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American Sunshine - Ashtar Command
Buy American Sunshine


LABEL: Privateer Records
RELEASE DATE: October 25, 2011
FORMATS: CD / Digital

Band Members

Chris Holmes: Vocals, guitar, percussion, and keys
Brian Liesegang: Vocals, guitar, percussion, and keys


Sci-fi fans may recall the concept of “Ashtar Command” that emerged in the 1950’s – an intergalactic U.N. with the mission of assisting the human race in a time of crisis. Think evolution by enlightenment, which makes the name a fitting metaphor for the band and what they’re trying to accomplish.

American Sunshine, Ashtar Command’s debut album, evolved organically, a labor of love from veteran musicians Chris Holmes and Brian Liesegang, American Sunshine is an expansive and coherent album that defies being reduced to a single genre. Nick Drake could come to mind, as well as the Chemical Brothers. Spiritualized could be seen in there as well as The Beach Boys. There are songs of exquisite beauty and ones that unabashedly rock.

The project features a remarkable group of guest artists. Working in identical studios in Los Angeles and Chicago respectively, the duo sent songs back and forth thereby growing fleeting ideas into full-fledged songs. The group enlisted musicians that seemed to suit the individual songs – people they had worked with or been friends with for years.

They were joined by guest vocalists Joshua Radin (whose debut album was produced by Holmes) on “Mark IV,” Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (“Save Me”), Har Mar Superstar (“That’s How It Is”) and Rachel Yamagata (“Blister of the Spotlight”). The dreamy “Rosa,” already in heavy rotation at Los Angeles’ KCRW, is one of two tracks featuring Priscilla Ahn, while Z Berg’s crystal clear vocals provide a stunning counterpoint to the throbbing groove on “Gravity.”

Other guest artists include: Matt Walker (Filter, The Smashing Pumpkins) on drums, Solomon Walker (Morrissey) on bass, Mike Garson (David Bowie) playing piano, drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M.), Oliver Kraus (Beth Orton) on cello, Stewart Cole (Edward Sharpe) on horns.

The two met while attending the University of Chicago, where Chris hosted a UFO-themed radio show that fell somewhere between Art Bell’s ‘Coast to Coast AM’ meets Ira Glass’ ‘This American Life.’ It was a platform for an exchange of ideas between interesting people who had a story to tell. Guests ranged from Bigfoot hunters to members of Heaven’s Gate to Communion author Whitley Strieber. Like the radio show that inspired it, Ashtar Command doesn’t simplify, justify or explain, preferring to revel in the process of open-minded exploration.

On Chris Holmes: released his major label debut Dan Loves Patti under his Yum Yum moniker, an album that Rolling Stone said “more than holds it own in comparison with influences as the Beatles, and Beach Boys circa Pet Sounds.” He has since toured and recorded with The Smashing Pumpkins and Felix da Housecat, co-produced tracks for P. Diddy, worked on Billy Corgan’s solo album and written with Rachael Yamagata and Mandy Moore. Also an established DJ, Holmes appeared on URB’s “Next 100” list and was handpicked by Sir Paul McCartney to open for him at 2009’s Coachella Fest and to tour the world with him in 2011. In addition Chris has toured with Radiohead, Atoms for Peace, and Daft Punk.

On Brian Liesegang: began in Nine Inch Nails, working on the multi-Platinum, GRAMMY®-winning albums Broken and The Downward Spiral. He subsequently co-founded the two-man band Filter that had hit singles like “Hey Man, Nice Shot” and “Jurrassitol,” and sold millions of albums, toured with The Smashing Pumpkins, Ozzie Osbourne, and others. He was recruited by Billy Corgan for his Future Embrace album and world tour. He has devoted the better part of the last decade to crafting “American Sunshine”.


October 18th, 2011. magneticmag.com

It’s impossible to put Amercian Sunshie, Ashtar Command’s debut album in the same gimmicky box with most other collaboration albums. It’s so far away from the typical industry racket. Yes, the foundation for Ashtar Command is a joint effort. And it does feature a stunning group of artists. But it’s more than a contrived piece of work with multiple trendy people propping it up. The soul comes from the process in which it came together and how it plays out just like a storyline—life’s history. It’s a labor of love that Chris Holmes and Brian Liesegang have been slaving over for years and they’ve made special by never losing sight of the fact that to create a collaboration album with substance it needs to equal more than the sum of its parts. Mission accomplished.

The idea behind Ashtar Command was originally sparked more than a decade ago while Chris Holmes and Brian Liesegang were attending the University of Chicago. Specifically around a UFO inspired college radio show Chris Holmes hosted for over 4 years. Holmes describes the show like an “academic Art Bell meets Ira Glass’ This American Life.” Which is to say that is was an objective platform for an exchange of ideas focused on interesting people—with a story to tell. Everyone from Bigfoot hunters, to members of Heavens Gate to Whitley Strieber, the dude that wrote “Communion,” were given time on the show. “I think that is what’s fascinating,” states Holmes about how the radio show was the impetus for the band. Just like the radio show, Ashtar Command isn’t trying to fit into a box. They don’t simplify things, justify or explain. The beauty comes from the process and intimacy. There is no conspiracy.

