Former Epitaph Records melodic punk rock band HEARTSOUNDS will release their upcoming record through Flix Records in Europe (in USA via Creator-Destructor), just released a new song and were so super kind to sit down with me to talk about their past and current endeavors in the development of their art.
Titled “Internal Eyes“, the new record will be out on October 18th. The new album was recorded, mixed, and, mastered at Castle Ultimate Studios in Oakland, CA in June & July of 2013. The band once again called on producer/engineer Zack Ohren for the production of the album, resulting in what can only be considered the most sonically impressive and aesthetically pleasing HEARTSOUNDS record to date. While 2009′s Until We Surrender marked the band’s debut effort, tracked solely between Guitarist/Vocalists Ben Murray and Laura Nichol, Internal Eyes is the second full-length album (after last year’s Drifter) to include drummer Trey Derbes as a crucial songwriting partner to the group. Internal Eyes also marks the first album with bassist Bobby Taul, who helps in achieving a more solidified and tighter-knit rhythm section than ever before.
Check out their new track and a bunch of cool information below and stay tuned – they will be premiering another new song off of the new record next Monday!
Welcome guys! I must say that Felix from Flix Records made my day by bringing you here and arranging this interview :) I’ve been listening to your tunes since your debut record and I’m thrilled you’re almost done with the third full length installment! Tell us more about “Internal Eyes” and how it came together.
Thanks man!! We are really excited about ‘Internal Eyes’. Trey and I started writing the songs about a year ago, and for 8 months straight we pretty much went to our practice space and hammered out these riffs and ideas non-stop, trying to make the best record possible. We didn’t have anything in mind really when we started in terms of the sound, but we knew that we wanted to pushed ourselves to really improve upon what we thought were our best qualities. We wanted the riffs to be more dynamic, more melodic, more compelling, basically. Once the music was all finished, Laura and I knew that we really wanted to make sure the vocals included much more of a ‘trade-off’ dynamic in each song, as opposed to her and I each singing one whole song, etc. All in all, it came together without much stress or hassle. We just took a year and made sure it sounded the way we wanted! ;)
The artwork accompanying your new stuff is very nice and it fits the music perfectly. Who’s responsible for it and how do you choose its style?
The amazing and talented Dave Kloc did the art for the new record. He has done a few T-Shirts of ours in the past, and is such an awesome dude/illustrator who has a lot of incredible work under his belt. We couldn’t be more stoked with how that all came out this time around. We gave him a few whacky ideas, which he in turn made 10000 x more crazy. We love it, and we love Dave!
How did you decide to leave Epitaph and put it out with Creator-Destructor Records (and Flix Records for Europe)?
We didn’t leave Epitaph, it was just a business decision on their part, plain and simple. I hit up Brett about maybe doing this record, and he said that they wouldn’t be able to do it. A label like Epitaph can only put out so many releases a year, and they need to reserve those for their higher selling bands, and they don’t necessarily want to put thousands of dollars into another record by a band who won’t sell tons of records. We weren’t even close to being a high selling band for them, which I knew from the start, haha. I totally understand it, and there’s no bad blood there whatsoever. We know our sound is not hugely popular, and that’s always been fine with us. Brett and everyone there gave us such a huge break we still can’t even believe it! The fact that Laura and I got to work with him in the studio for ‘Drifter’ was something I never thought would ever happen. Nothing but appreciation for everyone over there, and we’re all grateful for the fact that they released two of our records. After we knew Epitaph wasn’t going to do it though, the decision was obvious for us to go with my own label, Creator-Destructor. We put out ‘Until We Surrender’ before Epitaph re-released it, and we are just comfortable running our own show, pretty much. We put out records by bands that we love like ANCHORS, CLEAVE, THE STEREO STATE, ENABLER, etc, etc, and we wanted to control the whole process ourselves- everything from the recording to the production of the vinyl, to the mail-order, etc. We like just being able to manage it ourselves. There aren’t really any labels out there that we feel we HAD to be a part of. Frankly, I like the Creator-Destructor bands more than most bands out there these days. That’s why I release those records, at the end of the day. It just made sense to us.
Do you believe in the curse of the third album, that it’s most difficult part in your discography? :) Or is it rather that you don’t really think there is a difference between the records, more of a continuity?
