Interview: Roadburn Festival
Heaviness isn't just about playing loud or slow. It's the feeling in your chest of like "ooomph", which is exactly what Amaya's music does.
This year Roadburn Festival has a big focus on “the underground” bands and artists, of which the Edinburgh/Scottish trio Ashenspire, healthyliving and Maud the Moth are definitely part of. All three bands/artists have had a great year, with Ashenspire releasing their highly appraised album Hostile Architecture, healthyliving releasing their similarly critically appraised debut album Songs of Abundance, Psalms of Grief earlier this month, and Maud the Moth releasing Brudenell Piano Sessions last year and playing some great shows, supporting Kayo Dot in London and Anna Von Hausswolff in Madrid as some great examples.
Whilst all three have been gradually building on momentum and getting more well-known in Scotland and surroundings, a lot of Roadburners will be unfamiliar with this trio, so a good reason for Sander van den Driesche to meet up with Scott McLean (healthyliving/Ashenspire), Amaya López-Carromero (Maud the Moth/healthyliving) and Alasdair Dunn (Ashenspire) for a very informative Roadburn-focused conversation.
E&D: Hi everyone, thanks for coming along for a chat. We have featured your bands individually in interviews before (Ashenspire / healthyliving), but tonight I want to talk about Roadburn Festival. It is amazing that you’re all playing my favourite festival, so let me just start with a brief rundown on Ashenspire, healthyliving and Maud the Moth, like who’s involved in what etc.
Alasdair: I think Scott’s kind of the centre of it all, like a lot of us know each other through having worked with Scott.
Scott: Yeah, when I was doing Falloch years ago, I ended up not enjoying it despite playing cool tours and festivals and I was learning how a lot of things in the music industry operated and I was like, I really love music, but this started making me lose my love for music. So I decided to try not to care at all about the music industry stuff and Falloch then became a place to invite people to try things, to play concerts and not have any other aim than the enjoyment of creation. It was just ‘let’s try things’ and Alasdair played some concerts with us and Amaya played some concerts with us. We tried lots of stupid things, like booking a studio for four days and recording two albums with two different line-ups.
E&D: And this was how many years ago?
Scott: It was at the end of 2014 when I started having these thoughts, yeah. And then it was around 2015 that the aim of Falloch became to try to find people that think about creation in a similar way. And then through this we got to meet a lot of extremely talented people. So yeah, I guess that’s where we all first ever started to get to know each other and of course, everybody already had their own projects too.
E&D: Ashenspire was already around at the time?
Alasdair: That’s right. I met Scott through Falloch just as a fan at Damnation Festival, and we just got talking and then eventually we started doing tunes together and then this was at the time that I was really just first doing Ashenspire and I was thinking about actually recording this. So I asked Scott “I wrote an album. What do I do?”.
I would have been like 20 or 21 at the time or something like that. And I had no idea what I was doing. So yeah, that was really where we started working together, which was Falloch and then Ashenspire was in a sort of gestation period. Scott recorded our demos originally and played bass on them, and then we’ve just kind of kept doing stuff together on that front with regards to Ashenspire.
Since then, we’ve worked on a whole bunch of different projects together. Scott was brought in to do all of Hostile Architecture. Amaya did some vocals on Hostile Architecture as well.
Scott: I wrote one of the songs for Hostile Architecture, the first one that was written for the album. Because I was annoyed that Alasdair was taking too long to write anything despite having spoken about a second album for a while, haha!
Alasdair: So, yeah, a couple of a few different albums together. We’ll talk about healthyliving in a second, I’m sure. But, I ended up doing some layout work for them as well. And that’s the kind of latest of the projects that we’re doing together.
Scott: And then me and Amaya first met at a concert…
Amaya: Yeah, I moved to the UK around 2013. But I started playing in rock bands when I was 14 so by that time I already had quite a lot of ground covered. I initially moved to Southampton and then moved to Edinburgh with a PhD offer. I didn’t know anybody here at first and it was through a friend in Spain, who recommended some local bands, that I started going to some shows. I met Scott at a show in Glasgow.
Scott: I thought it was actually funny because it was a week before when one of my friends in Edinburgh said “oh, I saw this really amazing artist at a concert” and it was Maud the Moth. And I followed your page online.
Amaya: By the time we met I had just released the second Maud the moth album, but I always wanted to have a more rock-adjacent band again so I guess it was the right time to meet too!
E&D: I remember seeing Maud the Moth at a small show at the Banshee Labyrinth a bunch of years ago, and I think you opened for all these really loud black metal bands. And you were just there on your own with your piano singing really beautiful songs. No band, just you, your piano and an amazing voice, which I found very impressive on many levels.
