Buddahead's Ashes, the quartet's second album, is at its heart the chronicle of a musical, geographical and emotional journey that frontman and songwriter Raman Kia found himself on, a thinly veiled life story that is as incendiary as it is cathartic. Look for Ashes to hit the street and Internet on June 17 on the bands own label Fear Of Cheese Records.
By any reckoning Iranian native Kia has an extraordinary story to tell; he calls Ashes "music to lament to," and he is only half-joking. As a small boy, he fled Tehran for London with his father, after witnessing up close the internecine violence of the Islamic Revolution. In the U.K., he was reintroduced to the mother he'd virtually never known, since she'd left her Iran years before him, and he found himself placed in the strange, regimented environment of a British military school. As he grew up, the feelings that Kia was unable to articulate in words alone found expression in songs. He was so intuitively skilled at this creative channeling that he attracted the interest of a major London music publisher. As Kia built a repertoire, he decided to go to the United States in pursuit of his first record deal.
After making the rounds in New York City and Los Angeles, he signed a deal with Interscope Records. So far so good, but it wasn't long before he discovered that the industry was more interested in molding him to suit the tastes of the moment than in exploring what he might really have to offer in his own right. One can understand why: Kia has an impressive, elastic vocal range, able to perform hushed ballads as eloquently as anthemic rockers.
As the powers that be tried to figure out how they wanted to present their find, Kia decided he would prefer to do it his own way. So he jettisoned the cadre of producers, mixers and constantly gear-shifting executives who surrounded him. He chose a tougher, more D.I.Y. approach to his fledgling career, touring relentlessly as a solo artist, opening for better-known acts. After meeting and working with bassist Toby Evers and Guitarist Simon Gibson, the trio began touring at an unrelenting pace, playing over 400 shows in less than two years.
"It was on the road, in the crammed space f the tour van, that our new sound was formed and Buddahead was reinvented as band", says Gibson.
Their 2004 debut, Crossing The Invisible Line, showcased a prodigious talent with the vocal prowess of a Thom Yorke and a band so skilled at arranging that it recalled vintage U2 or contemporary Coldplay. But these artful tracks barely hinted at the roiling emotions lying beneath their sleek surface and the truly dramatic stories Kia had yet to tell. Ashes changes all that. Surrounded by the darker musical influences of Gibson and Evers Ashes is Kia stories as he wants to – has to – be heard. "Urgent but less desperate Ashes is the catharsis of a band that has growing up."
Ashes has its origins in some of the darker moments of a few far-flung lives, yet these real-life scenarios connect in many tangible ways to our collective cultural and political history, and that makes them all the more powerful. In his lyrics, Kia doesn't offer answers to the dilemmas he presents, yet in the very act of creating these songs, articulating these emotions, Kia makes Ashes an uplifting experience. His catharsis becomes our own. Gazing into the ashes of torched relationships Kia discovers a spark of hope for us all.