A Cathartic Journey: Exploring the outer limits of musical expression with Ruan Vos of SA solo project ‘Sold Ash’
Sold Ash is a Cape Town musical solo project by Ruan Vos with a self-described dreamy sound, influenced by artists as diverse as Portishead, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Massive Attack, Sonic Youth, The Kills, The White Stripes, The Machines and Radiohead. With the recent release of the album ‘Howl a Little Louder Just Don’t Spit in my Mouth’and a selection of eerie tracks earning thousands of listens on Spotify and views on YouTube, blunt caught up with founder Ruan to find out more about Sold Ash’s origins and his plans for the future.
Q&A by bluntEd. Photos courtesy Sold Ash.
How did Sold Ash come about, what are the origins of the band and its name?
It was during the 2019 lockdown when I decided to start a solo project. I was in a band called PXLS, but then decided to create my own thing during Covid because we couldn’t really do anything around this time and my best friend/singer had to move to the Eastern Cape for the time being. I kept myself busy with the project during the lockdown, releasing the debut EP and the first music video with my other best friend, Liam Cockcroft.
Where does the name come from?
I can’t remember exactly where the name came from, to be honest, although I wish I did. I should’ve written it down in my journal when I created it. I remember that it had something to do with themes of self-doubt and playing music for the wrong reasons. I was in a very strange place with my music and I remember catching myself focusing more on becoming recognised or something, rather than creating/playing/writing music that I enjoy in its pure and honest form. I never want popularity or wealth to become more important to me than my passion for creating music and playing guitar, and if it does, I’ve always promised myself that I then need to stop doing it, or at least take a break from it in order for me to remember why I started playing in the first place. The name Sold Ash has something to do with that, but I can’t remember the literary or poetic meaning.
“My music takes one on a sonic and cathartic journey that includes a mixture of noisy, fierce, tender and dream-like sounds and energy. I believe that my music contains some relatable subject matters and that certain people find a sense of comfort within the soundscape. But that’s if you resonate with it, of course, I’ve never wanted to pressure people into liking it.”
Is it mainly you with other musicians joining you for recordings and live performances? Why did you go this route and not form an actual band?
Yes, exactly that. For the most part, I played everything on the album except for the drums (that was Dolf Lombard) and some guest vocals, but I wrote everything. Per my definition, a traditional band is a total collaboration of individuals coming together to create magic. I guess with Sold Ash I wanted to take on that endeavour myself. I will most certainly join another band in the near future though! I’m a complete band person and I do miss the energy of being in a room together and creating songs as one unit. I even miss the arguments that come with it. Or perhaps I’ll bring in some collaborators for the next album, who knows? Sold Ash is fluid and anything can happen. I guess what I like about it is that I get to set the boundaries of the project – which is very convenient when it comes to logistical shit, like live shows and touring. Touring with a 4- or 5-piece band while everyone has day jobs and other commitments is a nightmare.
How would you describe your music?
I like to believe that my music takes one on a sonic and cathartic journey that includes a mixture of noisy, fierce, tender and dream-like sounds and energy. I believe that my music contains some relatable subject matters and that certain people find a sense of comfort within the soundscape. But that’s if you resonate with the music, of course, I’ve never wanted to pressure people into liking it.
Describe your creative process in putting together a single or album?
Mmmm, tough question, it’s all over the place. Sometimes I start with a bass line in the shower, and sometimes I come up with a music video idea for a song that’s not even written yet! I don’t have a specific structure that I follow to conceptualise a project or to write music, I just kinda start with whatever comes up in my mind first, and then try to execute that as far as possible – eventually all the puzzle pieces fall into place. It’s funny because I don’t really like working this way, it just seems to work best for me in order to get stuff done. I actually prefer things being super organised otherwise my anxiety gets the best of me.
You’ve released a few singles and shorter EPs since you started. How did the seven-track album ‘Howl a Little Louder Just Don’t Spit in my Mouth’ come about?