Amaya: Thanks! To me, being a part of metal or traditionally heavy environments is actually very natural. Because, first of all, I just really, really like rock and metal. It’s been the environment in which I would hang out as a music fan in Madrid. The scene I was a part of there was also very open-minded and wildly exploratory. I have played all-dayer shows where I shared the lineup with super extreme stuff like Wormed or grindcore bands like Trocotombix. I grew up going to lots of post metal, hardcore and grindcore bands in Spain, and I just really, really like that whole world and that’s like part of my identity as a person. With Maud the moth, however, I want to take advantage of my musical background and the registers where I feel comfortable as a performer to express, probably the same kind of concerns or material that maybe a really, really heavy band would. I empathise a lot with emotions that are more commonly found in heavier projects.
Scott: One thing I notice when we go on tour together, that at festivals people that really like Amaya’s music will often be wearing some extreme metal t-shirt, which I think shows that despite it being piano based music there is an aggression and some harmonic content that is in some way similar to more extreme metal genres.
E&D: There’s just something where people think that heavy music has to be really loud, with loads of big amps etc. But one of the best things I’ve seen at Roadburn was Anna Von Hausswolff who played on the main stage in front of 3000 people, and a lot of people had no idea who she was or what she was doing and she literally floored every single one of them.
Scott: Last year I had a similar experience with Midwife. Like the guitar and voice were super quiet and delicate, and it was just magic!
E&D: Are you still playing solo or do you have a band with Maud the Moth now?
Amaya: No, no, I still play on my own. Also at Roadburn it will just be me, my piano and effects and loops.
Alasdair: That’s kind of why Amaya is like the perfect Roadburn act, since the tagline is “Redefining Heaviness”, right? She’s literally doing that. Heaviness isn’t just about playing loud or slow. It’s the feeling in your chest of like “ooomph”, which is exactly what Amaya’s music does.
E&D: At some stage Amaya and Scott also got together to do healthyliving?
Amaya: Yeah. So we met at that Glasgow show and then we became friends, and then I did an album with Falloch, like all the vocals for that.
Scott: Which is the weirdest album I’ve ever made.
Amaya: It’s a very strange album, haha. Scott moved to Germany just after it, but by then we had become really good friends. I think it was mostly after we went to play Doom over London. We travelled down and then back in the car together and I realised we had very similar tastes and approach to music making. Not as much as in the bands we liked, because of the style and so on, but it became apparent that we were moved by the same types of things. Making music with Scott was always super easy too, just really straightforward, uncomplicated and very natural.
Scott: When I was living in Germany I was playing in lots of bands there and the first person I actually met was Stefan, the drummer for healthyliving. We ended up starting the project together, which was just keyboards and drums, but then almost straight away, another band he was playing in, Lasse Reinstroem, needed a guitarist urgently for a show, So I ended up joining that band! I played loads of gigs with Stefan. He’s probably the person I’ve made most music with and played most gigs with now, and at one point we had a track for Lasse that Stefan had written and he wanted some female vocals on it. Around this time, I had invited Stefan over to do something with Falloch and he met Amaya when we were just hanging out. And then when this song appeared, he was like, oh, I’m going to contact Amaya. So through that Amaya ended up doing the vocals for this track for Lasse. She suggested then that the three of us should have a band together. Or I think it was more like, “can we not just use this song for a band? Let’s just start a band.” So then that’s when the initial idea for healthyliving came about.
E&D: And that was how long ago?
Scott: That would have been 2019 that it was first mentioned.
E&D: And now you’re playing your debut show at Roadburn.
E&D: I actually don’t know of many bands that have played their debut show at a festival like Roadburn. I’m sure there must have been some, but it’s still quite amazing.
Alasdair: The only ones are usually like already established bands who are collaborating.
E&D: Basically you got three acts playing Roadburn, who are all interlinked with each other and are all kind of from the same place. That can’t be a coincidence?
Scott: It’s definitely not a coincidence!.
E&D: So, how did it all start?
Anaya: My PR Zoheb, from Qabar PR sent the Maud the Moth promo for my last album Orphnē to Walter and got me to do an “Under the Influence” article for Echoes and Dust. Walter saw my Under the Influence article, and decided to check the album which I guess he liked!
He put it on an “Essential Sounds” Roadburn playlist and after that, I was like oh wow. Roadburn is my favourite festival and I was like, oh, it would be amazing to play one day.
Scott: Of course COVID all happened. So there was talk of Amaya playing for a while, but there was no offer or anything and then he said in a magazine in Spain that he wanted Maud the Moth to play.
Amaya: Metal Hammer Spain interviewed Walter and they asked him if there are any Spanish acts he would consider adding to Roadburn and he mentioned Maud the Moth. I got to meet him last year at the festival, so then he asked me directly. By then, we had also released the first healthyliving single, which also got coverage on Echoes and Dust, and which Walter had also listened to and added onto the “Essential Sounds” playlist. When we met and spoke about Maud the moth playing in 2023 he also asked about healthyliving.
