Ashland are returning to their roots with their first release since Over The Moon. With their new EP I, the duo deliver pop synths backed by intense rock progressions and share their most vulnerable selves. The band are teaming up with Alternative Press to give fans a first listen to the EP.

Composed of Asia Marie and Aaron Wood, the two went quiet in regards to new music after they dropped their last LP. Where normally the months after the release would have been used to promote the LP on tour, the band had to pause all plans when the coronavirus pandemic hit. After taking time for some self-reflection, Ashland decided it was time to create more music—but on their own terms.

Read more: 20 bands keeping the riot grrrl spirit alive in their own unique way

As their first independent release since their 2015 debut, Interim, the duo are going back to their beginnings with the EP. Releasing all the frustration they've experienced over the past two years, Ashland's EP is emotional and relatable. Covering personal topics such as depression and anxiety, the group use synth beats and rock sequences to create dynamic atmospheres that pull you into another world.

Check out what Ashland have to say about their writing process, the inspirations behind the EP and more below.

Misery” was the first song you released since 2019’s Over The Moon. Can you describe your time between releases and any major influences for the EP? 

ASIA MARIE: We honestly got so busy there for a while in 2018/2019 that we pretty much stopped writing together, which is why we lost our original sound on Over The Moon. I wrote almost the entire album alone, and while that was a great experience, it wasn’t Ashland.

Then the pandemic hit right after we released Over The Moon. It was a huge bummer because we couldn’t do any of the normal things that go with putting an album out, like tour or even practice together. This forced us to step back and think about who we are and what we want as a band. This [I] EP happened naturally as a result of that, and our rock roots resurfaced, which is where we feel most at home. 

So, it’s been really refreshing to get back to where we came from with a little experience sprinkled on top. “Misery” seemed like the perfect song to come back with.

How did you determine that now was the right time to release the EP?

MARIE: This was something that really just roundhouse kicked us right in the faces with one of our best friends/longtime producer passing away from cancer, our departure from our label [and] the pandemic hitting all around the same time. We were like, “What are we doing? What is the fucking point of all this?” And we realized if we’re not loving it, if our passion isn’t the driving force, then we’re not doing it right. That’s when we realized that the passion just comes from the music. From the writing to recording to releasing and touring. The music comes naturally, and when it does, it’s time to put it out and just enjoy it. None of the other BS really matters.

“Choose To Live” explores feelings of depression and how difficult it can be to pull yourself out of it. How do you hope your music will affect listeners? 

MARIE: Man, that song. I remember sitting down to write the lyrics, and I said to myself, “Don’t hold back. Say exactly what you want to say and just see what happens.” And that’s exactly what I did. I know some of the lyrics might seem explicit or triggering, but that’s why I wanted to use them. As someone who has long-term experience with depression, anxiety and [being] a survivor of two suicide attempts, I want to be a part of normalizing that language so people can feel more comfortable speaking up when they’re struggling or see someone who looks like they might need help. It’s never easy or comfortable to talk about or hear, but it’s real and so much more common than people know. I want our listeners who are struggling to be encouraged and know that there is hope for them. I want our listeners who don’t struggle with these things to know that their voices, their eyes and their ears play an important role in this fight.

Your music has a lot of pop influence, which was prevalent on Over The Moon. The EP has a heavier rock vibe. What inspired the change? Is it something you’ll continue to think about going forward? 

AARON WOOD: I think our music will always be influenced by pop because we both enjoy the production elements that pop brings to the table. As for the change, much of our earlier releases were very rock-leaning. Going back to our roots for this EP felt like the most natural and honest version of ourselves. While we will certainly crank out some slow jams in the future, I don't see the overall rock vibe ever completely going away again. When we started putting together these heavier songs, it felt like a long-lost piece of us had been put back where it was meant to be.

As your first independent release since 2015, how has the process for this EP differed from previous ones?

WOOD: Everything was up to us this time around, which was both liberating and terrifying at the same time. It was hard not to get lost in the endless possibilities. Luckily, we have our incredible manager Jenn, who helps guide us through all the decisions we need to make. Honestly, though, I think the biggest difference with this release has been the fact that we're in the middle of a pandemic. The typical avenue for releases is to put out music and then tour as hard as you can. With no tours happening, it's forced a lot of bands, including ourselves, to find other means of creating engagement without physically going from city to city and making that in-person connection.

Now that you’ve dropped the EP, does the band have any other plans for the rest of the year?

WOOD: For the foreseeable future, we'll be releasing content around this EP. The plan is to keep writing in the meantime, so maybe we'll put out more new music later this year.