Growing up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, rapper/producer Matt Brandyberry might not have made music his life's passion if he hadn't had to find something to do in a small city ninety minutes from Philadelphia. But it took a while to find his sound. Brandyberry wasn't allowed to listen to anything but Christian music until he was in middle school; his parents were more into popular '80s Christian hard rock and metal bands like Petra and Stryper. Brandyberry's older sister was into the Christian band Bride, then the grunge bands that broke into the mainstream in the '90s.
As soon as he stumbled on it, though, Brandyberry took a shine to rap, especially that f DC Talk; he'd rap along to that Christian rap/rock trio. He also cites more hardcore rap acts like T-Bone, D-Boy and Del 31 as part of his listening diet. Brandyberry's favorite artist of all time, however, is Eminem. “He figures out how to rhyme words that don't rhyme but sound good together,” says Brandyberry. “I remember seeing an interview he did with Dateline or whomever, and they asked him how he rhymes words, and he said, 'Normally you wouldn't think you could rhyme the word orange with something.' He said, 'Orange, porridge, door hinge.' He fires all this stuff off. He can not only make it rhyme, but he is very witty and he can put it together in a way that makes sense.”
Although Brandyberry loved to rap, and does so now with From Ashes to New, he was strongly discouraged from continuing. Not long after he started playing guitar, he discovered metal through the 2001 Sevendust album Animosity — and then heard that the guitarist in a friend's band, Twelve After, had quit. Brandyberry not only joined Twelve After, but he proceeded to book the band at any place it could play, from mom- and-pop bars to music venues.
As an opening act, Twelve After came into contact with more popular bands such as Jacob's Ladder, Counteract and Ninetail. Jacob's Ladder vocalist Chris Musser and Brandyberry put together a band called Elysium Skyline, which dissolved after a year over creative differences. That's when Brandyberry decided he wanted to do something by himself, so he wrote and then recorded his own music doing the drum, guitar, bass and vocal parts. He shared the results with Musser, which set in motion the rapid development of a new act named after a line from a song by Elysium Skyline.
“I asked Chris to come in and be a part of it,” reveals Brandyberry. “It was the whole rap and rock idea, and he said, 'I'm not really feeling it. I'm not really into that.' So he actually wasn't going to do this band. Then he let some of his friends listen to it, and those friends persuaded him to do it because they thought it was cool.”
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The nascent project was dubbed From Ashes to New, though no one involved considered it a real band, because it was basically a studio project. But the new material garnered attention on its own through social media, as people discovered From Ashes to New's synthesis of rap and metal, which comes closer to screamo and metalcore than to what was happening with the rap and hard-rock crossover in the late '90s.
“We released 'Live Again' — that was on our first EP,” recalls Brandyberry. “It wasn't meant to be anything more than we were having fun making music. It wasn't even a band at that time because there were only three of us. We released a song, and people on Facebook started sharing it. We released our second song, 'My Fight,' and someone posted it on a Facebook post of SiriusXM Octane. The program director stumbled across it one day and loved it and started airing it on Octane. Because we weren't even a band at that point, we had no idea. Someone commented on our Facebook page that they had heard the song on Octane, and from that point forward it grew legs and started taking off. So we had our first single out before we were even a band.”
It's definitely a band now, and touring in support of its 2015 EP Downfall. From Ashes to New will release a debut full-length, Day One, in early 2016.
From Ashes to New performs with Like a Storm, Stitched Up Heart and Failure Anthem at the Marquis Theater on Wednesday, November 11, and at the Black Sheep on Thursday, November 12. Doors are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $13 advance/$15 day of show, and it is an all-ages event. To purchase tickets, visit the Soda Jerk Presents website.