Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Walking on sunshine

Ash Koley credits rise of her eponymous band to the positive attitude reflected in their songs

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Ash Koley's feet haven't touched ground yet.

The 26-year-old Winnipegger and her musical partner, Phil Deschambault, are flying high following the Tuesday release of their major-label debut album, Inventions, and the pending announcement of their first North American tour.

The release comes six years after the duo, which records under the name Ash Koley, started working on pop songs together after being introduced by a mutual friend.

"It was fate or stars aligning: he was exactly what I needed and I was exactly what he needed," Koley says. "We're like yin and yang. Without each other we'd still be nowhere."

Nowhere for Koley was singing in cover bands and the ABBA tribute group Super Trooper. Deschambault, 34, was a veteran of the local scene, having spent time in rock bands like Vanderveen, Jonah Stone and Not Going to Vegas.

In the early days, the group would record a song then instantly make a one-camera/one-shot video to post on YouTube. Word of the duo spread to Burning Circus Management's Glen Willows (Inward Eye) who signed them and shopped them around to various labels.

"Everybody was trying to change it up a bit and we didn't see eye to eye. Everybody was looking for the next Britney Spears and that's not what we were," Koley says. "We would try to please them and try to do some different stuff, but it kept feeling fake so we did what we were doing and stopped (auditioning for labels)."

Nettwerk Records founder Terry McBride was the next suitor, but Koley and Deschambault turned down his initial offers of a meeting because of their unhappy experiences with labels. After being promised they wouldn't be pressured into anything, they finally agreed to fly to Vancouver for a no-strings-attached meeting with the CEO, who handles the careers of artists such as Sarah McLachlan.

"He said, 'I like what you're doing. I feel I could make a career for you. Don't change anything.' That was the first time we heard that and it was nice to hear. It gave us the confidence that maybe it could work," says Koley, who calls Toronto home these days, but travels to Winnipeg once a month for recording sessions with Deschambault, who still lives here.

The group signed with Nettwerk, which immediately began marketing their songs for commercial use.

The bouncy, uplifting anthem Don't Let Your Feet Touch Ground received a placement in a Lotto 6/49 television ad and soon there was buzz about the song and the group. The song was released as a single and was used during the broadcast of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and on the American version of So You Think You Can Dance.

"We were really surprised. We didn't expect a song we had written together to do that," Koley says. "We liked it and thought it was good, but then they wanted it to become a single and we were getting syncs (song placements) on TV shows and commercials. With the 6/49 ad, people got to know the song and a lot of Canada had a familiarity with it and called it the lottery song," says Koley.

They could follow up the lottery song with the Grey's Anatomy song.

In a weird timing coincidence, two days after the release of Inventions this past Tuesday, their song Sheep in Wolves' Clothing was used during a scene in an episode of the TV hospital drama Grey's Anatomy.

The syncs, as they are known, are helpful, but wouldn't work if the songs weren't solid to begin with. The duo specializes in upbeat, keyboard-driven, New Wave-inspired pop nuggets with an optimistic edge.

"We've gotten this far from being positive. I've always been a positive persona and so has Phil," says Koley. "I've always taken a bad situation and turned it positive and I've always been a glass-half-full person, and so has Phil.

"I think most people, even if it's subconscious, would like to hear a positive song."

As if to prove her point, the current single from the album is another feel-good track, Brighter at Night.

With everything shining pretty intensely for the duo now, the next step is to get out and hit the road. They played the Canadian Lilith Fair stops and are waiting to hear back about a full tour opening for one of two artists Koley isn't allowed to name.

"We hope to have a Winnipeg CD release show," she says. "We really want to do one there. That's where we're from."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 9, 2010 C1

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