Heavy Heart delighted us with their 2016 song a month project with each new track seemingly aiming to outdo the previous one for most plays on our HQ Soundcloud playlist. With the year close to wrapping up we felt now was a good time to catch up with frontwoman Anna for some questions about their year.
Cougar Microbes: What time did you wake up today? Was it out of choice or necessity?
Heavy Heart: I woke up at 7am for work, because rent, bills, guitar strings – so necessity, for sure. I work from home though so it’s really a case of falling out of bed and crawling to my computer.
CM: Describe your sound to the uninitiated?
HH: This is always a tough question to answer – I guess if we did a word cloud of all the reviews we’ve had, it’d probably come out as melancholy, dreamy alt. rock. Lots of guitars, lots of melodies.
CM: What have been the highlights of your year (musically) so far.
HH: This time last year we were playing in New York for CMJ which was an amazing adventure and kicked off probably the busiest and most creative year of all our lives so far. We’ve been writing, recording and releasing a new song a month throughout 2016 so every time we’ve put a new song out has been a highlight and a musical progression for us.
CM: How do you kill time on the road when on the road? hobbies/games?
HH: We haven’t really been out on the road yet, but band journeys and downtime usually involve mass singalongs, large amounts of hairspray, misquoting films and TV, finding and eating chicken wings…things like that.
CM: What have been your favourite venues to play? Any Venues you hated?
HH: None we’ve hated so far, but lots we’ve enjoyed – Old Blue Last and Birthdays in London are always good, and we had a great show at The Finsbury the other day, that’s a good place to play.
CM: you able to write on the road or do you do this in your off time?
HH: We sometimes knock ideas around in soundcheck, but I usually prefer to come up with ideas in my bedroom when nobody else is around. I haven’t tried writing on the road yet…I hope it will be possible!
CM: Is there a song you are simply sick of playing live?
HH: Not yet – we’ve written so many new songs this year already that we can’t fit them all into one set, so it definitely keeps things interesting.
CM: What is the songwriting process like for you?
HH: I normally come up with the basic idea on my own – a few chords, melody, rough lyrics – and then work with the guys on making it into something real. Patrick (guitar) produces all our music so a lot of the development of the sound happens at that stage too. Once we’ve got the grain of the idea, the rest is very collaborative.
CM: Do your songs go through many revisions and demos before recordings?
HH: Yes, definitely – the heart of the song usually stays quite close to where it started, but the recording and writing process are completely intertwined for us, it’s hard to separate the two. We write as we record a lot of the time, so the songs really only take on their final form right at the end.
CM: What came first, the lyrics or the melody?
HH: For me it’s the melody, every time. When I’m writing, I sometimes get fragments of lyrics which appear fully formed, but more often I just sing a stream of nonsense words along with the melody as it occurs to me. It can be quite a challenge replacing these nonsense words with something meaningful once you’re attached to them. I think it’s called ‘demoitis’ – when you can’t let go of that first rough take you did on your phone at 2 in the morning.
CM: What is your favourite track of yours?
HH: I like them all in different ways, but I think so far my favourite is either ‘Pretty Thing‘ or ‘Fever Dream‘ – they just sort of turned out exactly how I wanted them to, and I like playing them live.
CM: If you could record any cover in the world what would it be?
HH: Well, we already did a cover of R.E.M.‘s ‘Sweetness Follows‘, which is one of my favourite songs (it’s on our Soundcloud if you want to hear it), but if I could add another to the to-do list, it might be something by the Pixies – maybe ‘Wave of Mutilation‘.
CM: What are your views on auto tune?
HH: I think it’s really interesting when it’s used as a deliberate, creative effect, like how Bon Iver uses it – it’s got this eerie, melancholy feel to it. I guess a lot of people just use it as a tool to correct their vocal pitching, which is fair enough, but you can really hear it when it has been overused. All chart music you hear on the radio has this weird, robotic, zingy sound to the vocals where they’ve heavily corrected it. I think that particular quality is already sounding dated, and will sound really cheesy to future generations, in the same way that some of those over-processed, chorused and gated productions of the 80s sound a bit tacky now.
CM: Any other artists/bands from your local scene we really should know about?
HH: Not really from our local scene because I’m not sure we’re in one, but we’re friends with two other great female-led bands – LIINES from Manchester and HAWK from London (but now based in Berlin). You definitely need to check these guys out if you haven’t yet.
CM: What is the most flattering thing you’ve read about yourselves?
HH: It’s hard to know if what you meant is getting across, so it’s encouraging when we read something about our music and the writer has really understood what we were going for. It’s always nice to be compared to bands you like, and so far people have been really thoughtful and not necessarily just compared us to other bands with female singers. I love it when people leave a nice comment on our Soundcloud tracks too – I think someone on there once said we were like Radiohead meets Pains of Being Pure at Heart…which is a lot to live up to, but very flattering.
CM: What was the first record/tape/cd you ever bought?
HH: Like most kids, I used to borrow music from people before I really owned my own CDs, and then I’d get records for my birthday and Christmas, but I think the first album I remember buying with my own money was a second-hand copy of ‘Unplugged in New York‘ by Nirvana. That album had a huge effect on me.
CM: What was the last song that got stuck in your head?
HH: When I’m really tired and stressed, I always get ‘9 to 5‘ by Dolly Parton going round my head incessantly – but only the opening lines, I can’t ever seem to get beyond that. It’s like a recurring nightmare, it’ll probably be the last thing I hear before I die… “Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen…”
CM: What was the last show you paid and queued up for?
HH: We went to see Vulfpeck recently in London – it was probably one of the best shows I’ve ever seen from a muso perspective, they’re the most masterful musicians ever.
CM: If you had to bring on artist back from the dead in exchange for sending a living artist down ,which artists would it be and why??
HH: Peter Steele from Type O Negative because I’ve only recently got into that band and I’m heartbroken that I’ll never get to see them live. Who would I exchange him for? That’s an evil question…who’s an arsehole right now? Is Donald Trump musical at all..?