I was sitting with this album trying to do things systematically for two years. It’s only when I followed a very chaotic way of doing things that I really started reaching the finish line (even though I most certainly feel that the album is not yet complete, haha). I just had to move on from it to make space for new endeavours.
‘Howl A Little Louder’ is the 3rd single and title track from Sold Ash’s debut album ‘Howl A Little Louder Just Don’t Spit In My Mouth’:
What have been the highlights of your existence so far as a music entity?
The tour that we did in late 2022 for the album has been my favourite part of my career thus far. It felt unreal to release my first album ever, and then to play shows to celebrate it. We had such a special time and I don’t think I enjoy doing anything more than playing live.
How did you cope with Covid? What did you do during the lockdowns to stay sane?
Honestly, it didn’t affect me as much as I might think, or maybe it did and I’m just over it now and have kinda erased it from my memory, I don’t know. But for the most part, I was very busy making an EP and experimenting with many online things throughout the lockdown. It gave me time to do stuff that I’ve always wanted to – which is an extremely privileged thing to say and I’m fortunate for that.
“Local influences, mmmm, for me, Black Math is my favourite at the moment. I watched them recently and they completely blew me away. I really love drums a lot and Acacia (Van Wyk) is just one of my favourite drummers. The whole attitude of the band is just so badass, they don’t give a fuck.”
Playing again life after the lockdowns ended must have been amazing? Where did you first play for an audience and how did it feel?
It was The Revival Co’s launch show, as well as Sold Ash’s debut show at EVOL. It was a little bit strange. It wasn’t an out-of-body experience or whatever, like I thought it would be while preparing for the show or how I remembered shows to feel pre-Covid. I think during lockdown I lost a lot of sentimentality towards live music, which I’ve had to regain slowly again in time, and still am.
The SA music scene took a knock of course during the pandemic? How do you think it is recovering? What needs to be done to help it get back to where it was beforehand?
The only thing I really missed a LOT was the Endless Daze Festival, but besides that and all the wonderful venues we’ve lost, I think our community might even be better off now than what it was, creatively speaking at least. After the pandemic, everyone pulled their weight very quickly to rebuild everything back up again. I think we have some incredible bands all over SA and everyone is releasing some incredible art. I’ve been super pleased to see the number of shows that have been going on, not to mention the general ticket price jump post-Covid which also really helps us as event organisers and musicians.
Tell us about the new single / album? What are your musical influences, your side has a retro late 80s synth rock / alternative feel to it, with hints of The Cure or the Sisters of Mercy etc? Have these types of bands – or others – been influential in your sound?
I actually wouldn’t say it has The Cure influences in it so much, but it’s very possible! I do love that band. I don’t really know the Sisters of Mercy. The best way to describe the influences of the album is to show you my influences playlist. It’s a collection of some of my favourite artists and people who inspire me. I hope you like it and find something new: Sold Ash // Influences Playlist.
What about local influences or even local bands you respect in all genres?
Local influences, mmmm, for me, Black Math is my favourite at the moment. I watched them recently and they completely blew me away. I really love drums a lot and Acacia (Van Wyk) is just one of my favourite drummers. The whole attitude of the band is just so badass, they don’t give a fuck. Other local bands I enjoy a lot at the moment are Blue Vow, Zoo Lake, Dangerfields and Tough Guy. We also have a very cool noise community that includes artists such as Heat Deth, LP Hovercraft, Hashtag Blacknoise, Nonentia, Aragorn23 and many more. These guys have always been on an incredible buzz.
What are your future ambitions for your musical career?
I would really love to tour Europe and play some festivals over there. I’m working pretty hard towards that and I believe it will happen in the near future.
Where can fans catch you?
We’ll be playing again next year sometime. We’ll probably only play some more live shows once I release new material, which will hopefully be sooner than later. In the meantime, I’ll always be as active as possible on Instagram and Facebook, sharing whatever cool things I can think of.
Check out Sold Ash on Instagram, Facebook, Bandcamp, Spotify and YouTube.
Check out Sold Ash’s latest video ‘Avoid’ on You Tube:
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