Ashes Of Babylon

ASHES OF BABYLON: CULTURE OF LOUISIANA REGGAE

Throughout the Austin Reggae Scene there have been quite a few bands that have earned a tremendous respect among fans and fellow locals not just for their great music, but in the manner in which they communicate that music. It’s a universal connection between the music and the fans, and only a certain few can capture it; Ashes of Babylon is one band that has truly captured that essence and it shows time and time again. Ashes of Babylon is a unique blend of jazz, hip-hop, funk, and R&B, all brought together under the umbrella of reggae, and need I say, is one of the most talented groups I’ve seen in a long time. I recently caught up with guitarist/lead vocalist Jacob Crenshaw, (while in between tour dates) as we talked of the early days, the songwriting, and the fans responses to their most recent effort Day to Day Living!

AUSTIN420: When did you guys come together as Ashes of Babylon?

JC: Ashes of Babylon was started in 2006; I actually was not a part of that. I joined the band a couple years later. Cory and I had been playing music in the Virgin Islands and then again in Georgia in a couple different bands starting in ’03. Then Cory had to move from Georgia back to Louisiana and within a couple weeks, he started Ashes of Babylon. Living in the Virgin Islands, you know, reggae music just gets into your blood. It was only a matter of time before I just kind of followed because we had been playing music together before, and it was reggae music; they were even playing a couple songs that Cory and I had written together, so I just kind of jumped right in. Yeah man, we’re going on 6 years now.

AUSTIN420: Who are some of your biggest influences, musically?

JC: Well, it’s hard not to sound too cliché and to say what every other reggae band would say, but obviously Bob Marley because he was responsible for exposing the world to reggae music. We like to blend a little bit of everything that we listen to, to the music that we make. So, I have to say everything from jazz greats like Louie Armstrong and Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, all of them to the funk bands like George Clinton, not to pin down particular influences because we’re such a big band. There’s eight of us and we all listen to various things and we are all inspired by different things, but we all come together under reggae music, and so we like to mix everything that we like. Our common ground is reggae which is sort of why we call our music “Louisiana reggae” because everything that comes from Louisiana is just a mixture of cultures.

AUSTIN420: With an ensemble of very talented musicians, how are your songs, typically composed and written?

JC: Well, it depends. We have a few songs that kind of start out as a jam and someone will run with it, but for the most part, we have 4 individual songwriters; most of our hip-hop inspired songs are Beau’s, and then Cory writes more rootsy stuff, Scott is a little more pop, a little more Louisiana. So a lot of times, we’ll have one of us write a song and have it (for the most part) done, as far as structure of a song, but then we bring it to the table and rehearsal, or whenever we’re on a writing kick or have time to pursue something new, then we’ll all bring it together, and that involves a lot of co-writing and eventually they end up becoming the signature Ashes of Babylon sound (no matter who wrote the song). We always aim to keep a consistent sound no matter who is singing. That can be a difficult task sometime, considering that the four of us have such different styles from one another, but that’s where coming together and being on the same page comes in. No matter what kind of solid reggae bass-line Cory or I may come up with for one of our songs, it’s going to get funked-up as soon as Eric starts slapping away, it’s just inevitable, just one of those things.

AUSTIN420: How has the response been to your previous effort in Day to Day Living?

JC: Well, pretty good man! It’s always good to have a record out there because our goal as a band is to play live no matter what. No one’s really buying records anymore, everyone can download your stuff, but that also means they can download your music for free, and we understand how that works and so, we always aim to bring a good live show and have fun while we do it, but at the same time, to have fourteen songs, all with the same vibe, all the same sort of feel, and something they can leave the show with in their hand, put into their CD player, their I-pod, whatever; it’s something that they can take with them. I think the response has been pretty good. We don’t have a huge national fan base because we don’t tour, we’re strictly independent, we don’t have a manager, we don’t have a booking agent, we don’t have anything outside of the AOB camp. We’re strictly grass-roots to this point, not to say that’s not going to change, but as long as we can rock it, just the eight of us, then we’re going to do it. With that being said, the album peaked at I believe 24/25 on the I-tunes Reggae Charts and it saw some good reviews. We haven’t had any negative press about it and we’ve got nothing but love from the fans, so I can’t complain.

AUSTIN420: Where are your tour plans taking you guys this summer?

