Sasami Wants Her Record To Be Your Ideal Astrology Meme
Tucked away behind bustling wooden tables and hipsters with headphones, in the corner of an East Village gelato shop, sits a young woman with pin-straight hair the color of midnight in an oversized cherry cardigan. On a warm winter day in New York, she sticks out in a sea of drab peacoats and beanies. The Los Angeles-based musician is used to warm weather, so a mild February day is a stroke of luck for her.
After a full day of press, Ashworth, 28, is ready to talk about her debut album. Well, she’s been ready for a while. Ashworth has been putting in the hard work toward her music career for decades, all culminating in the March 8 release of her debut album SASAMI. She crafted most of these songs while on the road with her former band Cherry Glazerr, which she joined in 2015 to play synths. Ashworth left the band in January 2018 to focus on her solo project.
On SASAMI, Ashworth’s music reads as a mix of a diary, unsent text messages and letters. She isn’t one to agonize over her lyrics; she’s an open book. On Instagram, she bluntly said the inspiration for the record was: “Everyone I fucked and who fucked me last year.”
The record is full of confessional commentary on relationships — ones with lovers and friends — but it’s also reflective of the relationship she has with herself. “I definitely didn’t overly think the lyrics a lot, which is funny, because even though I labored over all the arrangements and mixing and everything, the lyrics are pretty much wrote on the spot every time,” she explains. Instead, Ashworth wants to sharpen each guitar riff and perfect the arrangements.
Ahead of her album release, Ashworth spoke with TIDAL about the music that changed her life, the power of female energy and the relationships that formed her debut album.
What was your gateway into music?
Like most good Korean girls, I took piano lessons as a smaller child. And then I got into playing French horn when I was in middle school. I don’t remember, but for some reason I was super weird and decided to pick the French horn instead of the flute or the clarinet. It was probably the first sign of me being just a weirdo, having to pick the weirdest instrument.
That’s what ‘Callous’ is about. It’s about when I was in middle school, having to carry around that big case and my hands were all calloused. People don’t know the real story, the true story. I played classical music through college. It is the gateway
I was reading a recent Lizzo profile and she practices four hours per day on the flute. Did you do the same?
I used to practice six hours a day. I went to school in Rochester in New York. It’s so fucking cold that all you do is practice there.
Wow. OK, so, which album changed your life?
The first CD I ever had was the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. Even though I didn’t really get into the production, that record introduced me to that album format. [It helped me] understand the narrative and theatrical possibilities of an album.
Back to ‘Callous.’ You’ve been extremely honest about what that song is about in a different way. It’s about everyone who you’ve fucked for the last few years?
I mean, it is an interesting era where social media and art are combined and social media and identity are all intertwined. And, in some ways, social media can be an art form in itself. I guess it’s all performance art.
That record was definitely me processing while I was going on a big hookup streak at the time. That whole record traces a whole year of being nearly single, experiencing new relationships and having a new relationship with myself. It explores platonic relationships, too. It’s definitely a record about processing inter-emotional experiences.
What do you want people to feel after listening to your music?
I guess I would hope that people can use it as a catalyst to process their own emotions. I would hope that people feel the same way after they view their most connective astrology meme. You know when you see an astrology meme and you’re just like, ‘Yes, this is exactly how I feel’? That’s what I want people to feel.
Tell me what it was like working with Soko and Melina from Japanese Breakfast. How did you guys end of collaborating?
Specifically with Soko, it was interesting, because there was a point where I was doing some additional production on her record and we were recording some drums and Melina [Duterte] from Japanese Breakfast was engineering it. Soko had written the song and I was acting as producer in this session, Melina was engineering it and this dude, Matthew Eccles, who plays drums in Connan Mockasin’s band.
Melina has a home studio, so he was in this studio sitting at the drums. Melina has this technique where she uses pads on the drums as a mute; there were strips of giant maxi pads all over the drums and Matthew was sitting there and I was telling him what to do. And Soko was telling him what to do and Melina was setting up the drums, and I was like, ‘Have you ever had an experience like this, where there’s three queer women around you, telling you what to do in a session?’ He was like ‘Definitely not.’ And I was like, ‘This is the future, bitch.’ I just think that’s a very powerful moment.
Typically being in a studio, being in a guitar shop or being in a venue, you’re just enveloped in male energy, so it’s kind of been exciting to be in situations where female energy is actually the main force in the room. It’s a pretty new feeling.
That’s awesome. Tell me about what prompted your decision to go solo from Cherry Glazerr?
I was just making songs to keep myself busy and stuff. Then, at a certain point, I had enough songs to make a record. Cherry Glazerr was always [Clem Creevy's] band. It was her band before I joined it. We just wanted to be friends who supported each other.
Also, I just sunk so much money into the record that I was like, ‘I need to find a label. Better start playing the game.’
What artists do you find cathartic to listen to?
Definitely Elliott Smith, because obviously his music is hyper-emotional. And then I definitely listen to a lot of nostalgic music. Listening to Fleetwood Mac is pretty cathartic to me. Classical music, in general, has a lot of emotional baggage to it, because I spent so much of my time on it. It’s kind of like an old relationship or something.
The instrumentation is pretty amazing on the record, but I especially want to talk about the guitar work on ‘Morning Comes.’
‘Morning Comes’ was the first song I ever wrote, and it was the first song I recorded. My brother, Joo-Joo, and I play guitar on that song. At the time I was listening tons of Krautrock, listening to a lot of Can, Norway and Stereolab, My Bloody Valentine and tons of guitar music. So I was really obsessed with guitars. After playing synth primarily for three years, it was exciting to get back in front of my guitar.
That’s probably the most guitar-heavy song. I was collaging a lot of guitar influences. There are so many guitar tracks on that one. One would be super My Bloody Valentine, bendy-breakup sounding and then another one would be like Television-inspired and super angular post-punky. Smashing them together created this song.
What’s the most personal thing you share on the record?
It’s all pretty personal. I pretty much have a stream of consciousness and write the lyrics as I’m writing a song. [On] ‘Jealousy,’ the lyrics are extracted from a poem I had written, so in that way, it made that one a little less personal. It was more like a poetry lyric as opposed to literally a girl with a guitar [writing]. A lot of the other ones were, truly as cliché as that sounds, written that way.
I’d be in a green room in fucking Liverpool and really bummed out because whatever hookup didn’t work out and I was just writing. I don’t love that, that’s the narrative: that female musicians are vessels from this other place. Women who make records are truly bosses and orchestrators, arrangers and composers.
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