With degrees in hand, the two took separate paths. Chris signed with Atlantic Records, releasing the record “Dan Loves Patti” under his Yum Yum moniker, which Rolling Stone Magazine heralded as “more than hold its own in comparison with influences as the Beatles, and Beach Boys circa Pet Sounds”. He’s toured and recorded with the Smashing Pumpkins and Felix da Housecat. Has kept busy co-producing tracks for P. Diddy, working with Billy Corgan on his solo album and co-writing with Rachael Yamagata and Mandy Moore, in addition to producing Joshua Radin’s successful We Were Here album, which received a four star review in Rolling Stone and hit #3 at Amazon. Holmes also enjoys success as a DJ. Look no further than the fact that Holmes was handpicked by Sir Paul McCartney to open for his much-hyped performance at the Coachella Festival. Being anointed by one of The Beatles is as high an honor that exists in the musical kingdom. If LA had an official “International Party Ambassador” Holmes would have the seat on lock.

Brian went on to join Nine Inch Nails, working on the multi-platinum and Grammy award winning albums Broken and The Downward Spiral. After that he cofounded the two-man band Filter with Richard Patrick and proceeded to sell millions of records and tour relentlessly with the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, Ozzie Osbourne, White Zombie, Korn, and others and has garnered both critical and commercial success on the backs of singles like “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” “Jurrassitol,” and “Trip Like I Do” (with the Crystal Method). They were nominated for “Best New Band” on the MTV Music Awards. They also wrote songs and contributed the driving singles to various platinum soundtracks ranging from The X-Files, to Spawn, to The Cable Guy and many others. Brian then produced, wrote and performed on Veruca Salt’s Resolver album. And most recently recorded and performed with Billy Corgan on his Future Embrace album and worldwide tour. He also recently contributed and performed with Filter for Sony’s upcoming 2012 movie, for which the song is the leadoff single.

While both were enjoying success in their individual careers, Ashtar Command never stopped making music. Requests would come in every now and then for an instrumental version of one of their songs. Before the band had an official release their music was featured in The OC, Ugly Betty, spots in feature films like Winged Creatures, Spread, The Avengers and ad campaigns for Nissan and Microsoft. With the money made from those deals they decided to take time and develop something on their own terms, with their own vision, exactly the way they wanted. Now a decade down the road they’ve written, produced, and engineered the entire box set of material featuring people that Chris and Brian have been producing, singing, working and just being friends with over the years—an organic off shoot of their life. “It is a great time to be an independent artist. 10 years ago it would have been impossible to release this record because every single one of these artists would have been signed to a major label and they would have had clauses in the contract that would have made it impossible,” states Holmes about how the record labels being in the tar pits have opened up their ability to work with the artists they have. Josh Radin sings lead on “Mark IV”, Sinead O’Conner does the same on “Summers End”, so does Alex Ebert on “Save Me”, Rachael Yamagata, Har Mar Superstar and Priscilla Ahn make more than a few appearances each. Other Guests Include: Matt Walker on drums (Filter, Smashing Pumpkins, Morrissey Drummer), Solomon Walker on bass (Morrissey), Mike Garson playing piano (David Bowie), Joey Waronker on drums (Beck, Rem, Thom Yorke, Smashing Pumpkins), Oliver Kraus on cello (Beth Orton, Sia, Josh Radin, Priscilla Ahn, Duffy) Stewart Cole, horns (Edward Sharpe) Stephen Fitzpatrick on guitar (Veruca Salt) and Johnny Radtke playing guitar (Kill Hannah). Chris and Brian work in identical studios on opposite ends of the country—Chris in LA, Brian in Chicago. They’ll send songs back and forth, each person tweaking it a little bit until they’ve fleshed out fleeting ideas into fully-fledged songs. “Over the course of 8 years these songs become these very elaborate. It’s a really beautiful, organic process,” states Holmes. Chris’ stuff tends to be very uplifting with a spiritual / salvation edge to it, while Brian tends to approach from an edgier and darker side.

Holmes continues about the process: “It ends up kinda like this Lennon and McCartney balance—sunshine and darkness. It works out really nicely. We both have very similar taste in our aesthetics for how things should sound and we’re able to bring out these elements in our process.” ”I think we are both writing about transcendence, although we sometimes follow different paths to get there…” adds Brian, “…and I think all my favorite bands have always had divergent means to achieving the goal. It’s far more interesting.”

Because Ashtar Command has always been its own thing, developing organically over time rather than following trends, the artistic vision has stayed pure. The result is an expansive and remarkably coherent album that refuses to be reduced to a single genre. Sure, there are definitely some reference points. Nick Drake comes to mind. So does the Chemical Brothers. Which is to say the music will seduce a mature audience, but will also tantalize the eclectic taste buds of the younger generation—beautiful songs and ones that rock.

Sci-Fi types might know “Ashtar Command” as an intergalactic U.N. with the specific mission of assisting the human race in a time of crisis. Think evolution by enlightenment, which makes the name an amazing metaphor for the band and what they’re trying to do with their music. No, they’re not at war against the Greys or Reptoids or anything but they are on a mission to battle the rampant artifice of the music industry. To these two music nerds that’s basically the soul of humanity. “We’re battling the forces or horribleness in the music world. We’re trying to create good music that isn’t being destroyed by the major labels or by pop culture or what ever.”

This doesn’t sound like delusions of grandeur to me; it feels and sounds like a direct reflection of the music industry, and a need for grandeur. “It is what it is,” states Holmes. Consider this a declaration of Ashtar Command’s arrival.

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