With more than a few years on the clock, three Warped Tour stints, a trio of recordings, thousands of miles racked and countless faces rocked, Volcom Entertainment artists ASG are set to make a solid re-entry to store shelves this fall with their latest, Feeling Good Is Good Enough. Formed in the North Carolina coastline community of Wrightsville Beach, the riff-fueled, distortion-driven rock of ASG that can be found on their latest effort has actually been at the band's core since its inception.
"We were living on the beach in North Carolina, just being beach rats," recalls guitarist/vocalist Jason Shi, who, during the ASG's formation, had been working as a pizza cook and would jam with his bandmates after hours.
Without a dedicated vocalist, ASG initially launched as a three-piece instrumental project, which found the group intensely focusing on devising tight, driving guitar riffs, locking Shi in with the rhythm section of bassist Andy Ellis and drummer Scott Key. But time passed and no vocalist was found, so Shi stepped up to the mic.
"It's been a total riffage band from day one," says Shi. "A lot of stuff was instrumental - that was coming from a shyness to sing, so there was a lot of punk attitude, like 'It's OK if it sounds bad.' Over the years, you know what notes to stay away from and what notes you can hit. I think I've gained like three or four notes a year that I can actually pull off hitting."
With Shi getting comfortable as frontman, ASG set out to record their debut, which entered as a self-titled, self-released full-length in 2002. That same year the group got connected with Volcom Entertainment, "we sent them demos over the course of a year, and as the demos got better, we got a deal," Shi recalls. "The budgets were small, as I think they knew we'd be a growth project for 'em."
Although the sums were slim, the opportunity came at ASG rather rapidly, and ASG reacted immediately, making the band their primary and full-time - priority, as an impending high-profile gig put the band into gear without much chance for a second thought.
"South By Southwest was in 10 days and we needed to be in Texas," Shi recalls. "I quit my job the next day and everybody quit their jobs, and we were in the van in three days, heading out to Austin. It kind of hit us pretty quick and hard. We just had to learn the ropes, as we'd never done anything like it."
With Volcom Entertainment's help, ASG found themselves back in the studio in 2003, recording their sophomore album, The Amplification of Self Gratification. The album's release found them back on the road, performing to new faces well outside of their home turf in the form of touring with Guttermouth and Pepper, plus a portion of the 2003 Vans Warped Tour.
"We came up through the surf and skate communities in the Southeast, from Virginia through Florida towards New Orleans," Shi says. "We've played club gigs, surf shops, parking lots, there's no limitation, really - house parties, whatever. Along the coast is where we started and we were now making our way inland, so to speak."
With another, longer round of Warped Tour dates in the summer of 2004, ASG quickly noticed they weren't exactly in line with the standard fare new-school punk and hardcore that was the tour's primary attraction. But that didn't stop the act from pressing ahead and gaining new audiences.
After '04's Warped Tour, ASG sent producer Matt Hyde (Slayer, Fu Manchu) a demo of material they were working on for their third album. Hyde immediately called them back the next day and agreed to take on the project. "We were pretty fired up," says Shi. "Next thing you know, we were in L.A. about a month later."
ASG instantly connected with producers Hyde and Phil Caivano (Monster Magnet). The result was 11 tracks of blistering, thick-riffed rock, aptly dubbed Feeling Good Is Good Enough, of which Shi says is "really different, in my opinion. You can't quite pinpoint it - I think it's a hard rock album overall, and that's what we wanted. We wanted to have a nitty gritty, dirty rock record, and I think that's what we got."
From the thunderous opening phrase of the haunting "Act Like You Know," to the pounding tom intro of the title track, to the bursting hustle of "Yes, We Are Aware," Feeling Good Is Good Enough sets the perfect pace for rockers, metal heads, hardcore kids and punks alike.
Chalk it up to the timeless, traditional sound that ASG has devised. "We're probably bigger fans of classic rock than any of the modern stuff that's coming out right now," says Shi. "From the punk aspect, we're big Dwarves fans. From the desert rock aspect, we're big Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age fans. And then we wanted to have some kick ass, Guns N' Roses-type solos in there too. So, it's somewhere between all of that."
And it's the "all of that" that's most attractive to new fans of ASG, a group that now sports additional firepower via the recent addition of guitarist Jonah Citty. As Shi will tell you, "We're winning 'em over, one by one."