Ashlyn Koh is the drummer of indie rock band, and self-proclaimed “sad grrls,” Childsaint. Last year saw the band release its sophomore studio recording, Hallelujah Heartache, as well as the single, Used Up. The LP’s title track, Hallelujah Heartache reached number one on RTRFM’s most played tracks of 2016; Used Up managed a comfortable seventh place. Koh also manages bands as the head of King of Hearts. Childsaint will be supporting FOAM’s Coping Mechanisms album launch on Saturday, March 4, at Badlands Bar.
“I’m definitely the worst drummer out there. I never really tried to learn drums. For me, practice only ever really happens in the rehearsal room with the girls, while working on songs. I’d find it very hard if someone asked me to play this style or that time. I definitely don’t really know much about drums at all,” she modestly exclaims over a coffee.
Despite having no formal music education, Koh’s measured, understated drum rhythms fit perfectly beneath Childsaint’s languorous melodies and steady, plodding riffs. Koh says she isn’t sure how she comes up with the drum beats, opting to go with whatever feels natural.
“We kind of just go back to basics with communication, just movements and sounds. Because the rest of the band is mainly focused on their own instruments they’ll let me come up with all the parts. So I’ll just make something up to go along with what they’re doing and they’ll be okay with it.”
Koh also runs her own band management business. Currently, she books gigs for Jacob Diamond and FOAM, as well as Childsaint. She says the key to band management is to stay on top of the work and have methods you can follow to keep track of your responsibilities.
“With organisation I’ve found it’s a personal thing. You either are or you’re not. But you can always commit to it and become organised. I guess that’s how I did it. I decided I wanted to become a more organised person, so I did. I like to use notebooks to help keep me on top of things, but it depends what kind of data I’m inputting. If I’m making notes for recording, that’s going to require different tools than keeping track of scheduling,” she says.
Koh says new bands looking to start gigs should just throw themselves out there. She says looking for other local bands at the same level as you, bands just beginning themselves, is a great way to organise a lineup. For venues she recommends Badlands Bar, a new establishment run by Henhouse Studios owner and Gyroscope drummer, Rob Nassif.
“As far as how to go about booking gigs, a lot of it is experience. If you’re a new band looking for gigs, at first it can be intimidating putting yourself out there and emailing. There’s a lot of self-questioning about whether you’re doing it right. But eventually you figure out how and settle into your own style of booking stuff.”
When asked about the method behind getting Childsaint’s songs onto RTRFM for radio play, Koh says the band has a good relationship with many of the DJs. The band’s bassist, Rhiannon Todhunter is a presenter for the station. However, Koh maintains it’s easy for anyone to get radio play, as long as they hand their single in to the right channels with a good press package.
“If it’s RTR, we know a few of those people or they know us; we’ve got a pretty close relationship. We’ll just give them what’s new and the low-down on it, because they kind of know the background. If it’s interstate though, we do a whole press kit and bio to send in with the single.”
Koh says the decision to release the single, Used Up was a spontaneous one. The band was busy working on a future album at Sumo Studios with The Love Junkies frontman, Mitch McDonald. Koh had spent two days in the studio, recording drums for four tracks, when the band decided to put out Used Up, despite no plans to release anything for the rest of the year. The band is still recording, but are planning live shows.
“I get really, really scared when I play live. I don’t have many fears but stage fright is definitely one of them. I’ve tried so many things and nothing makes me feel better. I can usually control how I feel in situations but when I’m onstage in front of people I just can’t handle it. I like to face my fears though, so doing it can be very scary but thrilling.”
One final point Koh talks about is her experiences with sexism in the music industry. With Koh playing in Childsaint and managing her own business, awkward moments sometimes occur from people’s preconceptions of what she and the band should be doing. Koh says everyone in the band has experienced it at one time or other.
We don’t define ourselves as a female band, we’re musicians and songwriters, so it doesn’t affect us creatively. Where things get dicey is in the industry. As a manager and booking agent I encounter condescension and misogyny from some professionals I have to work with, even friends and acquaintances,” she says.
“In saying that, I also deal with males who are lovely and would treat me no different no matter what kind of genitalia I was rocking. This is a complex issue, there are always so many factors to consider when discussing gender equality in the music scene. It’s not something I like to talk about when all my thoughts can’t come across to the point. Really, it shouldn’t be a problem in the first place.”