As the heavenly chorus that opens A Sunny Day in Glasgow's second full-length, Ashes Grammar, fades into focus, it's clear that something has changed for the Philadelphia-based dream pop explorers. Every note and nuance is brighter than the shoe-gaze hues, electronic/acoustic drones and noisy melancholy of their debut, Scribble Mural Comic Journal. Founding member Ben Daniels explains that the differences are less a matter of artistic intent than they are the result of extenuating circumstance. "I did the first record by myself in my apartment with one microphone and by plugging my guitar into my computer with no amps because I couldn't bother my neighbors," Daniels explains. "This time we rented a giant dance studio warehouse sort of thing to record. It's a totally different approach when you can play really loudly while working out a song."
Daniels and his twin sisters Lauren and Robin were the group's core line-up for Scribble Mural.... But ASDIG is the brainchild of brother Ben. "When I started writing songs with melodies and words, I asked my sisters to sing because I can't sing," he adds. "They agreed, but their hearts weren't into it. I kind of forced them to do it."
With Ashes Grammar a larger line-up has entered the fold, and only one sister – Robin – briefly appears on the record. "Failure," "Close Chorus" and "The White Witch" trigger subconscious pop comparisons. But they don't evoke the immediacy of typical pop hooks or melodies. Rather the droning sounds and textures propel the music on a skewed pop trajectory that somehow takes shape outside the realm of traditional pop.
After playing a show with ASDIG a few years back Farbod Kokabi and Farzod Moghaddam of local band Lyonnais launched the boutique record label Geographic North. They were so affected by ASDIG that they tapped them for the label's debut 7-inch. "Their pop sensibilities are perfectly matched with their experimental tendencies," offers Kokabi. "That's something most bands have a difficulty balancing."
Daniels is at a loss for words when asked to comment on his own musical intentions. "I'm not that purposeful," he says. "Whatever comes out is what comes out and I try to keep up once I see where it's going." Sometimes the best records write themselves.