Ash is heading back to Austin, TX next month to mark their return to SXSW after a seven year absence coupled with several US headlining dates around the annual music festival. The band -- Tim Wheeler, Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray -- is thrilled to return on the heels of their 20th anniversary together which was marked by the US release of their famous A-Z Series. Out stateside in November 2012 on Noyes Records, the series was released as a Special Edition Colored Triple-Vinyl with a card to download the digital version (plus bonus content) and the entire A-Z Series was made available via all Digital Service Providers for the first time in the US. The original three piece hit the road in the US this past fall to coincide with the A-Z release, kicking things off with Weezer in Florida before heading up the East Coast for several headlining dates.
From their earliest gigs on the Belfast club scene, Ash built a rep for churning out punk-fueled power pop with a harder edge than the ubiquitous Britpop of the day. Their first official single, "Jack Names the Planets," won them quick recognition in the UK; two years later, the British press was near-unanimous in its praise for the platinum-selling 1977, which led to a supporting slot with Weezer and their first trip to the states. (The self-funded film Teenage Wildlife, narrated by actor Ewan McGregor, documents the riotous escapades of that insane year on the road.) By the end of the '90s, guitarist Charlotte Hatherley had joined the band, and in 2001, they had another UK hit on their hands with "Shining Light," from the number one album Free All Angels. After 2004's moody Meltdown, Ash stripped down to a trio again and took up residence in Manhattan at their newly minted Atomic Heart Studios. Twilight of the Innocents, the band's fifth full-length studio album and last for a major, really made Ash rethink the way they were releasing music and found them wanting to break away from the album-tour-album cycle they'd been in with their recording contract. "That's where the idea for A-Z came from," Wheeler says, describing the band's daunting mission to record and release a new song every two weeks for a year. Starting in May 2009, Ash delivered "Return of White Rabbit"- the precursor to what was to follow, 26 straight singles, now collected for the first time in the special edition triple-vinyl package released this past November.
With the original trio back in form and the A-Z Series out in the US, the band was thrilled to play their first high-profile gigs this past fall including the Florida shows with Weezer and a headlining show at New York City's Bowery Ballroom. Just watching them on stage, it's hard to believe they have been making music together as Ash since 1992. "We were all 15 when we started, so we still feel like a very young band," Wheeler marvels today. "It almost doesn't make sense that we've been around for so long!" Catch them when they return to SXSW this year and see below for a list of confirmed US headlning dates.