"Colin and I were both pressured to be married very young, mostly due to the strict purity culture standards that permeate those kinds of churches....Colin’s family [professing Christians] are incredibly supportive of us. They took the time to understand our situation, work through and wrestle with the issues. I love them tremendously for that."
By Abbe Davis, October, 2021
Tulip is a Symphonic Metal band out of Texas, which means they make some heavy Rock noise, while infusing it with orchestrated arrangements of strings and beautiful undertones, as Ashleigh Semkiw, soars above, with her stellar lead vocals. It's powerful to hear vocals like hers in Metal. Their latest EP is called The Witch. It opens with their single, "Sidewinder" and then draws you into the landscape with songs like "Clone," "Proxy," and "The Witch. This six song concept EP has a dramatic Metal feel. Their EP has gotten over 100,000 listens on Spotify in the first month and leads Spotify’s Epic & Melodic and Progressive Metal numbers. I got to interview operatically trained vocalist, Ashleigh. She is also backed by Colin Parrish’s melodic guitar lines, and Ryan Claxton’s drumming chops. Tulip just headlined at Trees in Dallas. To say they have gone on a journey of self-discovery is to put it mildly. There was a time when both Ashleigh and Colin were shunned from an entire community. The dogma divide continues in their lives. What remains is their love, and how they bond through music and continue this compelling journey in Rock. Read on:
AD: Hi Ashleigh! Welcome to Tru Rock Revival Magazine. I have a lot to ask you, first, (because of my own classical vocal training - a Classical Vocal major at Indiana University) - I’m very interested in the process and how it transfers into Rock music. Tell me how it first started for you to approach Rock. Who was instrumental in your urge to do it, when you heard their vocals?
Ashleigh: Hey Abbe! That’s cool about IU! I went to Northwestern with a lot of IU grads, their vocal department is fantastic.
I’ll tell you - the transition from light Soprano to full Rock sound took some work, but I had the world’s best teacher to help me, the inimitable Melissa Cross, whom I owe everything to vocally. She herself is classically trained, the technique that she teaches is flawless; which helped me transition fairly seamlessly. I am somewhat of a newbie to Metal, so when we started working together, I started by listening to a lot of Cristina Scabbia, Noora Louhimo, Lzzy Hale, and of course, the great Pat Benatar.
AD: Wow, ya met some of us Hoosiers, eh? Ha. Oh yes, Pat Benatar is one of my favorites! Great influences to listen to, and I'm glad you had Melissa Cross. My teachers at UM and IU helped me keep this vocal going. They are important mentors. From previous songs, I really love the setup of “Midnight In The Desert.” I really enjoy your vocal lines and the song itself. Who wrote that song?
Ashleigh: Thank you so much - it’s a personal favorite of mine as well, and it is for sure the most difficult to sing live. That’s why I put it first in our set, cause it’s all downhill from there. Ha ha.
AD: Ooh I'm enjoying this discussion a lot! Yeah, it is key to plan the sets ahead vocally. How do you approach songwriting, who is creating the major layers of production on your new songs?
Ashleigh: Colin and I write everything together. He constructs the “landscape” of the tracks, puts them into midi, and then hands them over to me for lyrics and melody.
AD: Tell me about these arrangements.
Ashleigh: That’s all Colin - he’s pretty modest about how talented he is so I’ll brag on him for a minute. The guy does all our recording, engineering, and mastering from our home studio in Texas. He is a longtime lover of film score, so he has an obsession with playing with the East West Symphonic Orchestra for our music. As someone familiar with orchestras, I think he does a fantastic job.
AD: It's powerful and dramatic. It's funny how your songs will seem like a catalogue ahead when he looks back on how he is constructing the songs, and I'm sure many references to movie soundtracks he enjoys. For our song "Clone," your vocal is supreme! How long did it take you guys to write just that song?
Ashleigh: That one actually happened really fast. I was definitely channeling Noora with that first note! I actually pull one in- ear out on stage, to make sure I hit it perfectly in live settings. I wanted the cadence of the lyrics to have a kind of Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" feel, and I think we achieved that.
