Imagine having one of the hottest rock tracks on the US Billboard charts, gaining recognition around the world for your musicianship, but your music not being recognized in your hometown.
On the heels of their new radio hit Addicted to the Drug, for Ashes of Soma vocalist Randy Gray, that is a real-life problem. Gray says their song, which has reached No. 25 on the US Billboard rock charts, has received a great reception, but has not received much in the way of local airplay or recognition.
“It’s a shame though because around here there’s no station that would be playing it,” states Gray. “It’s unfortunate that there’s stations all around the States that are playing it, but locally, and even Detroit, there’s no real outlet for a new rock band because aside from the WRIF, there’s not really much where it could be played. It’s being played in Kansas and Illinois and Louisiana, but not anywhere near here, so people around here won’t be that familiar with it because there’s no radio station for it.”
Founded in 2002, with Gray on vocals, Mike Preney on guitar, Joel Bishop on bass, and Paul Doman behind the drums, after 20 years together, Ashes of Soma have stood the test of time. With the recent additions of co-vocalist David Creed and guitarist Brian Fry to the fold, the band has been cranking out singles.
“We haven’t stopped writing,” explains Gray. “In the past 5-10 years, it’s been constantly, ‘Write this, write that,’ but it’s just been a matter of putting out the music. In the past year or so, we’ve put about 10 or so songs and we have another 30 or so more coming behind these that we’re putting out. Aside from those 30 that are almost there, we always have constant new ideas. As long as the people are there to listen to it and as long as people are liking it, we’ll keep writing the music and keep putting it out because it’s something we enjoy, and we have the means to do it because we have our own studio.”
According to Gray, the COVID-19 pandemic, with its lockdowns and business slowdowns, created a perfect situation for at-home song writing. Early in the pandemic, he purchased a portable studio and started interacting with his bandmates online.
“I would be writing things and sending them over to my guitar player and he would write something and send it back over to me, then we’d send it to the band to check out,” says Gray. “We’d all have a little bit of input and send things back and forth.”
With a catalog of four albums, 2005’s Exit 674, 2010’s self-titles album, 2013’s The Singularity, and 2020’s Novel 1, the COVID writing sessions have jump-started a renaissance in the band’s career.
“We’ve been writing for the past two or three years, and trying to keep putting out a song a month, if possible,” reports Gray. Originally conceived by Preney, from these sessions, Addicted to the Drug was born.
“I had a couple ideas for vocals, but it wasn’t really complete,” he says. “After meeting with [producer Marty Bak], we started writing some lyrics together and changing some of the melodies. For the chorus, we were looking to sound a little more like Finger Eleven’s Tip album— [singer Scott Anderson] does a lot of falsetto stuff—that’s where the choruses were kinda coming from. We co-wrote that together, the three of us, in Marty’s studio and recorded a bunch of parts, we recorded a bunch of parts at Mike’s studio too, and decided to give it a whirl and shop it to radio.”
With the prolific output of new singles and the success that Addicted to the Drug has enjoyed, Gray says that Ashes of Soma is dedicated to sticking with the times and keeping the new tracks strictly digital.
“There’s no real need for CDs anymore because it’s really wasteful,” he states. “We’d have to put a CD out and who has a CD player anyways these days? Everything is digital. There is no real need for hard copies. I’m sitting in my truck right now and I don’t even have a CD player in this truck. So, I’d have no way to play it if I wanted to.”
However, if the conditions are right, performances could be back on the agenda for the band.
“Not necessarily any touring, but shows would be in the future,” says Gray. “We could always play in Detroit, but there’s lots of markets now that are asking us to come play there, but we’re not going to just drive to Mississippi for a show, so it would have to make sense to do it. We’ll keep pushing that single that we have, and when that runs its course, we may put another single out in the next couple months as well, push it to radio, and see what happens.”
After 20 years, the tunes are still flowing. Gray, who is now 42, says that the seeds of the band formed when he started playing at 16 years old with Preney while still in school. With the band expanded from the original four members to include Creed, who Gray says will handle the growlier vocals, and Fry, as well as inviting friends and session players like Shawn Walstedt on guitars, Ashes of Soma has discovered new ways of reinvigorating their sound and keeping the fans listening.
“If you put something out that people want to hear, and as long as ideas keep getting magically dropped into your head, and, for some reason, you say that I have to write this song, and put it out—then we’ll keep doing that,” states Gray. “If my mind goes blank and nothing falls into it, then I guess I’ll stop.”
“That’s the magic of song writing. As long as we have it, we’ll keep putting it out.”