I’m not sure about a ‘curse’ so to speak, but it was definitely interesting writing these 10 songs after already writing 24 other ones from the last two records. There is more of a challenge and less of a super-fresh innocence to the writing process after a few records, but we always try to keep it as fun as possible, and it always is!1 I actually really enjoyed the challenge of improving upon my songwriting and trying to up the ante this time. While some band’s releases can be viewed as a ‘continuity’, our head-spaces and personal lives from album to album are always totally different, so each record should (and does) have its own feel and tone. This one is interesting. I think our fans will really like it.
Comparing to your previous outings, what’s different this time? The new stuff is a bit faster and…? :)
There are definitely some super fast parts, and some more mid-tempo stuff as well. We experimented with a lot of different tempos and rhythms, and wanted to make the dynamics as unique as possible, for a fast punk record. Trey definitely knocked it out of the fucking park on this one. His drumming is just so good, I can’t believe it, haha. There are some parts that might catch people by surprise, and definitely some new tricks we pulled out, but nothing on the record will make people say ‘What the fuck? That was odd’. So, that’s good I suppose. Honestly, this is just how Trey and I write the music at this point, it still sounds like HEARTSOUNDS! Haha. I don’t think we could do something totally weird and fucked up, even if we tried. When I first showed Laura some of the demos of the music, she thought it sounded more upbeat and less negative. Maybe she’s right!
Can you explain the title ”Internal Eyes” and tell us more about the lyrical part of the record?
The title track of the record is called ‘Internal Eyes’, and I thought that it pretty much summed up the lyrical themes of the whole thing, so we decided to name the album ‘Internal Eyes’ as well. That song (and the album on a broader level) is really about self-scrutiny and analysis, self-hatred, and beating yourself up, so to speak. I’m someone who never lets my own mind off the hook, at all. Any time I start to get comfortable or proud, I get an unspeakable anxiety that puts me in a really dark place. This is what the record is about, essentially- the way I deal with these ever-recurring feelings of hopelessness and worry. I consider it a real mental illness within myself that I’ve been working on ever since I was 17. It hasn’t let up, but I have had periods and moments of clarity and relief, which also show through on the record, I think.
What song on the album, do you reckon, will never bore you?
I don’t think any of them will ever bore me, haha, at least I hope not! A few of my favorites are ‘A Total Separation of Self’, ‘Cycles’, and ‘First Light’. I love them all though. They are all super exciting and fresh to me now though, so maybe ask in two years or so! ;)
Your drummer Trey Derbes became a crucial songwriting partner to the group this time, right? :) Tell me more about this part of the creation of the record.
Man, he was absolutely crucial to this record, as well as ‘Drifter’. But this time around, he was there jamming with me on my ideas from riff #1 of this album. He is such an accomplished musician and drummer, and really injected some of my ideas with an energy and creativity that I could never have done myself. Aesthetically, we are on the exact same page, and it’s so nice to have someone like that to build songs with. He also helps me manage the band, which is an added bonus. I can’t say enough awesome things about Trey, he made this band a million times better.
I saw Trey’s socks in one of the studio videos, haha :) does he play drums in bare feet?
Haha, he usually plays without his shoes on. I cannot say I understand it, it seems uncomfortable! Haha. It clearly hasn’t stopped him from totally destroying it on the drums though, so whatever works for him is fine by me!
How do you feel about the change in the bassist department? How’s Bobby Taul doing?
Bobby’s great! He did an amazing job with his bass tracks on this new album, too. This is his first record with us, but he’s been in the band for a while now. We’ve known Bobby for a long time, but he filled in for us a few summers ago when we needed a fill-in for a couple tours, and we all really seems to vibe well together. He is a great player too, and fit our style really well. It just so happened that our last bass player Kyle had to leave the band shortly after that summer, so it was an obvious decision to ask Bobby to join the band after Kyle left. It’s been great ever since! We’ve gone to Japan, Europe, and the UK together, and his mustache has seen many exciting cities across the world! ;)
What’s his story? Where did he play before HEARTSOUNDS?
He was in a band called Check Raised in Fresno where he lives, but he never did much touring I don’t think, before he joined HEARTSOUNDS. He’s a righteous dude who worked for Numbskull Shows out here in California, so we just knew each other from mutual friends and whatnot.
