“Musical artist” is a term that is often misused nowadays. Entertainment journalists mindlessly dish it out like cafeteria coleslaw. Alicia Keys is a “musical artist.” Chris Cornell is a “musical artist.” Britney Spears is a “musical artist.” Surely, everyone’s entitled to an opinion; yet, it’s hard to imagine someone like Spears as being a so-called musical artist. She’s a performance artist, yes: a dancer, costume-model, entertainer. But, the journey for Britney is about more than just music.
Ashleigh New, on the contrary, can rightfully be labeled as a musical artist. The recent Villanova graduate is the lead singer and bassist for emo-rock band, Moviehouse Arcade. When asked questions about his band, New never blurts. Rather, he ponders and one can just about see his mind flipping through phrases to find the perfect response. After all, Moviehouse is New’s artwork; and, as every artist knows, first impressions are crucial.
The journey for New started about four years ago when he and fellow Michigan natives, Travis Bravender (guitar) and Andrew Fetter (drums) started the band.
Originally called Archrival, the new name was inspired by a dream that New had (oddly enough, the dream included a movie, house and an arcade). For whatever reason, the name stuck and three years later the band has already earned significant recognition, playing at various shows, signing a record deal (with New Beats Records) and building fan bases on both the Main Line and in their home state. A little while back, the band was even featured in an article in Punk Planet magazine. Still, New insists, “We are always trying to get our name out there.” And, by “out there,” he must mean the Billboard Top 100.
Nevertheless, the band’s present success has been a “nice fulfillment,” says New. “You anticipate that people will listen to your stuff, but you don’t necessarily expect it. It’s like anything – you think, ‘I like it, but will other people?’ Then, when someone can sing the words of your song back to you, it’s surreal.”
Last Friday, Villanova students did just that, as Moviehouse rocked the Connelly Center, opening for Death by Murder. In New’s opinion, “the concert was amazing – an eclectic mix of genres with some high class acts. It was attended well for a Villanova concert and the crowd was both receptive and enthusiastic. I would love to do more shows of this caliber.”
As for non-campus events, the band is hoping to add a few more show dates in the Philly area. “Unfortunately,” New explains, “it’s hard to juggle the band, college and work. So, we usually write material and tour during the summer. We’re just waiting till I go back to Michigan to really push off.” Once his lease expires, New plans to leave Pennsylvania (and his part-time job at Divine Videos) and rejoin his band members back home.
Although he earned a double degree in education and psychology, New is concentrating on Moviehouse for the time being. “We’re in the midst of writing three CDs,” he says, “Each one tells a story – kind of like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” Or “Star Wars.”
The second chapter, “Fake Lights Claim Everything,” is the only album on sale at the moment. Soon, fans will be able to buy the third chapter, and, finally, the first. “We realize it’s a very ambitious, very convoluted release schedule,” New admits. “But, we’re trying.”
Luckily, because New Beats is an independent label, it’s unlike most censor-happy record companies. Under their contract, Moviehouse is allowed to write, produce and release anything they want. New describes it as “a highly beneficial relationship for an artist to have. You don’t feel put-upon to create something that you don’t want to create.”
Finally, New would like to encourage potential musical artists “blanket” their demos to record labels everywhere. “Even if you don’t think that you like the particular label,” New insists, “send your stuff anyway. Getting signed to a label is not as hard as people think it is.”
To find out more, check out the band’s website, www.themoviehousearcade.com.