Even’s Ashley Naylor on getting back at it

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Even’s Ashley Naylor on getting back at it


For Melbourne indie-rock heroes Even, seven appears to be their number. Releasing their seventh studio album Satin Returns, seven years after its forebear In Another Time (described as Even’s “finest hour”), singer and guitarist Ashley Naylor is a menagerie of feelings and thoughts – nerves, anticipation, pensiveness. In writing the new album, Even looked at themselves and their work in a way they haven’t before in their 25-year career – resulting in a very introspective and personal discussion with the frontman.

“It’s worth mentioning actually, it’s a rare, not rare, nice thing, that it’s still the three of us making music,” Naylor says. “I’m always nervous about releasing music but at the same time, it’s a compulsion, it’s something I have to do to create balance in my mind. I think we have a collective internal quality of control, whereby we don’t release anything that doesn’t sit alongside everything else we’ve done.”

Satin Returns sounds like Oasis have made friends with The Beach Boys. Such compliments about Even’s latest sound are met with a floored humility from Naylor. “I sometimes say it’s like Led Zeppelin meets Abba or Ramones meets The Beatles – I don’t know, I never know how to categorise our music, I just want to write good songs.”

Since January of 2014, Satin Returns has slowly come together. They say when you put in the hard miles, the work pays off, and, for Even, the proof is in the pudding. Writing this album was a process that couldn’t be rushed, for reasons Naylor prefers not to get too heavy about.

“On a musical level, the songs were recorded primarily as instrumental tracks,” he says. “I added my melodies and vocals later and some of that process took longer than I would have liked. My quest is to make it sound effortless but at the same time, a lot of effort goes into making it sound that way.

“Also, without putting too fine a point on it,” Naylor pauses, releasing a weighted sigh. “The three of us, we’re all grown adults now and we’ve experienced a lot of upheaval in our personal lives with a lot of people near and dear to us departing this world. Those kind of life events, in my world, take precedence over creating new music. Dealing with that takes priority. The way I look at the world, my creative energy comes after that.”

Naylor is evidently troubled by his experiences with the natural course of life, and understandably so. It’s not an area one wishes to probe. Naylor has been a musician since he was 17 years old and the one constant he’s had in getting over such hurdles is performing in this holy trinity of indie-rock – writing new music with his band helped the singer move forward. “Every day it does,” Naylor says.

“I hope I can speak on behalf of the band, because we have managed to keep making music together in the face of life changes, but I’m really proud of the fact we have finished the album. Music is an especially healing force. Every time I put on a guitar it’s part of what gives me some balance, some direction in the world.”

Playing the game since 1987, Even have longevity and inspiration. For Naylor, each album is a marker in his life, his music developing as he’s grown up. “I’m on a quest, I suppose. I often downplay my philosophical urges, but I think every time I put lyrics to music, I feel like I’m trying to counsel myself.

“I feel like I’m trying to either elevate myself into a higher state of being or console myself in a time of darkness. Musically, I tend to gravitate to upbeat, joyous music, because I think music is a great source of joy – I don’t feel compelled to explore darkness on a musical level, sometimes lyrically I can acknowledge it, but I think I’m just trying to achieve some kind of musical enlightenment by simplifying the process and trying to make things sound effortless,” he says.

Naylor gives the impression that for him, writing music comes as naturally as walking. “I think I’ve learnt by osmosis, working with other acts, I feel like I’m an apprentice, even though I’m a middle-aged man. I feel like I’m learning the trade every night I get on the stage. I want it to be natural, it does feel natural, but I keep saying to people who don’t work in the industry, it’s like an apprenticeship you’ll never get a certificate for. I’m trying to work harder at making it better.”

Even have set the bar very high for themselves and after all these years, it’s as if Naylor is still trying to attain great heights.

Again, he’s looking for the words to describe the sentiments he otherwise projects so easily through music. “To make albums you hope are good, you keep making them because you want to make a better one. If your vision is clear then yeah, I guess history has set the bar.

“Whatever albums are considered the greatest of all time, [you] invariably stack your albums up with those and think ‘How can I possibly make anything that great?’ I think the goal is to make it as great as you can make it within the realms of your creativity and talent.”