R.I.P. Cash Askew
The Them Are Us Too guitarist passed away in the Oakland Ghost Ship fire, but her beautiful songs remain.
I first heard “Us Now” in February of 2015. It was an early, out-of-nowhere single by Them Are Us Too, the dream-pop project of singer Kennedy Ashlyn and guitarist Cash Askew, two best friends from California. The track felt familiar and transformative, its sunrise synths and fluttery vocals crawling along at a "Plainsong" pace. I’ve listened to it a lot since then — in borrowed cars, through headphones on the J train. I’ve written about it for this website and I’ve seen it performed live in now-shuttered underground music venues. I played it again last Sunday, shortly after a mutual friend texted me asking if I’d heard that Cash Askew, 22, was among the confirmed victims of the deadly fire at Ghost Ship, an artist’s space in Oakland.
I’d never met Askew, but the transfixing songs she made with Ashlyn have become a fixture in my weird little life, and the news of her tragic death stung. The sheer loveliness of “Us Now” provided me comfort in that moment, and I imagine it could for others, too. Though the lyrics are often buried in the mix, a lot of Them Are Us Too’s songs seem to be about constructing a new world for yourself — a safe, beautiful place. “Look through colored glass/ creating a fantasy/ to find Eudaemonia,” goes “Eudaemonia,” a song named after the Greek word for "human flourishing."
From an outside perspective, it seems like Askew worked hard to find places like that for herself in the real world, even when it wasn’t easy. The last song Them Are Us Too made together was for a compilation put together by a local publication called Scream Queens. “We were so honored to be included amongst crucial community members and most beloved friends,” Askew's bandmate wrote. It’s an atmospheric lullaby built on a cold, rickety groove. “Waiting for the day I turn back to life,” Ashlyn sings. “Won’t you speak to me love/ won’t you speak to me love.”