Small Town Sounds Interviews: Aspire


(l-r) Ben, Joe, Jordan, Tam, Ryan

Despite having only formed a couple of years ago, Aspire have built up quite the following.

A short time ago, we ran a poll that asked our followers if there was a Dumfries & Galloway act they’d like us to interview.

They were asked to come up with their own suggestions, which others would then be voted on by other followers. By far the winners were 5-piece metalcore band, Aspire

Mentioning the genre of metal usually has one of two reactions – either an “oh my god I LOVE metal” or an “Urgh, no, metal really isn’t my thing”. But we’d always known there was a dedicated following for metal bands in D&G, and we’d seen it for ourselves at various metal gigs in the region. So we were not at all surprised by the results of the poll and we were thrilled to get a chat with Aspire, who just happen to be really nice guys as well…

Small Town Sounds: Firstly, can you all introduce yourselves?
Ryan Osborne (Ozzy): I’m Ryan and I play guitar.
Tam Johnstone: I’m Tam and I play bass.

Joseph Fryer: I’m Joe and I am the vocalist.
Ben Hood : I’m Ben and I play guitar.
Jordan West: I play the drums.

For the readers who may not be familiar with Aspire, how would you describe your band/sound?
Ryan: Heavy, melodic and dramatic.
Joe: Techy, heavy and fun!
Jordan: Heavy and groovy.


Aspire are well known for their high energy live shows

How did you all get together?
Ryan: Ben and I started throwing around some ideas for something a bit heavier shortly before our previous band broke up. We roped Jordan back in to play drums and built up the rest of the band from there. The three of us have been friends for years so it was a solid start.
Jordan: When our last band came to an end I knew Ben and Ozzy were working on some new material and in a different direction to what we’d been previously doing. Ben let me hear some of their ideas and I really liked what I heard and was keen to contribute.
Ben: We knew Joe from previously playing together at several shows in different bands, and we decided to ask him if he’d like to be part of this project. Tam joined in early 2018 and has been a great addition since.
Joe: I knew Ryan, Ben and Jordan from playing shows with my other band during the early 2010’s in and around the South West Scotland/North Cumbria area, we established a strong friendship and when the guys asked me to do vocals for their new project I was ecstatic.
You released your EP ‘Breathe’ in July 2017 but you haven’t released anything since. What have you been up to?
Ryan: We’ve been trying to get out and play that EP to people before we really knuckle down on getting another release out. The demo folder is looking pretty full at the moment so there will definitely be something new out there soon.
Ben: Yeah, we’ve just been jumping on whichever shows we can, writing, and demoing. There’s plenty of additional songs been written since the EP, but we’re aiming to save them up and get things all recorded properly later down the line. As for now, we’re just looking to branch out and play new places to new faces

Tell us about your process for writing new material – are all the band involved or is there someone who tends to take the lead?
Joe: Ben and Ryan usually come up with the ideas, then they demo and flesh out the tunes. Living in York, I usually rely on the guys to demo tunes to send down to me, then I’ll write lyrics and come up to record when I find the time.
Ben: I come up with an idea or two, and I usually end up writing a full song without a guitar using a programme called Guitar Pro, and return to it later to see if I can actually play it or not. Once I’m happy with things or feel I have done enough to send on for someone else to hear, I fire it over to Ozzy. From there, we either record a demo straight away or learn it piece by piece at practice. Lyrics wise it’s becoming more of a group effort, but has been left to Joe up until now.

Ryan: I leave most of the initial writing down to Ben, throwing in ideas here and there. When we’ve got most of a song ready we’ll set aside a day to get a demo together. Then I’ll usually work with Joe to get some vocals done.
Jordan: And somewhere in between I’ll write the drums to my preference and then we learn the songs in our practice space.

AspireWhat can people expect from your live shows?
Jordan: A lot of sweat.

Tam: Big kicks and big breakdowns.
Joe: A lot of movement and sub drops that’ll make you vacate your bowels.
Ben: Lots of energy and a professional approach to things I like to think, but we don’t stray from the shite patter between songs.
Ryan: Plenty energy. I’m pretty sure someone’s gonna fall over on stage sometime soon, so come see us so you don’t miss that.

How do you prepare for gigs?
Ben: Once we arrive at a venue I’m usually looking for the best place to set my gear up. I control the laptop for our backing tracks, and usually set up a GoPro somewhere in the room to capture some live footage too – I’m almost always juggling my gear around trying to find the best way to do things. There’s a bit more to it than just plugging in and playing for me. Once we’re actually on stage, I just go with the flow.
Ryan: We’re pretty spread out geographically at the moment so it tends to be a case of practicing ourselves then getting together for a full practice shortly before a gig. Pre-show is usually just a good stretch and warming up really. I’m normally the designated driver so no boozing for me, unfortunately.
Joe: I’m usually pretty sensible. Warm ups, tea, Vocalzones, plenty of water and some socialising.
Tam: I acquire 1 x £10 note and purchase 1 x Echo Falls of the Summer Berries flavour and finally 4 x Red Stripe. Get all that in me and I’m right as rain.
You’ve played all over Scotland – do you have any plans to tour further afield?
Ryan: Definitely. We’re hoping to get all over the UK as much as we can in 2019.
Joe: We’re hoping to get some shows down south soon, with some festival shows in the summer!

