He gets by with a little help from the Beatles
By Jonathan Perry, Globe Correspondent | June 9, 2006
``There's nothing like your band breaking up to give you freedom," says
ex-Pills singer-bassist Corin Ashley, explaining the genesis of his
solo debut, ``Songs From the Brill Bedroom."
disc, which Ashley celebrates Wednesday at T.T. the Bear's Place
(he opens for
Tommy Keene), marks a dramatic departure from the amped-up,
mod-flavored power-pop he perfected with the Pills, a Boston outfit
that built a loyal local following and a fierce one abroad.
as the title suggests, the new album harks back to the classic
AM radio anthems by Brill Building songwriters such as
and Neil Diamond. The most pronounced influence, however, is
the Beatles and that band's early '70 s acolytes, such as Emmitt
Badfinger's Pete Ham, and Harry Nilsson -- Ashley even covers
the latter's ``Daddy's Song."
was very much a conscious decision on my part to go in a different
direction than what
I had done in the Pills," says Ashley, whose
band went out on a high note with its well-received final CD,
2003's ``A Fistful of Pills."
the first time in my so-called career, I let my Beatles influence
run rampant," he
says. ``In the Pills, we were all huge Beatles fans, but
it was the one influence we were always a little shy about
using [explicitly] because our sound and ethos was super-defined."
fact, the Pills' penchant for manic tempos, crashing chords,
and high-energy guitar riffs put them closer to the camps
of neo-mods like the Jam and their forebears (the early
than the Fab Four. Ashley concedes that perhaps it was
the Pills' way of keeping its Beatles devotion at arm's length.
its old-school production style (the bulk of ``Brill Bedroom" was
recorded live to eight-track tape, with microphones set
up around Ashley's Cambridge apartment), and an emphasis
song craft over
showmanship, ``Brill Bedroom" closes the gap. Ashley
says he was going for the feel of solo-era albums like
Paul McCartney's ``Ram" and
George Harrison's ``All Things Must Pass."
the project, Ashley enlisted cohorts and onetime Pills bandmates
-- drummer Matt Burwell, guitarist Dave Aaronoff,
and slide guitarist
Eric Schmider -- dubbing his new backing band the Dirty
think people think of me as a wildly enthusiastic person about
music in general, and that's true," says
Ashley. ``But at the same time, there are a lot of
insecurities that go into the creative
process and so I still needed encouragement, and someone
to give me the thumb's up on things."
track, ``Gin & Panic," written as his old band was
breaking up, was ``the first real song I wrote where
I knew I was making a
solo record. That was me saying, `OK, smarty - pants
-- you've been jumping around at the end of songs
and trying to sell T-shirts. Now
what are you going to do?' So that tune was very
much me distraught and reaching for my musical comfort food,
which is anything with
an Apple on the label."
years of touring, Ashley eventually grew comfortable making music
his bedroom again, returning to the
place where most
musicians begin. ``For better or worse, the Pills
were a very ambitious band.
We had an agenda. We thought we were the best rock
band in Boston and we wanted to shove it in everybody's
I don't have any agenda. I'm not trying to build
a buzz or take it
next level, as they say. I'm 38 and not trying
to make it anymore. I just have these nice tunes and