Imagine owning the luxury of assembling a rock outfit with a world class vocalist, rock/blues guitarist and drummer, headed by the bass player of one of the former hottest bands on the planet.
And despite casting a talent beyond the dreams of music producers, it has been a deliberate ploy to tag “Gary Beers of INXS” as a feature of L.A. based AshenMoon. After all, bass guitarist Beers “will always be part of INXS…and deserves to be so” – we at Around the Sound agree.
Not to be overshadowed, vocalist Toby Rand has torpedoed across the world stage with some of the hottest names in the business. The Melbournian rose to stardom in 2006 on Rockstar: Supernova – which in our opinion, remains the best reality show of its genre. Rand may have ended as the second runner up to Lukas Rossi and Dilana, but in the real world, the Juke Kartel vocalist shines with one of the most arousing, gut wrenching vocals, oozing a palpable sincerity and honesty with sheer but composed desperation. The front man propagates his story as strikingly as he appears, driving an underlying rugged sex appeal through his stage presence and vocals in every hook, verse and chorus.
While there are inevitable signs of DNA of the four members’ previous works – be it of INXS, Doherty, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, David Foster, and other hall of famers, the band have ensured AshenMoon are not a replica, or even an evolution of the legendary Australian outfit, as the super-duper quartet pummelling with some of the most original and fresh sonic propagation, blending a fusion of the 70’s, new wave and modern rock n’ roll.
The single Dustbowl is a “kaleidoscopic view into a world of a confusion and division” carrying hints of the 80’s synth groove and classic rock tale. As Beers explains, the present-day catastrophes have been forthcoming, festering from humankind’s callous acts towards nature and animals, culminating into the worst pandemic of our lifetime.
Mosquito is “perhaps a metaphor on what’s happening to the world for not being nice people”, engrained in a classic rock with scintillating riffs by guitarist Jimmy Khoury, a pretext to an epic ending by Rand. With both singles forming the gestation period of a much-anticipated album, it is likely the promise of an eclectic mix of psychedelic rock, blues, ballads, and pure rock and roll for the remaining tracks will make way for a musical journey of a classic showcase.
The Gary Beers speaks to Sheldon Ang of his latest band Ashenmoon, and rekindles with INXS, culminating into a poignant moment of reflection to the “sweetheart” Michael Hutchence.
Sheldon: Are you still in L.A…and have you been good?
Garry: Yeah, I’ve been here for about 15 years. And I’ve been good and busy with the release of the AshMoon’s singles. The response has been overwhelming where I have been doing a lot of press. We’ve been stuck in the studio rehearsing.
Sheldon: Has a new band always been in the back of your mind…or did you wake one morning and decided, ‘hey let’s create a band!’
Garry: I have always been into writing, playing and recording. I just hadn’t found the right combination, and it just took me a long time to do it, and the people to do it with. I’m kinda fussy that way. I met Jimmy fifteen years ago when I moved here to LA. And then I met Toby three years ago. And we were in the band called STADIUM. We realised it took us forever to start an original band with original music. We called the band AshenMoon and the three of us have recorded the album – and that’s where we are right now.
Sheldon: Toby’s vocal projection is one of the best in the business.
Garry: He’s an amazing man, he can sing anything. And I am really impressed with his lyrics. And it was the right time for him to say something at this right age, to give him something to talk about. The album has a lot of lyrical content, sung with an amazing vocals.
Sheldon: With the likes of Toby Rand, Jimmy Khoury, Sebastian Gregory (drummer), the band look like the next version of Rockstar: Supernova.
Garry: (Chuckles) I guess, yes. In a way it’s a superstar band. Jimmy is certainly the best blues/rock guitarists I have ever played with – he’s incredible. And we have Kenny on keyboards. We had a couple of drummers. We had a drummer Jason Ganberg from a band called Dorothy. And we really had a good line-up of musicians at the time of writing up the records. We wrote the records at my house studio.
Sheldon: And it feels that AshenMoon blends into the 70’s, new wave and modern rock and roll. Was this something that perhaps you and the boys decided to do right from the start…or something that was decided after a few jam sessions?
Garry: We’ve been playing in bands and cover bands, and playing some work of U2 and Simple Minds, Zeppelin, and Deep Purple…and the music we grew up on. And I was lucky that I grew up with some of the best rock and roll that has ever happened. And I guess everyone is in that scene if you grew up in the rock band era. So we just grew up with that, and we have our favourite music and our favourite way of playing.
Sheldon: And you’re the bass guitarist, and I think AshenMoon is kinda bass orientated. How much of INXS’ influence has been inseminated, perhaps subconsciously into the music of Ashenmoon?
Garry: You might want to change it to ‘conscious’ because my conscious wants to not make it INXS at all. I want it to be its own band. So did Tony and so did Jimmy, I guess I’m the bass player of INXS and I have always been. So you will listen some influence whether I like it or not…which is a good think because I am very proud of my days in INXS. And I am very proud of what we’ve achieved and looking back at Ashmoon, I am very proud of this project and that’d be great if there’s some discrete similarities and it wasn’t intentional. So you are right – it is ‘subconscious’.
Sheldon: Speaking of state of the mind, the first single, Dustbowl is a message to people to trust their own path and journey into their inner self from an unbalanced climate. With all the things that are happening, it seems now more than ever the message is more relevant. Do you agree?
Garry: Oh, I totally agree! We’ve been leaning towards this for a very long time. Humankind has been on a path of major problems for a while now. And it took for a while for the planet to give us a kick in the butt, ‘enough is enough’. And whether we learn from this is lesson or not…is a cost to human history right now. It is just observing that humans are not looking after each other and on the animals. Overall, we are not a very good race of beings. And this is just a version of where it’s about to go.