JC: We started our summer tour (I guess unofficially) a couple weeks ago. Since we all have other jobs, we take in a week to two weeks at a time, but aim to stay ‘on the road’ as much as possible. We get to play a lot of fun gigs. We have some shows in Austin coming up and then we’re going to set out for a good two-week stint at the end of July where we’re going to do a Gulf-Coast, more just a south-east U.S. Tour. We’re going to head all the way out to Georgia, maybe go as far as Savannah, and then cut back through Florida. So we’ll have an opportunity to play all the cities that we’ve been building a fan-base in over the last 6 years as well as some new ones. Our destination gig is Fort Benning, Georgia on July 28th and so we get a chance to play for the soldiers out there on post! And then that night, we’re going to play in Columbus, Georgia downtown at a place called The Loft that Cory and I have been really dreaming about playing. We actually lived in Columbus and went to school at Columbus State University; that was in the pre-AOB Years, after the Virgin Islands but before Ashes of Babylon was founded in Louisiana. When we were playing in Georgia that’s where we were living, and so we have some friends out there, and this is just one of the spots that you can go see your top notch musicians and has the best sound in town, has the best atmosphere, etc. We always wanted to play there and this time it just kind of fell into our lap, so we’re pretty excited about that, and to get to play for the soldiers, and then to be able to play at the premiere music venue (all in the same day) ought to be fun! And we’ll be playing The Austin420 3rd Year Anniversary show, which ought to be a fun “homecoming” for us!

AUSTIN420: Where do you guys particularly stand with medical cannabis and/or the legalization of cannabis in Texas altogether?

JC: You know bro. I really think that as a nation we’re making a lot of progress. We’re coming up to the point to where very soon we’re going to have more states than not that are just plain out decriminalizing for medical use. To ignore the benefits of cannabis as a medicine, it’s a sad thing, you know. There are so many medicines out there, but for lack of a better way to say it, the cure is worse than the disease. But then you know there’s a natural remedy that we can turn to. I think the state of Texas with as right-wing as it is, it’s a red state and the biggest one there is. I think we may be a little slower-growing in the movement than maybe other states, but we’re going to do what we can. I feel blessed to have a voice with Ashes of Babylon; people know how we feel, because it’s evident in our music and we don’t shy away from talking about how we feel.

AUSTIN420: What has made Austin home for Ashes of Babylon?

JC: It was kind of a funny set of circumstances. We had played a few shows in town while still living in South Louisiana and hadn’t really considered just out-right moving, but we realized that we had a good response and that we were building a group of fans here in the Austin area and Cory and I had talked about “possibly” moving. We cut our first record Revolutionary Roots, we recorded it all ourselves and then Eric’s uncle, who lives here in Austin, he works at Yellow Dog Studios and he did the mixing on both of our records, and was an engineer on Day To Day Living. So we had been in touch with a few Austinites and set up some shows. We had a warm response at the Flamingo Cantina and every time we play there, it’s a blessing. Cory and I talked about ‘maybe Austin would be a good place for us to live?’ It’s a bigger music scene and in Lake Charles, Louisiana it’s not a huge scene. We got to where we were packing the shows, but then you know we really weren’t traveling a whole lot, due to day jobs and school from one person to another, but the problem is that it’s a hard thing to bring up to a 7-piece, which we were at the time. How do you bring that up to five other guys some of which have children and wives? One day after practice, Dan, our drummer, told us that he’s going to have to quit the band because he’s going to move to San Marcos, Texas, so we looked right at him and said, ‘alright dude, then we’re moving too’ (laughs). ‘You’re not going to quit the band!’ ‘We were going to move, and didn’t want to move without you. Great, now we get to move together; you’re not getting out that easy.’ That’s what brought us out here. If Dan wasn’t going to move, I think we probably wouldn’t have moved, but we’re a band, we look out for each other, and we lean on each other at times, and we’ve become a family over the last few years and forget finding another drummer, we have a great chemistry and we’d like to stick with that. We’re not one of those bands to have hired-guns, you know; we have a solid brotherhood between all of the members and I think that’s important to making good music. So we stuck with that and made the move, made the most of it and it’s turned out to be a good move. Austin has treated us great, we’ve made a lot of great friends, there are countless places to play, a lot of shows with world-class sound and staff all over the town; it’s really a fantastic place, because my favorite thing to do besides play live music, is to see live music. I mean we’re in the Live Music Capital of the World man, I can see anybody I want to see. All I got to do is look in the Chronicle or look at any entertainment rag, or google it and I can find somebody that I want to see on just about any day of the week, possibly for free! Any style of music man!

AUSTIN420: Since you guys are headlining the 3rd Year Anniversary Bash for The Austin420, is there anything you want to say to the folks out there or any final comments?

JC: It’s going to be about a month since our previous time playing in Austin, it’s kind of close together but we do play in Austin a lot, so it’s really no biggie. We played Red Eyed Fly before for your birthday party and that was a blast, so I don’t see why it should be any different? We feel blessed with the opportunity. You’re going to have an anniversary party; we’re honored to be the band selected to play. ~