Scott: I conveniently said, “oh, we’re going to release an album next April.”
Amaya: So, I contacted him in the autumn and after a bit and getting a more formal offer for Maud the moth and healthyliving I think I mentioned that Scott played in Ashenspire. Conveniently dropping that information there, haha.
Alasdair: I was with Scott, Amaya and Rylan, we all went to Roadburn together last year. Just because I thought “this place looks amazing”, and it was! It was such a breath of fresh air for a music festival. Music with a capital M and a festival I really love. For example, they’re saying “we’re going to commission this thing, that you can only see here at Roadburn, because we want it to exist, we want this to be there for people to experience. We want it to be special and important.” It’s not just getting pissed in a field, you know, it’s proper art, and it was so special and affecting and so many bands that I just love. It was one of those things where I thought that our music would fit in really nicely there and it would be a huge, huge thing to be part of it. And yeah, so Amaya was already going. Scott was going to be there for Maud the Moth anyway and then there was healthyliving…
Amaya: I feel it was also independent from me mentioning that, or pure convenience though. It was Becky that contacted Ashenspire. So it wasn’t like me, you know, forcing anything, haha!
Alasdair: It did help that around about that time Hostile Architecture was blowing up a little bit. It did help that people were talking about it.
Amaya: But it’s obvious, like in their own right, it’s an excellent album and they’re an amazing band, so obviously they need to play Roadburn, it’s a given. They fit so well.
E&D: I agree. All three bands have very different sounds, but it all fits within the Roadburn genre. So what is going to happen at Roadburn? You know, you got good press lately, but there’s probably going to be loads of people there who have never even heard of. So, are you just going to do your regular thing? Can we expect anything special, like the unexpected Roadburn surprises? Is there anything like that going on in your minds or being prepared, or is there going to be surprises or is it just going to be you’re just going to do your show because you have so many people that might not have heard of you, so you know it’s in a way also trying to get your word out there?
Scott: I feel like I could answer for everyone. Ashenspire haven’t played live that much. Even though their album is really popular, hardly anyone at Roadburn will have seen Ashenspire before, like very few people. Maud the Moth as well, recently Amaya has been playing higher profile shows like Ampfest, supporting Anna Von Hausswolff in Madrid and the London show with Kayo Dot, but for the Roadburn audience at least Maud the Moth will be a new act to see live. healthyliving, of course, is brand new, so I feel like we’re all doing what we do, so people know what to expect. We’re not at this stage where half the audience would have seen us before.
E&D: Roadburn has many good visuals available to you as well, so you must be doing something with the backdrops or lightshow for example?
Alasdair: We’ve invited Tobias, who did the album artwork for Hostile Architecture, and he’s done a bunch of stuff for us. He’s going to be running some visuals for us, which is really exciting. I don’t even know what that’s going to look like.
Amaya: Both healthyliving and Maud the Moth have videos we have made with the artist who’s done the healthyliving video clips and some of the Maud the moth stuff too. I filmed exclusive stuff just for Roadburn. And I have a couple of simple scenographic ideas. It’s nothing really too elaborate, but it’s something that I’ve never had the chance to do before, and the fact that Roadburn offers this possibility in terms of space and equipment is really great.
E&D: Who are you all excited to see at Roadburn?
Amaya: I’m a mega fan of Julie Christmas, but I won’t arrive in Tilburg till Friday, and I am very heartbroken since I found out that she’s playing on Thursday. Also big fan of Giles Corey, it’s just heartbreaking stuff, so I can’t believe I’m finally going to see him. I also have friends playing like Sangre de Muérdago and Grift with whom I played a show in Edinburgh, and I really, really love their music so much.
After some lineup exploration I also discovered quite a few gems. The main one is probably Otay:onii of whom I have become a massive fan. I just think she’s incredible and I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the projects they’re involved in. Oiseaux Tempête are also really down my alley of maximalist, crossover avant-landscape things.
To me it’s a really strong year this year! honestly. There’s lots of stuff I have discovered and love so I’m really excited for it all.
Scott: Yeah, similar artists for me. Really looking forward to seeing Otay:onii and Giles Corey!
Alasdair: Mamaleek got announced really recently, which is going to be really good. I’m excited to see Backxwash actually, she’s going to be really awesome. I know Rylan really wants to see Nicole Dollanganger, so we’ll be sure to try and catch some of that. And Big|Brave as well, they are just really, really special.
Ashenspire plays on Friday April 21st at The Engine Room from 15:50-16:40, healthyliving plays on Saturday April 22nd at the Engine Room from 15:40-16:30, and Maud the Moth plays Friday April 21st at Next Stage from 18:30-19:20.
Photo by Oculus Sinistra Photography.