The LEO interview: Advance Base

Owen Ashworth was Casiotone for the Painfully Alone for many youthful years. He has done the brave thing that many musicians have been too afraid to do — end a pretty good thing when the time came. Now starting to approach the onset of middle-age, Ashworth has started over with a new project, and a refreshed outlook. LEO caught up with the Chicago resident before bedtime.

LEO: How did you get from Casiotone.. to Advance Base?
Owen Ashworth: I quit Casiotone for the Painfully Alone in December of last year, after 13 years of punishing my ears with harsh, digital sounds. I couldn’t do it anymore. I was proud of what I’d accomplished with that thing, but it was time to put the old songs to bed and get some new ones written.

LEO: How does it feel to be a relative veteran starting from scratch in a new project? Exciting, scary, other…?
OA: It’s all of those things. Not many people know what Advance Base is, and until I’ve released some albums under the new name, I know I’m not going to get any where near the attention that I’d spent 13 years earning for Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. I had taken my small success for granted, because I was stuck in the middle of it. I was due up for some perspective. I’m grateful for the opportunity to miss Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. I hope it’ll make me work harder.

LEO: Do you think your new music sounds more mature, or “older” than your previous work?
OA: Older, for sure. I have different concerns as a 34-year-old man than I had as a 20-year-old man, and I think my age is certainly reflected in the lyrics I write. I don’t know if that means that sound of the music is any more mature, though. I think Advance Base sounds gentler than my previous work. My hearing isn’t what it used to be, and I’m happier playing quieter music these days. I bought a Rhodes.

LEO: How did you start making beats with Yoni Wolf of WHY?, and how did some end up on the new Serengeti record?
OA: I’m glad you asked about the Serengeti record. Yoni and I were both working directly with Dave, but never on the same songs. I produced six of the songs for Family & Friends and Yoni produced the other five. During our sessions, Dave would play me the stuff he and Yoni had been working on, but I didn’t get a chance to meet Yoni until after the album was finished. He’s a good guy and I’m glad to know him. I like the record we made.

LEO: You’re playing here in a coffeehouse, and in a chapel in Philadelphia. Do you prefer less-conventional venues?
OA: We’re also playing at an art gallery, a tea house, and an Eritrean restaurant on this tour. I’d prefer to play anywhere other than a bar, honestly. I don’t like hanging out in bars when I’m at home, so going on tour and spending late night after late night in loud, smelly rock clubs with disgusting bathrooms and dealing with drunks and their spilled drinks just bums me out. It doesn’t feel good to be the sideshow to alcohol sales. I’d much rather play for half as many people in an environment where people are showing up to listen to music, and then everybody gets to go to bed at a reasonable hour. How’s that for getting old?

LEO: Why Christmas songs?
OA: Christmas is a hard subject to avoid. There’s so much music about Christmas. It’s almost as common a theme as love. So many of my favorite musicians recorded Christmas songs. Some of the best songs are Christmas songs. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by Vince Guaraldi, for example, is a huge influence on the way I make music. That album is so beautiful. I sing about family relationships a lot, and Christmas comes up a lot when I think about family. It’s a complicated subject. I love Christmas and I hate Christmas. Christmas Christmas Christmas.

Advance Base with Concern
Tuesday, August 23
Derby City Espresso
331 E. Market St.

8 p.m., $5

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