Have you recorded more songs and put them in the vault for a follow up EP or a split release? :)
Unfortunately, no. We finished the 10th song ‘Internal Eyes’ and were more than ready to record these damn-things!
Speaking of ex-bands, are people still linking Laura and Ben to LIGHT THIS CITY?
Heh, yeah from time to time! Laura and I are still very proud of that band and what we accomplished, so I don’t mind it. I can still hear a good amount of LTC in the occasional HEARTSOUNDS riff, but maybe that’s just me…
Let’s go back to 2008 for a while. I always wondered… what cause that amazing turn from melodic death metal to melodic punk rock? :)
Laura and I just felt like we were done with it. We had been touring and playing in LIGHT THIS CITY for 6 years, and were honestly just tired of touring with a metal band. I still love metal and listen to it all the time, but we didn’t want to keep playing that style of music. We had always been fans of punk rock, so the natural feeling was to start another band and do things a bit differently. We don’t regret any of those albums or tours though, we had an awesome time playing in LIGHT THIS CITY!
Are Ryan Hansen and Jon Frost still involved in THE URCHIN BARREN? Do you still keep in touch with those guys?
URCHIN BARREN is no more, but they are doing new things of their own now that are in the works. I still see those guys constantly, they are great friends of mine!
OK, let’s go back to your current business, shall we? :) You’ve just announced some US East Coast dates with CLEAVE and THE STEREO STATE, including NO TRIGGER on 2 dates. Shoot me some teaser for it.
Teaser? Hmmm, let me think. We will be playing songs off all three albums?! Haha, I don’t know how to give a good teaser! CLEAVE, THE STEREO STATE, and NO TRIGGER are all amazing, but you probably know that already. If you haven’t heard CLEAVE yet, make SURE to do that NOW. They are like, our favorite band, and criminally underrated. Check them out!
Are you ready for another FEST adventure? What’s special about this festival?
Yes we are! FEST is just an awesome weekend of friends, beers, and bands. That’s all there is to it really. It’s a nice vacation away from real life, where you can walk around drunk all day and see (most) of your favorite bands playing pretty small venues. It’s awesome. The shows we play at FEST are always incredibly fun as well, which is just an added bonus. This will be our 4th year in a row playing the FEST, and we are still just as stoked! I can’t wait to see THE DRAFT this year. That record is still one of my favorites.
Have you come across any exciting bands at some festivals this year?
Hmm, can’t say that I have. I haven’t really been to any festivals this year, though. I wish I got out more and went to more shows, but when you work full time and run a label/have a band, the free time is a bit more limited.
Ok. Here’s a very important question :) Any plans to come back to Europe sometime soon?
I hope we can get back there sometime next year to play songs off of ‘Internal Eyes’! We’re working on it…. More news soon! (Hopefully).
How do you remember your 2012 trip with NO TRIGGER? How do you see Europe and its local punk rock scenes? Any cool places you visited and bands you met?
We had a blast on that tour! We love NO TRIGGER as dudes and as a band, and they were the perfect kind of band to take us over to Europe for the first time. The tour was a great time. Definitely some long-ass drives, but that’s to be expected I guess. Lots of late nights and hilarious van-rides too. We played places we never thought we’d play, and that was a dream come true. The punk scenes all seemed really solid out there, and there wasn’t a bad show! There were lots of awesome local bands that played the dates too, that was refreshing!
And what about Japan? Was your last trek with CLEAVE you debut gig there? Tell me more about it.
That was our favorite tour ever. Japan is just the coolest place, and CLEAVE are the best band around right now. We did 8 shows out there, and they took such great care of us, we couldn’t have been more appreciative. They are the nicest most caring genuine people we’ve ever met, and man, what a fucking good band! Haha, I know I keep saying it over and over, but it was an honor to play with them every night. It was hard to go on after them…
Alright guys. I guess this is it. Feel free to add anything you want. Is there anything else I should be asking you? :)
Thank you so much for the interview! Definitely check out the new album ‘Internal Eyes’, and check out all the awesome bands on Creator-Destructor Records!
Thanks so much for your time! I’ve just played a couple of your tunes to my non-punk-rockin’ pregnant wife and she really liked it :) Haha! Fingers crossed my daughter will be a fan of yours ;) Cheers from Warsaw!
Studio photos by Alex Wenten.
Colorful band photos by Violet Derbes.
HEARTSOUNDS official website