be honest this time.” So it’s just not trying to beat around the bush, it’s going like, “f**k it.”
How would you say Measured in Falls differs from your debut album Bonjour?
Rudi: I think it’s, like, two years in between? Growing up, we’re better musos than we were. We write better music now, we think. We worked long and hard on it, you know. I think you learn a lot. You learn from the first album. Now we’re writing music instead of just songs around riffs. There’s more thought behind it.
Regardt: You don’t listen to the same music all the time. You grow with your music and you get interested in other things. You basically evolve in that sense. We had a lot of time to sit on this album and to write and to think things through. To really make sure that the songs we wrote were what we wanted to write.
André: And I think the first one we basically had, like, eleven or twelve songs and that’s what went on. This time we wrote about sixteen full songs and had five or six ideas and narrowed it all down to eleven tracks that we really feel were good and worth putting down on a disc.
André, you’ve said that Measured in Falls is a dictation of fears, trusts and other internal questions. Would you guys say that the creation of this album has been an introspective process? And if so, has it made the album more personal in a way for the band?
André: I think we all have our own take on the band and the reason why I write lyrics in songs is, I mean, it’s my diary. That’s how I process s**t. So I wouldn’t be writing if it wasn’t an introspective experience because I wouldn’t be getting anything out of it. I learn so much about myself when I sit down with a paper and pen. But there are some lyrics that I’ve included things of these guys’ lives in. I don’t know if they’ve picked up on it or not.
The cover art for the new album features each guy’s DNA strand. What’s the correlation between the cover and the album’s content?
Regardt: Stripped bare. You can’t lie about your DNA. That is who you are.
André: That is as honest as you can get.
Rudi: It’s quite funny that all of ours look the same though.
How was the experience of working with Gazelle on your single “Release”?
Regardt: It was a refreshing experience. It was something new for us. We’ve never done something like that before. We wrote this song halfway and we just got stuck. [There] was drunken bar banter and I think Rudi said let’s do a [collaboration] for the fun of it. We pulled this half-song out and gave it to DJ Invisible. He messed around with it and added some really cool synth-y stuff to it, some production and Bob’s your uncle.
Rudi: It’s a true [collaboration], though. It’s not like we wrote the song and just asked them to sing the chorus. It was written by the two of us together. It’s kind of frustrating because every single channel, just because our names are first, says us featuring Gazelle but it’s not. It’s us with Gazelle.
Regardt: And it’s quite interesting. It was our first, sort of, big commercial single, on the commercial stations and we recorded everything in the garage, which is quite ironic.
You’re on tour now promoting the new album. What item/s do you regard as key to your survival on the road?
André: Spur and guitars.
Regardt: Spur, cigarettes and water.
Rudi: Lots of water. Lots and lots and lots.
André: We go along the route of, like, instead of trying not to drink too much we just fix that by consuming as much water as we can.
Rudi: You have to balance it out, you know. It’s hard being on the road for that long. It’s South Africa. You don’t fly on private jets and things like that. Life’s good but it’s not private jets and people carrying your stuff. There’s still a lot you have to do yourself. It does party hard every now and again so you have to balance it out.
Rudi: I think the best thing to have with you is an awesome attitude. [laughs] I had to bring in the cheese on that one. That one was begging for the cheese.
Photo: JP Nathrass