One of my favourite bands since setting this site up has been Brighton rockers City of Ashes. I’ve seen them live three or four times, always enjoyed chatting to the guys at gigs and loved their music, so it’s a bittersweet moment that the band is evolving into new and exciting things as Hear Lies.
Vocalist Orion Powell and guitarist James Macdonald have been joined by drummer Glenn Rice, in a move that hints at a positive future and brilliant new music after some difficult times over the last year or so.
The start of new beginnings
The news was first announced by James and Orion on a live Facebook video earlier this month. Orion told viewers: “We wanted to do this video because we’ve always focused on being as open and as honest and what you see is what you get as we’ve been able to be. So we didn’t want to write a big blurb that people read the first line of and think they’ve got the full story. I feel that peoples’ generic statements can be a little cold and false and we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to engage with you guys.”
The new developments trace back to the band going out on tour in Europe last year. As Orion explains: “It was a huge opportunity for us, we’re still very grateful for everyone involved in that tour, but that’s not to say it went without issues. Nothing to do with the personnel, the tour was cut short in Spain and that was extraordinarily trying for us as individuals because we’d worked very hard to scrape together any money that we could to be able to do that and right up to now – to this day – every single one of the four of us is still in debt for that tour.”
Upon their return last summer they began working with Glenn and, as Orion puts it: “We had some wonderful ideas and we started working on writing but also demoing a new record, which was a new experience. We were able to look at ideas in a more nuanced way rather than getting into a practice room, jam it out for a bit and hope it works when you get in the studio. And invariably something wouldn’t.
“You could go through every note and assess what worked and what didn’t. We were writing for the entire summer with songs in various stage of completion, we had parts of something like 30 or 35 songs. By the end of the summer we had picked five that were fully developed as ideas and really represented something different that we hadn’t shown before, and we thought would excite you all. And we started working on the next record for this band.”
They booked in studio time, went out on tour in November and people noticed that bassist Daniel Frederick (Freddie) wasn’t with them. Orion continued: “Just after that tour Freddie called us all individually, was very sweet but said ‘the truth is, I’m out’ and he officially left the band around early December. We didn’t want to panic anyone or make some big melodramatic statement because it would have felt self-indulgent before we were ready with all the new stuff.”
Orion and James headed into the studio at the start of the year along with Glenn. As Orion says: “The most important thing was no matter what we got the job done in a good way. It was an amazing experience in the studio, despite everything, and it’s the most diverse record musically we’ve ever done. There’s some rock, gospel influence, punk, metal, country, there’s more than I could have conceived us putting into five tracks. So we’re really excited.”
The tracks spent a few months in mixing then went over to Canada to be mastered by Harry Hess, who’s previously worked with the likes of Billy Talent, Cancer Bats and Barenaked Ladies. The first track came back to them and that was when they realised the end result was no longer City of Ashes.
As Orion puts it: “We had a meeting with Dan (Russell, CoA drummer) and it came to the point that if we were honest it would be wrong of us or hurtful to try and claim it’s the same group of people who’ve produced the record.”
“So because of that, this new record is going to be out under a different name. I’m equally excited and very apprehensive about it, so I hope you guys have our backs because we need you.”
Out of change comes exciting new music
The first taster we have of this in action is the debut Hear Lies single, System Overhaul. It’s immediately that this track marks a step change musically – it’s different, it feels more refined, it’s edgier and heavier and it makes you want to scream along. It’s a song that almost musically reflects the changes the band have been through.
System Overhaul kicks off with high-pitched guitars then a big guitar chord, a guitar slide, burst of drums then a smash of rocky guitar chords. Orion’s trademark vocals come in, then a more aggressive blast of vocals build into a high-energy chorus dominated by Orion’s infectiously rocky vocals: “Push push, push push, p-push it back, Don’t be surprised when we react, Learning and burning to counteract, Life must be for more. I can’t accept when I grow old, I’ll just have lived the way I’m told, Push push, push push, we push it back, This is a system overhaul.”
The second chorus ends on a drawn-out guitar chord then a big cry of “This message in a bottle is a Molotov cocktail,” which brings the stabby guitar chords back in with synthy sounds in support. The guitar suddenly drops down leaving Orion singing the chorus vocals, then the guitars and synth kick back in for one final blast of the chorus.
This is a really exciting introduction to Hear Lies, catchy, energetic and rocky, and we think you’re going to love the new sound. In short, it’s a banger of a debut track. And, in Orion’s words: “I think this is the musically advanced thing we’ve put out in terms of complexity, certain elements of it anyway.” Check it out in the video below:
Of course, while the new music is an exciting step forwards, the band we knew as City of Ashes has moved on. As Orion says: “I was trying to write my thoughts, and wrote evolution has a habit of happening when you’re not paying attention to it. These things always happen before you’re ready for them or realise they have, so we were really aware of that. So many of you are so close with Freddie and Dan, we all still get on, but didn’t want you to feel like we were trying to tell you something false.”
Hear Lies will celebrate the release of System Overhaul with their debut show at The Hope & Run in Brighton on 16 June, at which they’ll be supported by our former New Band of the Week Colt 48 – so this’ll be a cracker. Tickets for that are available here.