After years of playing in other people’s bands—including a notable three-year stint with indie-rock darlings Cherry Glazer—conservatory-trained Sasami Ashworth decided that it was time step out and front her own project. What she produced with her debut, Sasami, is a collection of songs that will resonate with anyone whose ever wrestled with self-doubts, especially the kind that come from being locked with no exit plan in a dying relationship.
Ashworth’s solo debut kicks off with “I Was Window”, and the lyrics “There is a shadow over something that used to be a light/I was a window into something you didn’t like/So you blamed it on me”. The album ends with “Turned Out I Was Everyone” where the singer repeats, mantra-like, “Thought I was the only one/(To be so alone in the night)”.
Lyrics were often culled from notes and unsent texts stored in her phone. But Ashworth—who performs under her first name—suggests that it would be at least somewhat erroneous to think that the songs were part of an exorcism.
“I think the interesting thing about art is that things that I express might be similar to the experiences others are having—or maybe not,” the singer and multi-instrumentalist says, on the line from Los Angeles where she’s about to head out on tour. “That’s what’s special about music—there’s musical language, and then there’s rhetorical language that’s weird and ambiguous. So the record isn’t really about what I was going through. It’s more that what I was going through was powerful enough that I felt I had to express myself. It’s an extra cherry on top if people can relate to it.”
Skilled and perceptive as she is with words on her eponymous solo debut, Sasami Ashworth admits that she’s most proud of what she managed to accomplish on the musical side of things.
“For me, there are multiple parts to making an album,” the 28-year-old says. “There’s the songwriting part, which for me is five or 10 percent of making the album. Then there’s the crafting of the songs—the recording, setting up all the tones, hiring the right people to play them, mastering things in the right way, getting the right artwork. That 90 percent is what you do after the original sentiment that makes you write songs. It’s like I took a shit, and then made art of it. The songs are stuff that I just had to say.”
Art is indeed a great description for Sasami. Born in the ’90s, Ashworth comes off as a keen student of the decade on tracks like “Not the Time” and “Pacify My Heart”, which do shoegaze every bit as dreamily as Ride and My Bloody Valentine. “Free” gives Liz Phair-issue lo-fi a lethal injection of stinging guitar distortion while “Morning Comes” works a post-everything groove that’s deliciously hypnotic.
Whatever she went through—including finding herself single after years of being in a relationship—the singer is obviously over it today.
“When I listen to the songs now, what I find myself thinking is ‘How can I get that guitar sound?’ or ‘How can I recreate that part live?’” Ashworth says. “Because of my background as an instrumentalist, I connect to the instrumentation a lot more. So much of the time on this record was spent producing it. Because of that, I think way more about the music aspect of the song than I do the lyrics. When I perform the songs and when I listen to them, I don’t feel the same emotions as when I wrote them, which I guess says something.”
Sasami plays the WISE Hall on Saturday (April 13).