Sheldon: Hopefully we can learn from this lesson. The second single, Mosquito is an interesting track. The song is about a wake-up call to step into action. Tell us more about this song. And why ‘Mosquito’?
Garry: It started when I was playing on a track as a bass player, and my little vocals sound like a mosquito. I started the guitar and started to write the lyrics, and Jimmy came in with ‘daylight vampires’ (in the lyrics). And the mosquito is something of a very Australian thing, part of our lives. Perhaps it is a metaphor on what’s happening to the world for not being nice people.
Sheldon: It sure is. I heard there are 13 songs in the upcoming album. Why were Dustbowl and Mosquito chosen as teasers?
Garry: The album has 13 great songs, and the first 2 songs are very important. It represent the diversity of the album…they are very strong songs; Dustbowl has this hint of the synth 80’s groove and a bit of classic rock tale in it, and Mosquito is a rock song and a very interesting touch musically, and a classic…Toby just grows crazy at the end. Musically it is very good with great riffs.
Sheldon: Maybe you can give us some indication of the remaining songs…perhaps more of an eclectic mix?
Garry: Oh it is very eclectic, with psychedelic rock, and we got classic pop rock, and we got some great solo work, and we got some really heavy song, and we got some ballads, a couple of beautiful songs; it is a mix and we want to make a record that takes people on a journey of a classic album.
Sheldon: Looking forward to that. So, when will the album be released?
Garry: Well, we are still working that one out. Normally we would be out touring and promoting, and now that’s all change, and we are trying to work out the best way to get songs out and when to release the album. The album will be out later in the year…and we’ll be probably be releasing more songs and make everybody happy. We don’t want to rush the record out as it took a year to record. We want people to be in a position to listen to it.
Sheldon: I suppose you want to promote your album while doing gigs, hey?
Garry: That’d be good, but I don’t think that’ll happen for a while. I know America will be in lockdown for awhile. So we’ll just have to see. We have meetings with our record company and see exactly the right time when to release the record. And to release it on Vinyl and on CD, and different ways of releasing it and making sure everyone gets their value for money and a good chance to listen to it. I believe music is a good healer and music is very important to have it in your life, especially now that they are stuck at home. I want to make sure that they have a chance to listen to it properly.
Sheldon: Are there plans to head back to Australia when this pandemic “ends”?
Garry: As soon as we can, we will…we love to get back to Australia and I haven’t been back in five or six years…and I haven’t been back with an original project, ever. I’m looking forward to that and there are three Australians in the band. I’m looking forward to bringing Ashenmoon back to Australia.
Sheldon: On that note, I keep seeing “Ashenmoon featuring Gary Beers of INXS”. Are you still with INXS?
Garry: INXS do not play live anymore, but we still exist. I guess we still have a band that has websites and back catalogues that still sell, and I guess we still maintain that level of INXS. But I will always be Gary beers of INXS I mean I do deserve that (chuckles) since joining with the Farriss brothers. So I will never, never stop being Gary Beers of INXS…and that is all I did…but I am recording with AshenMoon now.
Sheldon: Now you’ve brought up INXS a few times (chuckles)…apparently, I’m allowed to ask you some questions on INXS. Is that OK?
Garry: Of course! Of course!
Sheldon: Thanks man. How was it like to be in one of the biggest bands on the planet?
Garry: Oh, obviously it was very exciting. There was a lot of work…we had to work our butt off basically. We had been doing it since high school to get to that position and “Kick” was our biggest album – and it was our sixth studio album. You don’t get that amount of time these days, to learn how to play and to learn how to perform and record. And you don’t get that much time at all. We just toured and we just learnt (as we go along), and by the time we had it all together, we were one of the best bands in the world. We really enjoyed touring around the world, perform to people and meet people. We did that for a living, and it is a pretty good existence.
Sheldon: It must be really surreal to be playing in front of a packed stadium.
Garry: Yeah, we played at a packed Wembley Stadium and that was 72,000 people – a very unique place to play for everybody. It was just magic playing in festivals, and it was always amazing that we can play in front of 100,000 people. And we’ve played in front of 250,000 people.
Sheldon: Was it difficult for you to walk down the streets?
Gary: No, I was kinda lucky. I was the bass player so I tend to hide at the back, because when I’m at the front I can’t hear what I’m doing…so at the back I was with Jon (Farriss) on the drums and Andrew (Farriss) on keyboard, and so I didn’t get recognised that much. I didn’t do much of the press back in the day…that’s more for Kirk (Pengilly) and Michael (Hutchence). So I was still able to be in the biggest band in the world and still be walking down the streets. I can just go to some gatherings and to the footy and enjoy all of the simplicities of life, while being in the biggest band.
Sheldon: Michael must be the coolest dude to hang out with.
Garry: Michael is a great guy, a sweetheart and a wonderful guy. Obviously people have their ideas of being a rock guy, but he is a really down to earth guy and caring for other people…caring more for other people than for himself…yes, he is a very caring and loving guy. And is obviously very talented, and I knew him since he was a kid in high school. We all grew up together, we are like brothers and we love each other. So yeah he was a very good man.
Sheldon: Garry Beers, it has been a pleasure speaking with you. It feels like I’m talking to my good old neighbour, you’re down to earth considering you’re from one of the biggest bands on the planet. Let’s have a beer when you’re in Perth, mate.
Gary: Thank you Sheldon, let’s grab a beer when I’m down there, bud.