Beyond the Boys’ Club is a monthly column from journalist and radio host Anne Erickson, focusing on women in the heavy music genres, as they offer their perspectives on the music industry and discuss their personal experiences. This month’s piece features an interview with New Years Day vocalist Ash Costello.
While women haven’t always been recognized the way they should in hard rock and metal music, there’s no denying the impact they’ve had on the genre’s genesis and longstanding success. Artists such as Heart, Joan Jett, and Lita Ford may have been anomalies when they first broke, but in the past decade, a new wave of women have made their mark on the heavy genres.
That said, women are still outnumbered.
Ash Costello knows what it’s like to be the only woman in a crew of guys. After all, Costello has fronted California rock band New Years Day for more than a decade and spent much of that time on tours that mainly featured male musicians.
“I’ve always been the girl among 30 or 50 guys on a tour or the girl among three or four male songwriters trying to explain the female perspective,” Costello tells us.
In recent years, Costello has noticed a change — a good one. There are more female musicians in heavy bands than ever. New Years Day spent last year on tour with fellow female-led rock bands Halestorm and In This Moment, performing to packed arenas every night.
New Years Day got their start in the mid-2000s, performing shows and attracting fans via budding social media sites and MySpace (remember that one?). Their journey has taken them everywhere from performing regularly on the Vans Warped Tour to headlining shows around the world.
Costello spoke with Heavy Consequence about women in heavy music and why she thinks the future is bright. Look for New Years Day’s new album, Unbreakable, to arrive later this year.
On how hard rock and metal music has been marketed over the years
I think playing an electric guitar was marketed to guys. Maybe teachers would tell the girls, “Play the harp,” or something else. Even though throughout time, rock ‘n’ roll was mostly marketed towards men, it’s not like that now and wasn’t like that in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I felt there was a big turnaround in those decades, and now, it’s better than ever. I think it’s still taking a while for women to catch on that it’s okay to pick up an electric guitar or play drums or bass guitar, but there are more women drummers and guitarists and bassists than there have ever been.
On the differences she’s noticed in the industry since the #MeToo movement emerged
For me, personally, in 2011 and 2012, I was on tour with a guy and opening, and he was really harassing me and other women on the tour and being really disrespectful, and I dropped off the tour and came forward about it. The fans of that person’s band attacked me and said things like, “You just want to get famous off this band” or “How could you drop off the tour?” Now, when girls come forward, it’s supported. It’s not attacked. That’s the biggest difference I see. Now, women can be more confident and say what they’re going through without people accusing them of making it up. I’ve noticed a big difference. If anything, it’s given women more confidence to come forward if there is an issue.
On the woman who most inspired her to get into music
My biggest inspiration was Gwen Stefani from No Doubt. I’m an Orange County girl, and she went to the same high school, not the same time as me, but the same place. If you were a kid in the ‘90s in Orange County, you had to love No Doubt, and especially if you were a singer. What I was really inspired by with her was that she was such a girly-girl, but she kicked so much ass and was so powerful and kind of dominant, but without losing her femininity. Before I saw her, I thought you had to be very girly or very manly and couldn’t be both. I think a big part of who I am is really inspired by her.
On her recent tour with fellow female-fronted rock groups Halestorm and In This Moment, and why it was so successful
I think people were waiting for it. It’s not like it was an idea that hadn’t been done before, but I don’t think until recently there had been an all-female rock ‘n’ roll tour. It just felt right. We felt that this was the right time. Nobody was worried for a second that it wouldn’t be a massively successful tour. The timing felt right, and you just knew. Right now, it’s hard to sell tickets for a lot of bands, and meanwhile, there were three girls selling out arenas.
I was living my dream of playing mass arenas that I went to as a kid to see my favorite bands. When I was a kid, I wondered what it would be like to be in a band and play these venues. I used to worry about it as a little kid! I thought, “Will my dreams come true?” In 2018, I got to live it every day.
On advice she would give to young women looking to get into the heavy music world
Have thick skin. You can’t take things personally. I had to learn that. You have to speak up and not be afraid if someone is going to label you a b*tch just because you have your own opinion.