Moody and melodic


Newly a trio, Ashton is, from left, Vinnie Gravallese, Mike Mcannally and Kraig Morgan.

Newly a trio, Ashton is, from left, Vinnie Gravallese, Mike Mcannally and Kraig Morgan.

Photo By David Robert

For more information about Ashton, see

Tracking down the guys of Reno-based rock band Ashton isn’t difficult.

The three of them toss pizzas and pour beer at Blue Moon Pizza over on California Avenue. Catching the trio with time to spare, however, is difficult. Between daily band practice, week-long shifts at the pizza place and their almost futile attempts to maintain a social existence, little space exists in their time slot.

A free moment comes as they’re closing Blue Moon for the night. We grab chairs at a table by the large windows. It’s visually apparent they’re in the midst of that end-of-the-day, lazy fatigue as they slump into their seats.

With the exception of the occasional concert ticket and food and booze expenses, every cent they earn goes to the band. They get around Reno by way of restored, circa 1970 street bicycles to save money. Last year, they pulled together enough cash to purchase a weathered 93 Dodge Ram 350, 10-passenger van with trailer to match for touring.

Decked in a band T-shirt under a tailored-slim hoody, girl pants, long hair and lip ring, lead guitarist Vinnie Gravallese, 23, explains it best.

“It’s lame that I live with my mother, ride a bike and work at a pizza place, but it’s a lifestyle I choose to live,” he says. “I wouldn’t be happy doing the standard—driving a Jetta, going to college and making however much a year. I can do that later. This band and making music is what I want to do, so why pursue anything else?”

The members of Ashton say they wouldn’t undertake such busy and perhaps laborious and desperate lifestyles if they weren’t confident in their music.

On June 10, they’re releasing their second album, Rewind, in conjunction with their return to “pop-punk roots.”

Their last album, an emo/screamo creation, Pain, Hearts and Broken Pills “wasn’t really us,” says lead singer and guitarist Kraig Morgan, 23. His style resembles that of Gravallese, only he has even longer hair, restrained by a headband, with a forever-young face and big eyes. He’s the classic frontman, with a natural talent to be remembered by the fair-weather fan without expending much effort.

Beside him is 22-year-old bassist Mike Mcanally. His eyes concentrate behind black-rimmed scopes, and his thick, wavy hair twists around his head. Despite having recently lost their long-time drummer, Steve Hugdal, Mcanally says Ashton’s return to pop-punk foundations makes them more complete.

Rewind consists of melodic verses, constructed with Morgan’s dark lyrics and connected by dramatic buildups to boot tapping, high-octave, catchy choruses. It’s consistently moody. Ashton says each song is intentionally up and down, light and dark, faint and intense.

Ashton’s onstage performance is equally dramatic. They trickle out verses with easy strums and heads down, stationary in their pose. Then blam! They erupt into choruses with swinging guitars, stomping feet and jolting heads, with Morgan belting out from behind the sweat-drenched hair that falls over his face.

Morgan smiles as he says, “Rocking out with long hair is like performing with a wild fucking animal on your head.”

It seems that to Ashton, the joy of a 20-minute set on stage is worth the toil of long work days, tired legs and restless tours in the ex-YMCA van. But like many bands, they hope to make a career out of their music.

“Our aim isn’t to make millions, although that’d be nice,” says Gravallese. “We just want to be self-sustained and not have to struggle with side jobs to support a musical habit. Plus, it’d be nice to have a car.”