Tangerine Girl (prod. Blended Babies)
For about as long as the arts have existed, creative individuals have been forced to toe the line between commercial success and unrestricted artistic freedom. In contemporary music, going too far in one direction leads to the label of “sell out,” while the other end of the spectrum is categorized as “too experimental”–it is a nearly impossible balance to achieve.
In 2009, a 24-year old Asher Roth released a song titled “I Love College” that catapulted him into the mainstream placing him squarely at this intersection. With a record deal in place, everything was set for Roth to reach material success as long as he was willing to concede that releases like his first big hit were definitive of him as a musician. Five years later, Asher independently released his first studio album since 2009, RetroHash, and it is truly a reflection of the creative, liberating journey he has taken since his initial success. The genre-encompassing project, filled with positive summer vibes, captures the incredible energy of a spirit freed. We were lucky enough to chat with Asher Roth, someone who has decided to pave his own path, about his truly fascinating evolution, both as a person and an artist. Grab a copy of RetroHash on iTunes and check out Asher’s upcoming tour dates on his website.
TMN: First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to chat today. I’m really looking forward to this conversation because, to be honest, I listened to RetroHash when it first dropped and it kind of blew me away in terms what you did with it and how you’ve grown as an artist.
Asher Roth: Very cool, man. Thank you.
TMN: So, let’s rewind a few years back because you’ve had such a unique career trajectory—I hear you describe it as a ’Benjamin Button experience.’ Take us back to when you first linked up with Scooter [Braun] and just how fast everything happened leading up to the release of Asleep in the Bread Aisle?
Asher: I just remember when Scooter called [Tom] Boyd, who’s a close friend, and we had a Facebook fan page with like 40 people on there and Boyd had his number on there. [Scooter] called him saying, “This is the most important phone call your boy’s every going to get.” You know Boyd runs over and we started talking. Anybody that knows Scooter knows he’s a talker—he’s a charming young man. So, next thing you know, we had moved ourselves down to Atlanta. And that’s literally what it felt like, you know. After that conversation, Boyder, myself and Brain [Bangley] moved ourselves down to Atlanta to be in it and amongst it. Because as fun and loving as Westchester is, and Pennsylvania in general, to really kind of do it you have to immerse yourself in it. So we moved ourselves down to Atlanta, put together The GreenHouse Effect mixtape, and kind of on the tail of that mixtape, ‘I Love College’ was written and put out on MySpace.
No album was in the works—it wasn’t like we had a whole album together and ‘I Love College’ was going to be the first single. With that record we were like, “yeah, it’s cute. This is fun and all, but this song sucks. you know what I mean?” [Laughs] It just blew up and that’s when I ended up linking with my buddy Orin (of Blended Babies]. And just trying to make sense of ‘I Love College’ and build an album around it which ultimately became Asleep in the Bread Aisle. And, you know, as that happened, I dealt with some politics through the Universal system with that album. I felt like I made a “responsible record.” We did the best we could do with the hand we were dealt. Just a lot of the promises and expectations, from a structure standpoint, didn’t get met. And that was my first red flag of, “this is an interesting business.”
So, my next step after that was Seared Foie Gras with Quince & Cranberry because I was starting to see the perspective that people didn’t really know me.
TMN: Back to the present, RetroHash is your first studio album since Asleep in the Bread Aisle, and the career moves in that time have been insane. You signed with David Sitek’s Federal Prism…
Asher: You know, that actually didn’t it happen—it got falsely reported. Dave Sitek is the homie, I love that dude. We did ‘Apples and Bananas’ together, and we released that as a single. For some reason, it got reported that we were putting out a whole album together. Dave Sitek is a close homie, we definitely make music together, but RetroHash was self-released.
TMN: Ah, I did not know that. I’m glad you clarified, because the internet is completely misinformed on that one (Roth was listed on Federal Prism’s roster on their website). Everywhere I looked, it said that was the label.
Asher: Yeah, it’s a trip that you can go on someone’s Wikipedia and it can be actually wrong! [Laughs]
TMN: As far as releasing an album independently, what was it like in terms of the creative control you got as compared with when you working on Asleep in the Bread Aisle? Like you said, it was kind of a safer record. How did that impact the sound of your music and the comfortability in the studio?