Review: Asterhouse — ‘Errors That Smile’

Asterhouse formed as a trio of teens back in 2009. Back then, they could be found scouring Seattle and the surrounding areas for any opportunity to perform. They were eager but resolute. Still, with naturally affable natures, they were able to secure shows and events that most bands wouldn’t. They were young and determined but earned increasing amounts of attention by playing ahead of their age. Over time, their brand of pop rock and fan base grew steadily. Now, nearly a decade later, their formula is still working: write cool music and be a good human. Maybe more impressive than that is their driving desire to perform hasn’t abated at all. With seemingly unlimited energy, brothers John (vocals/drums) and Russ (guitar) Thornburg and longtime friend Julio Posada (bass) have quietly taken over the local music scene. If you catch one of their many shows you’ll like them on a personal level but love them on a musical level.

Earlier this year, they released their second album, Errors That Smile, and while it’s only seven tracks long and a couple of the songs having already been released as singles, it was still highly anticipated. Performing in a lot of shows has had an impact on the band’s ability to write/record/release new material, evidenced by its three-year break since its self-titled album in 2014. With that said, I was able to catch up with John to discuss the project and hopefully get some insight into some of the song’s backstory. Here’s what I was able to find out…

“Errors That Smile” marks the very first time that the band has been truly independent. There was no pressure from a label. This is a homegrown album throughout. No one was there to tell them it was wacko to leap from soul-searching acoustic folk to hard-hitting, self-assertive rock. No one was there to tell them to stop and consider their fan base who might’ve expected a continuation of their punchy thematic roots. What you hear on this album is the result of this liberation and what you hear on this album is good. In John’s own words: “Errors That Smile was the record I always wanted to make. It took a while to get here, but all the teeth grinding and hair pulling helped shape the sound of this release and I couldn’t be happier. In my eyes, the record is about the journey of achieving inner peace. Almost like, maybe someone trying to understand what it means to be happy. Someone shutting the world out to do some personal work. Maybe it’s working, maybe it’s not. All in all, people may like the record, or hate the record. I never want to sound like I am bolstering up the record into being something greater that it actually is. It’s just an album. By a band nobody knows. But it does mean a lot to me.”

The first track, “1778”, ushers in an inevitable change for the band. They’re growing in every way possible on a personal level, so it’s good to see them translating that to a musical level as well. It’s a synthesizer-centric song that weaves along with John’s soft-sided vocals. It was a risk to lead off with this style but serves as a fresh and bold statement. Asterhouse has already proven they can rock the socks off a crowd but this song proves they’re not afraid to be vulnerable as well.

“So Easy” has a toe-tapping beat and speedy indie riff but it’s a love song with strong emotional undercurrents. During the chorus, John belts “I love you so much more than myself/That’s so easy/I love you so much more than who I am/You can be anybody”. If you stay on those lyrics you’ll notice it speaks to the danger of falling in love unconditionally with anyone. It’s a reflection of a void. It’s easier to give love away than to work on filling it yourself.

The last track, “The Only Ghost”, is an acoustic ballad reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Initially intended to be played on a guitar, Russ gave the song new life when he decided to take the lead on the piano. It became something bigger than originally planned, evidenced by its epic shift from a soft, melodic verse to a bridge filled with contemptuous rock distortion, then back again. Like most of the songs on this album, its unexpected but refreshing.

For those who don’t already know this band, check them out live and introduce yourself. They’ll be glad you did.

(Check out ‘Errors That Smile below via Bandcamp and get more info about Asterhouse and find out where they are playing next on Facebook HERE.)