AD: Oh yes, it has that charming quality. The drums, they are exciting, let’s talk about how everyone works to write the latest songs, how long does it take to decide on the drum parts, etc.?
Ashleigh: Our drummer, Ryan Claxton is just phenomenal. Those who know about this, know how critical having a strong drummer is, and we got so lucky when we found him. Colin writes a lot of the parts, but likes to try to make them as groovy as possible so that Ryan has fun playing them.
AD: I'm sure Ryan appreciates that as a drummer. Tell me about the great guitar lines, some beautiful things going on. Who else has a Classical background in the band, and what other influences are there?
Ashleigh: No Classical Guitar background! Just a supreme interest in melody. Colin loves Swedish Pop production, and the ear worm type of melodies. They are so essential to create. He loves the band, In Flames and the other Swedish melodic Death Metal bands.
AD: "The Inner Light," I love the lyrics, the intro was wild, cause at first I thought it would be a danceable, more Modern type of tune. Who changed that, who came up with the intro idea? Who wrote the lyrics?
Ashleigh: Thank you! I write all of our lyrics and that song is actually based on the ideas from the Star Trek episode by the same name. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it - it’s very meaningful to us. Most of our songs start as guitar noodles, so when Colin found those chords, he noticed that they sounded predictable but odd at the same time. Then, he built the rest of the song around those three changes.
AD: It's very cool. To get personal about your life Ashleigh, you and Colin began with a more reform Christianity, is that correct? So then, what prompted both of you to end up at an Evangelical type of church to begin with?
Ashleigh: That’s correct. We were both raised in Calvinist churches and were very serious Christians in our young lives, so the natural progression led us to the community we were ultimately kicked out of when our views began to change.
AD: Once you both were excommunicated due to Rock music, divorce (did both of those things cause it ?) how was your family about it all? How were the friends you hung out with in your church, did you keep any of those friends from that time?
Ashleigh: Ha! I wish it was because of the music, but it was 100% because of the divorce. Colin and I were both pressured to be married very young, mostly due to the strict purity culture standards that permeate those kinds of churches, and when we met later in life and fell in love, we knew we had to escape together. No one from the church is technically allowed to have contact with us, although we have heard from a few kind souls who left when we did. I think it was quite a shock for many people. My family doesn’t speak to me, other than to send me Bible verses occasionally, or remind me that they’re “praying for me to change,” which is the worst kind of insult in my opinion, but they maintain their very reformed beliefs, so I can’t really be that surprised. The Bible says divorce is wrong, and they’re just interpreting the rules in their most literal form. However, Colin’s family, who are also professing Christians, are incredibly supportive of us. They took the time to understand our situation, work through and wrestle with the issues. I love them tremendously for that.
AD: Now, in your life, what type of Christianity do you both practice, or do you? How has your belief about "the big picture" changed?
Ashleigh: We have left the Christian faith completely, but still love considering the mysteries of the universe. It’s funny because when we were Calvinists you’re discouraged from exploring any of those other spiritual ideas, so we devour all the books and documentaries about “big picture” stuff that have nothing to do with Jesus.
AD: I completely see why you'd want to discover many ideas now, having been through so much. I hope your family will reconnect with you ahead, and not miss out on you, for who both are as people. Finally, whom do you wish to thank for Music and the journey? What do you want to let us know about?
Ashleigh: Thank you. We want to thank everyone who has supported us as a band and as a couple, and our family. They know who they are. We’re so proud of our new EP, The Witch; our most personal and heaviest record yet. We will be out on the road in 2022 so stay tuned for those dates! Thanks so much for your time and I hope we can speak ahead.
AD: Yes absolutely! It's been fun and you guys Rock!
INFO: Tulip's Official Website
Abbe Davis, Editor/ Musician
Abbe Davis is the lead singer and songwriter of Hard Rock band, Sordid Fable. She has performed alongside legendary Blues artist, Buddy Guy, and previously with Day of Colors nationally. She also co-hosts The Tru Rock Show. Abbe and her band are currently in the studio recording for their EP release in 2022.