Astoria native Ashley Kervabon first found her calling as a rock musician after finding her dad’s old bass when she was just 12 years old.
In 2013, the singer-songwriter began performing in the city with rock/blues duo Pretty in Blues. After the two disbanded later that year, she released a solo EP called “Stability” in January 2014.
Since her solo debut, Kervabon has been recognized by American Songwriter Magazine and has started to see some success on several college radio stations.
Today, she is practicing and performing in her newest project, an all-girl rock band called Queen of Wands, something she hopes can help pave the way for the female rock voice.
I spoke with Kervabon earlier this week about her new project.
How did you know music was your calling?
I’ve always done it as a hobby really. When I was ten I started playing piano and then when I was 12 I found my dad’s old bass guitar in a closet and so I started playing bass.
I did that all into high school, and when I graduated I wanted to stop doing music. I think instead of encouraging me going to a performing arts high school, it kind of discouraged me. I don’t know why that ended up happening, but when I went to college I couldn’t figure out what major I wanted to go into.
I went back and I saw the old songs that I wrote in high school. Someone asked me to be in a band with them and I realized that I needed to get back into music. That’s what I’m good at, that’s what I know, and so it has been a year that I’ve been trying to get out there with this.
How did you get back into it?
I was in a blues-rock duo for eight months – and that started last year – but then that fell through and I went solo. I actually released a solo EP back in July. Then in September I started playing with a female rock trio, which is really what I’m focusing on now. We’re called Queen of Wands. We’ve been doing shows since then and we’ve been talking about doing a demo, so that is my main focus right now.
Why did you decide to stop playing music when you went to college?
I think I thought it was too much of a risk and I think I wanted to shy away from that. I’ve known so many struggling artists, and I kept telling myself that I didn’t want to be like that. I started studying public relations and marketing, so it was something that is still creative but not really as creative as I would have liked.
When this girl asked me to be a part of this duo, the first few open mics that we did I thought it was kind of cool. But then when we did our first actual show, people came up to me afterwards and said, “Wow, you’re so good. You actually wrote that?” Then I started realizing that people actually liked my stuff. It was like a light bulb went off in my head like, wow, maybe this is something that I could do as a career. Ever since then I’ve been trying to push for that.
Did you find inspiration from your dad?
Yeah, my dad was in a punk rock band in the late 70s or early 80s, so that was something. I don’t think that was something he wanted to do professionally, but I guess that kind of fell through once he got married to my mom and had my brother and me.
When I found his bass, I didn’t even know my dad was in a band. I was like, “Why do you have that? Can I use it?” I was really curious. My dad loves that I’m in a band now and he’s always at my shows.
How important is that support from your family?
Yeah, I mean it is risky. While I was in college and I did shows and I really wanted to practice more – I just graduated in May – but I didn’t want to go back for my last year of college. I told my parents that I didn’t want to go back to school this fall, and they really had to push me to go back for my last year. At the end of the day, that paper means so much when you’re trying to get a job.
Are you still doing your solo music?
Well, I am secretly, but not-so-secretly, working on an album of my solo stuff, but that is more of a long-term goal. I’m not really rushing that project right now, and that is mostly because I am focusing on the Queen of Wands.
How did you get involved with them?
I was looking for a musician for my solo stuff and then I met my guitarist on this site called BandMix. I heard her play and I just said, “Okay, we have to be in a rock band. Screw my solo stuff, you’re amazing, we need to be a rock band.”
We thought it would be really cool to be an all-girl rock band. So we found our drummer online also and she’s great.
Are you playing shows in Queens?
The Astoria music scene is unfortunately kind of awful. Being from Astoria it makes me really sad that there aren’t really places to play around here. We played at one place – I’m not going to mention the name – but the equipment was awful. The guitar amps broke in the middle of our set and so we try to stay away from places like that now.
Do you think there is any hope for the Queens music scene?
Well I’m hoping for the best. It’s just that there are so many artsy people moving here now, especially in Astoria. We have maybe one or two places and the equipment is just like that. I want to say it’s going to get better. There is no way it’s going to get worse.
How did you know playing in a band was the way you wanted to go?
I think that I always had a dream of being in a rock band. I mean my dad was in a punk rock band so I always looked to that. Growing up as a teenager. To be able to do that with a band is so cool and now the dream is finally starting to come together. My bandmates, we just work so well together. We already have enough to record an album and I’ve never been a part of that before. Knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses makes me feel really stable and a part of something that can really grow.
Is it difficult to be an all-girl rock band in NYC?
I think it is definitely difficult to be a female in music in general. We’re pretty new and we have yet to face anything like that, but I am kind of expecting it. I’m expecting that stigma that we are girls and we can’t rock out.
There are also no female rock bands that are really out there in the scene. I can’t think of one. Where are the Joan Jett's? I just don’t see any of that right now.
I think that when we perform, people really are impressed, or shocked or both. You can just tell when they see us they don’t really know what’s going on, but they are still interested. Then you can finally see people bobbing their heads and then by the end of the set they’re like, “We want another song!” Then we’re just like, “Oh, we don’t have one you guys.”