Askew, the youngest band to ever play Glastonbury, have spoken to NME about the honour of playing this year’s festival – and fighting diversity in the face of a rare condition.
This year’s festival will see performances from giants including Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses and Elton John, but also the Glasto debut from the youngest-ever artists to perform at the Worthy Farm event. Meet Askew, the 16-year-old indie rockers with an inspirational message.
Remember where you were at age 16? Well for Askew — formed of Eli, Freddie, Alfie, Jay and Will – the answer is wildly different to most, as they take this week off from their GCSE revision to perform at Glastonbury 2023.
Having formed roughly seven years ago, the band of five close friends explained to NME how meaningful their music is to them, with songwriting is a self-proclaimed sense of “therapy”, and an escape from the devastating circumstances surrounding their frontman, Eli Crossley.
Diagnosed with a rare condition called Duchenne muscular dystrophy when he was just three-years-old, Eli’s parents were told their son would be in a wheelchair at 12, and most likely not see the age of 25. The condition is caused by a faulty dystrophin gene — a protein that essentially acts like a coat hanger and stabilises muscle cells — and means that the singer is increasingly unable to complete everyday tasks.
“I get challenges every day to do certain things that some people may find easier, but it hasn’t affected my music,” he told NME, reflecting on what inspired him to start the band. “Music is a sort of therapy. It’s kind of a way to just escape and have fun with your friends.”
He continued: “I think that that’s why I love music so much, because I’m able to do it and I’m able to really focus on it. I’ve got lots of my friends in the band, and they’re all great. They’re all really supportive and I just enjoy playing music with them and being involved in that environment.”
Taking inspiration from a range of different genres, from blues and pop, to funk and indie, the teenage rockers are determined to spread a sense of fun with their performances, and eager to capture a sound that will unite audiences of all backgrounds.
With the goal of bringing people together with their music and reaching as many potential fans as possible, one can only imagine their reaction when the band discovered they would be taking to the stage at this year’s Glastonbury – and become the youngest ever act to perform at the festival.
The opportunity arose after the singer appeared in a recent BBC interview, and shared that it was his dream to take his music to the Worthy Farm site. Viewers then came together to campaign to make the dream a reality by sharing the hashtag #GetTheLadIn on social media.
‘She’s amazing and an inspiration not just to me but to many people around the world’
15 year old Eli Crossley told #BBCBreakfast how his mum Emily’s campaigning has helped develop technology that could help people living with Ducehnne Muscular Dystrophyhttps://t.co/6WrVN1nJds pic.twitter.com/HXhA3T7j3f
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) February 28, 2023
“It was so cool,” Eli told NME, discussing the moment that he realised that Askew has secured a slot at the festival. “My parents have been three or four times and they’ve always talked about how awesome it was, how fun it was, the vibe, the atmosphere. I was always really jealous — I really wanted to experience it.
“I like that community spirit of people just getting together and enjoying music. We may not make money or become famous, but we just wanted it as a memory of what we’ve done together as a band.”
As for what Glasto-goers can expect with Askew’s upcoming set — which will take place at The Rabbit Hole stage on Friday (June 23) — the band confirmed that they will be looking to channel the energy of their icons Oasis and Arctic Monkeys.
By the sound of it, this Gallagher-inspired charisma will be apparent from the moment the five-piece take to the stage, as they reveal that the set will kick off with a cover of their classic 1994 single ‘Supersonic’.
From there, they said the rest of the set is all about showing Glasto what the band are really all about.
“We start with more rock songs, but we’re also [playing tracks by] different artists and genres,” said guitarist Jay. “So for me, I like bluesy stuff, so we’re doing a couple of Blues songs in our set, and then Eli likes more pop songs, so we’re doing some like that too.”
Eli agreed: “We’ve got a good variety of covers which everyone knows and some originals, which I hope people will enjoy because we’ve worked quite hard on them.
“I hope that the set kind of encapsulates who we are. We’re a very mixed band, we’ve got a wide variety of music and a wide variety of songs. I like that because I feel like a lot of people don’t really listen to one genre, so we take things from all types of music. I like having a wide variety on the setlist.”
As the conversation progressed, it became apparent that their selfless attitude toward the upcoming set is far from false modesty. As the band explained, their main goal is to help inspire people to follow their passion, regardless of the obstacles that life places in their way.
“We want to show that any group of 16-year-old kids or anyone can become good at music,” emphasised Jay. “It’s not really about being big or famous, it’s about just enjoying the actual music.”
Eli agreed, already looking beyond their set later this week and teasing that a debut album may be on the horizon. “If we do make an album, we just want it to be fun,” he added. “We want it to be enjoyable for people to listen to because at the end of the day, we’re just a bunch of people who like to make music. I don’t let my condition stop me from doing that.”
Askew will perform at The Rabbit Hole at Glastonbury at 5.30 this Friday (June 23).