For many months before its musical creation, Ashnikko had been crafting the worldscape of their debut album in words and images, lusting after the kind of multimedia realization which might accurately reflect their love of fairy folklore, conceptual songwriting and dystopian sci-fi. “We approached the record kind of scoring a film—I had just seen Dune and went into the studio with my executive producer like, ‘We have to Hans Zimmer this bitch,’” they tell Apple Music. “Me and my best friend, we scrapbooked for a month, making mood boards of all of our favorite things: Japanese anime like Angel’s Egg and Princess Mononoke, the video game Elden Ring, Neil Gaiman books, Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, old Björk music videos…Regardless of what I was saying lyrically, I’ve created this sonic space that keeps you in the headspace of this post-apocalyptic wasteland.” Anchoring their surrealism in timely social message, WEEDKILLER is the sound of an artist overflowing with creative inspiration. Equal parts sinister and celebratory, the vulnerabilities of the singer born Ashton Casey mingle with the album’s fictional lead character, Aster, battling against a beast that is trying to destroy her home. The insatiable tale of the Weedkiller becomes a metaphor for the decaying state of society under deforestation, rampant consumerism, and draconian reproductive rights, but also the places we look to for reprieve; dancing, being at one with nature, the sheer joy of unbridled queer expression, and celestial sex. “A lot of this record is about the reclamation of autonomy,” says Ashnikko. “I really feel like this album was a journey of me stepping into who I am, reclaiming what’s mine and just telling myself that I have value beyond beauty and whatever the male gaze forces me to participate in.” Here is their guide through their multifaceted manifesto, track by track. “World Eater” “I was listening to a lot of old M.I.A. tracks when I wrote this song. M.I.A. is one of the main reasons why I make music. Lyrically, the World Eater is another name for the Weedkiller, this guzzling, lifeblood-sucker who just keeps eating and consuming. I was watching a lot of LOVE DEATH + ROBOTS and I really wanted to set this post-apocalyptic scene with my main heroine, Aster. She’s covered in blood, rising from the ashes, on this quest to exact revenge. There’s no other emotion than rage in this scene; it’s just white-hot, seeing red. The Weedkiller has a moment of regret for what it’s done to the fae forest: it sees Aster dying on the ground and gives her new wings. But by saving her, the new wings are made of Weedkiller parts, and she becomes half of what she hates. It’s about the battle between the natural world and the artificial one, and part of that is me lamenting how I have to engage in the modern world to make a living. Just screaming every time I have to post on fucking TikTok and get people to use my sound. Honestly, I never want to ever do that ever again. When I’m old, I’m just going to disappear into the forest and forage. I’m going to become an ornamental hermit.” “You Make Me Sick!” “Sonically, this song felt like it bridged the old brat pop with the new post-apocalyptic sound. I feel like there’s only one person that I’ve dated that made me feel like I wasted time. Every other person has at least been a learning lesson, but this person was just like, there was so much I could have done instead of being with you. A lot of men that I’ve dated have been so unbelievably intimidated by me having a career, and have been very manipulative in trying to get me to not prioritize that. ‘You Make Me Sick!’ was like a nail in the coffin. I will never, ever accept that in my life ever again. And it feels good to scream—I always find that telling stories about violence helps me to not be a violent person.” “Worms” “‘Worms’ is the poppiest one on the record. I was a little hesitant about putting it on, but it brought so much joy to the people who I made it with that I was like, you know what, a little pop song never hurt anyone. I think of it as the more upbeat, slightly deranged sister of ‘World Eater,’ really trying to paint this post-apocalyptic showdown of guns blazing, glowing sword coming out of my back, wielding it and screaming. Just smiling like a little demon as I slice heads off, laughing and dancing and splashing around in the motor oil of the Weedkillers.” “Super Soaker” (feat Daniela Lalita) “Daniela is a total ethereal being. I think it was really important to have the people that I was obsessed with at the time of writing this record on the record. I said at the beginning that my main character, Aster, has their forest, their home, their family, their lover destroyed, completely wiped off the face of their planet. In this song, she’s almost having a flashback, walking to the forest and stumbling upon a fairy circle. A fairy queen takes her by the hand, immediately enchanted. She's dancing with her, writhing together like snakes. The trees are watching, there are eyes everywhere. She is just basically fucking in the forest with this fairy queen. I really like to write queer, erotic music—the indie space of very heart-wrenching queer love songs, that’s already well covered. I’m here to write about writhing and licking each other.” “Don’t Look at It” “‘Tony Hawk, I’m doing tricks until my tongue hurt,’ ‘I can’t help that I want to be titty-smothered.’ Those two lines…Honestly, I wrote them and I just had to go for a walk like, ‘Wow, I really can’t top myself on this one.’ I remember playing it to my mom and she was just blushing so hard like, ‘How did we get here?’ I wasn’t really raised in a musical household—my mom took me to musical theater rehearsals and that was about it, but now I’m writing about being titty-smothered. There are a lot of themes on this album that are very serious, but then there’s also this silly erotic song. Amidst all the grieving and the raging, I think there has to be space for being silly and lighthearted and sexy.” “Cheerleader” “I used to be a cheerleader and a gymnast—hyper-feminine but also incredibly grueling and painful sports. [You] put in hours and hours in training and hone your body to be this backflipping wonder of the world, but then there’s still this element of needing to be beautiful and cute in little shorts. I thought that the cheerleader was an interesting character to tell this story, this cult-like squad who are worshipping this beast that demands they sacrifice their blood, sweat, tears, and bodies. In a patriarchal society, isn’t it such a tragedy that we feel like our worth diminishes as we lose that social currency of eternal youth and beauty and fuckability, whereas cis men just get to have value forever? I want women and femmes to feel that they can have a hundred different evolutions in their life and that the possibilities are endless.” “Moonlight Magic” “‘Moonlight Magic’ was really inspired by Y2K pop music. I just wanted to write a little joyful, sexy song about someone being a moon and pulling the tides of my body, feeling almost humiliated by how much you like someone. Having a crush on someone is so embarrassing! This is another song that I’m singing to my fairy lover, this gorgeous kind of cold, very mysterious force in my life. I feel like a stupid mortal around her, and she’s this ethereal being just commanding my body, and I love it. There are a lot of chugging guitars in here, which I think felt right to balance out the pop. But yeah, it definitely is an ode to Miss Britney.” “Miss Nectarine” “This is a song I have been wanting to write for years. I had my canon event of falling in love with a best friend who would make out with me as practice for boys and didn’t actually like me that way. I was just this little child, struggling with these feelings, and I remember my mom being really confused as to why I was so mad at my friend for dating boys. We were from rural North Carolina where there were no out queer people, so she just didn’t even know what that looked like. And neither did I. Representation is super important, especially for people who live in smaller towns and don’t have access to seeing queer people living happy lives and having happy endings. When I think of nectarines, I think of summer—biting into fruit and having juice running down my face. It’s uncomfortable and sticky and sweet, but with this hard pit that breaks your heart. There are no hard feelings against her; obviously: not returning someone’s love is completely fine. But this is just me talking about how heartbreaking that was for me and how there were loads of religious parents involved in shaming me for how I felt.” “Chokehold Cherry Python” “This song is a kind of a continuation of my song [2020 single] ‘Daisy.’ It’s just this vigilante hunting through the wasteland, overcome with rage, not being able to see clearly through her blood-tinted glasses. It’s like a Harley Quinn, Tank Girl, Jinx, bad-bitch mashup, and it felt really good to write. I feel like I’m really setting the scene of this very sinister, smiling character from ‘Worms,’ where the character has become so wicked that everything is just hilarious. Even their own pain is hilarious as they hunt down the Weedkillers to destroy them.” “WEEDKILLER” “I wrote the short story for ‘WEEDKILLER’ and then immediately went into the studio the next day and told Slinger, my executive producer, like, ‘We’ve got it. This is it.’ It all kind of exploded out. Before that, we had been doing writing camps, loads of sessions, and nothing felt right—there wasn’t a thread to hold onto. But writing this was like, OK, everything that I write will be a cousin or a sibling of this song. It was a real lightning-in-a-bottle moment.” “Want It All” “I was listening to a lot of Rihanna when I wrote this. It’s about this psychedelic trip where the flowers are speaking to me and asking me to follow them deeper and deeper into the garden. It’s almost this love letter to being alive and wanting to experience everything that the world has to offer. I want to be heartbroken. I want to scream. I want to bleed. I want someone to crash into me like a train. I want to lay in a field of flowers. I want to become an expert on mushroom foraging. I want to write a book, I want to write a play, I want to fuck someone in a tree. I want mediocrity, the highs and the lows. I want to feel it all.” “Possession of a Weapon” “This was written in the immediate aftermath of the Roe vs. Wade ruling. I think the line for me that is the most important in this song is, ‘How dare I have private desires?’ It’s insane to me how I do not have autonomy over my own uterus. Sometimes it feels like we’re building this new world out of papier-mâché. As soon as the powers that be want to, they just come and rain on you and turn everything to mush. It truly felt like any control that AFAB people were starting to have over themselves, their bodies and their futures, was built out of our papier-mâché, because it was so easily taken away from us. Daniela Lalita helped produce this song too, and it felt right for it to be mournful. I think with anything that involves changing the course of history and fighting for people to have basic human rights, you go through waves of hope and hopelessness. When I was writing this, I felt so heartbroken, so sad for the communities that this will affect the most. It’s just so overwhelming to feel like your body is being used as a pawn in some game.” “Dying Star (feat. Ethel Cain)” “Having Ethel Cain on this song was super special. She’s an incredible songwriter and instrumentalist, and she loves a world build. Putting ‘Possession of a Weapon’ right before ‘Dying Star’ was intentional, because I wanted to end the record with something very hopeful. The very last line is, ‘I want something soft.’ The people who have been unkind to me have made me unkind, but, ultimately, I just want a soft place to land. That’s exactly what this song is about, pulling those thorns of the Weedkiller out one by one and looking for someone to take me in. It’s definitely a love song. Existing in a very patriarchal world, especially in the South, under the dark cloud of religion, I’ve had to build myself back up and tell myself that actually I do deserve something kind. Being with someone who is soft and kind to me, I think, was quite shocking, because being hurt is the default setting. I like to think of this person as this new sentient planet, reaching out and catching me softly in her baseball mitt. Something so simple, but something that everyone should have the ability to do in their lifetimes. I wish everyone that—a safe space to exist and be themselves.”

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