What has been your favourite gig so far?
Ben: The Inverness show at Tooth and Claw was a pleasant surprise. We were a little apprehensive about traveling so far up north but it turned out to be amazing. And we also came away with a bunch of new friends along the way. We would love to get back up there at some point this year. It was also an honour to share the stage with one of our favourite bands, Novelists, back in May.
Ryan: We did not expect such a warm welcome so far from home.
Tam: Yeah, definitely Inverness.
Joe: Gotta agree with the boys, Inverness for sure.
We asked our followers to suggest bands they wanted us to interview and Aspire received the most votes by far. Do you think it’s fair to say you have gathered yourself quite a decent sized following since you formed?
Joe: It’s great to think that so many people wanted to hear from us! We’ve been focusing so much on getting out new music and playing live shows, it’s nice to take a step back and look at what we’ve accomplished.
Ben: A great deal of the following is from close friends and people in other bands we’ve shared the stage with initially, but I think it is fair to say that we’ve done well with expanding our fanbase. Someone new always has something nice to say every time we play a show, and  I’d like to think that would continue throughout the future – small things like that make it all worthwhile in the end.

AspireWhat do you think about the Dumfries & Galloway music scene?
Ryan: It’s great for such a rural area and there’s a lot of support from people like yourselves at Small Town Sounds for up and coming acts.
Joe: It’s very close knit, with some great talent and even greater people.
Ben: There’s plenty of bands and musicians throughout Dumfries, the main challenge seems to be getting people out to actually come and watch those acts when they play live.
Jordan: Yeah, there are so many talented musicians in this area. It would be good to see more people at the local gigs.
Do you think emerging musicians here face any extra challenges through living in such a rural area, compared to those who live in the cities? Are there any benefits?
Ryan: It definitely has its pros and cons. Being this far from a major city can make it difficult to break into larger scenes there. Finding decent musicians can be a struggle too.
Tam: There’s a severe lack of drummers.
Joe: It makes it more difficult to get your name out there as local shows are few and far between! But it helps you to push harder and helps put your hometown’s scene on the map when you travel further afield.
Ben: I think it’s certainly harder to get your name out there, especially with heavier styles of music.
Jordan: Absolutely. It’s a lot tougher coming from a rural area but you’ve just got to get on with it and play as many shows as possible in as many places as people will have you.
If you could choose one venue and one festival that you’ve always wanted to play, what would they be?
Tam: The Coach and Horses in Dumfries.
Joe: Festival wise it would have to be UK Tech Fest, the vibes are awesome and the music is even better and suited to our tastes. I’d love to play Key Club in Leeds, or dare I say The O2 would be a life time achievement (although the very unlikely).
Ben: Yeah, UK Tech Fest would be cool. Don’t really have any dream venues though. As long as it’s playing a new venue/city/places to new people and continually branching out then I’m happy.

Who are your favourite local music acts right now?
Ryan: Bloodthread, 13 Crowes and my hometown boys The Shameful Bronze and The Sheepwagon. Is Carlisle local? If it is then From Here on Out are cool too.
Tam: Big up to my boys in Franky’s Evil Party and The Lutras, also Frozen Shores is banging. RIP Gracefell.
Joe: The Shameful Bronze and The Sheepwagon have been friends of ours for a long time. It’s always good to see those guys play!
Ben: For me it’s got to be Bloodthread, The Sheepwagon, Frozen Shores and The Dogz.
Jordan: All of the above. I can’t not mention the guys in Turbyne. They’ve been going a long time and are still grinding it.

What do you have planned for the next 12 months?
Joe: We’ve got some gigs lined up and hopefully some new music!
Ben: Plentiful shows and some new music.
Okay, now it’s time for some random questions…name one thing that annoys you the most in the whole world:
Ben: Jordan West.
Ryan: Jordan West.
Jordan: Broken cymbals.

Burger King or McDonalds?
Tam: Neither.
Ryan: Nah.
Joe: Maccies.
Ben: Maccies for chips, Burger King for the burgers though.
Jordan: Mon the Big Mac!
Who is always late to rehearsals?
Ryan: Guilty.
Tam: I’m usually too fucking early if anything.
Joe: Oh it’s 100% me, the commute is killer!
Ben: Probably Tam. Ozzy drives from Annan. Joe is also excused considering he’s driving from York.
Jordan: I’m always on time 🙂
Who spends the most time looking in the mirror?
Ryan: Ben is the mirror selfie king.
Tam: Aye, Ben for sure
Joe: Ben all the way.
Jordan: 100% Ben.
Ben: I appreciate a good selfie, so does Joe, man has more hair products than you’d ever believe. But aye, me.

What do you think of Gerry Cinnamon?
Joe: Who? Is this a Scottish thing?  
Ryan: I had to Google him to remind me who that was so clearly not very much. That Belter tune is class tho.
Tam: No thanks.
Ben: ‘Nothin at all’ – Ned Flanders
Jordan: He is a belter.

How many Terry’s Chocolate Oranges is too many Terry’s Chocolate Oranges?
Ryan: I’d love to find out.
Tam: Never too much Chocolate Orange. Never.
Joe: There’s not enough in the world.
Ben: I could probably smash 3 or 4 in a night before admitting defeat?
Jordan: Had one last night, lovely.

What’s your best hangover cure?
Tam: More cans.
Ryan: Hash browns and good coffee.
Joe: Coffee and closed blinds!
Ben: A trip to Ricos and a can of Irn Bru (original recipe, not the new shite).
Jordan: A week in bed.

Interview by Melissa Gunn.

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