James Kendall

Interview: The Heavy

James Kendall
Interview: The Heavy

By Mason Meyers

Three years after the release of their last album The Hurt and The Merciless, Bristol-based band The Heavy have just released their exciting new album Sons, rife with roaring guitars, pumping horn sections and some new-found political lyrics. You will most likely know The Heavy from one of their many features in TV, Movies or Video games, with their song How’d You Like Me Now being featured in countless advert campaigns in the past few years.

In this interview guitarist, Daniel Taylor speaks with Mason Meyers about the new album, politics  and how the band has changed with the recent move of lyricist and frontman Kelvin Swaby to Florida.  

It’s been three years since you’ve been on tour, are the last-minute nerves kicking in? 
It's more a case of remembering everything ya know?  Learning new songs- learning how to play new songs live, learning how to do backing vocals and play guitar live and all of that.

Have you played any of the new songs live yet?
Yeah, we did, we did a couple of shows. one in Berlin and we did a show in London about a month ago. I think they go down well, I find It hard because sometimes they’re hard to remember, but after a few weeks of playing it becomes a muscle memory thing. It's great when you get into the grove, but it’s going to take a while yet. 

What was your main goal with this album?
There wasn’t really a goal, but creatively it was a case of getting back to basics a little bit and going back to the original intention of what the band the heavy was about when we first started. I think over time you can get distracted and go down different rabbit holes and get lost but this felt like it was a return to the original intention. The goal was to get back to that original sound. 

You’ve used wine glasses as cowbells and started using synths, was it important for you to experiment in this album?
Not any more so than usual, it hasn’t veered too far away, its basic rock and roll with a hip-hop feel; it’s always going to be that. Were never going to put out an ambient twelve minuet electronica. I guess we experiment with recording, but I always kind of liken it to a pizza, it’s always going to be cheese and tomato, the ingredients will always stay the same. 

How about live shows are you going to try anything new with this show? 
Nah, it’s always going to be old faithful. It’s always going to be the ones people know, and then gradually introducing the newer stuff until people become familiar. That’s always the difficult thing when you play a show and the audience haven’t heard the new material, you can't expect them to have that connection, you need a blend of the two until later when you can start playing stuff off of the new album. But I don’t think are shows will ever be downtempo. 

What makes you feel more like a rock star, seeing your music in TV and Films or being on stage?
I don’t ever like a rock star. I lead a pretty down to earth life - I lead a simple existence. It's about the music for me, that’s the most important thing. You can get carried away with that whole clique and that sense of rock. Don’t get me wrong it's great to stand in front of a big audience that knows your songs and plug in a loud guitar. But it’s about the overall for me, its about the songs and that’s the most important thing. I rarely feel like a rock star, but it is great to hear stuff in games and stuff, but it’s a feeling of achievement more than that of feeling like a Rockstar. 

Do you think you’ll use the new music in adverts, or have you gotten out to the people enough yet?
That’s how we make our money, that’s how we survive, that’s a really important part of how we're able to carry on. That’s so important for us to be musicians and carry on making music, that’s a really important part of what we do. I always that were the underdogs, we don’t get mainstream radio, we don’t have those outlets. So our music gets to people through film and tv and that’s how it spreads, that’s how we’ve ended up in Japan playing huge festivals, its all through adverts. But it's not just us, that’s how you do it now. 

The album cover is you guys, and the title is sons, Is this a particularly personal album?
I don’t think this is anything more personal than anything we’ve done before. I just liked the idea of the album art being us, we’ve hidden behind moody artwork before and this is more us saying “this is us and this is what we do” were taking a more honest approach. We’ve taken away the imagery and the mysticism and were just a bunch a son’s making music together, and that’s the cover and that cover to me is how the album sounds. 

How has the recording process been now that Kelvin lives in Florida?
We’ve been working on more stuff since, and it's been easier than ever. We’ve never been a traditional band, we’ve never been four guys in a room just jamming it out. Its always been bedroom based, home studio-based ideas. Because that’s how it started, back then it was four tracks and sharing ideas. But now it’s a case of me recording at home and sending over an idea to Kelv’ who has his little space over at his place, and we just share files back and forth. In an ideal world, we’d all be living really close, but that’s just not the case anymore and it’s not necessarily necessary.

Some fans think better as one is about Donald Trump is this true and has Kelvin moving to Florida affected the lyrics?
Well, we didn’t ignore that, but you have Brexit as well and ultimately, I think it’s about all of them and about that whole sentiment. I don’t think its necessarily about Trump I’m sure there is a fair amount of Trump in there, but equally, so you could say it’s about the state of British politics at the moment. I think because of Brexit and trump the divides are getting greater.

Would you say that the album is particularly political?
Well, it’s not specific, it’s a bit more ambiguous, it’s just about that feeling of unity. There used to be those old funk bands and they’d sing about that feeling of being together and general togetherness. So we're not being specific about how “were voting this way and you’re wrong”, were not being as political as that, but it definitely is about the nature of human beings. It’s a case of “This is our planet, this is all we have, it doesn’t matter what you think, whatever your politics are, until we realise that we can’t make real progress.” 

This is a really hopeful album; do you think its more important to write songs like that than ever?
I would say so, now it’s more important than ever. But I think things are really changing, I know music is changing and especially in this county. I personally like to be transported, I don’t want to be thinking about how shit everything is if I’m listening to a band or seeing a band. I don’t want to see you band a political drum, I like that separation, just take me somewhere else, take me out of my usual day to day. 

Do you think this album is a call for arms for people to get together and love each other
Yeah, I would say so, as soon as you hear that lyric (“you know that we can be better, you know we're better as one”) it speaks do you immediately. But I think a lot of the time we don’t really think about it really, I know Kelv’ doesn’t sit down and write a lyric that is specifically based on one thing. It’s just an instinctive thing for him, that’s his personality, that’s who he is. When he gives me the lyrics I can decide exactly what it needs, like my part and the arrangement. And when we play it live we see it, it ignites something in people, and it’s not preachy and specific, but that’s just it, we are better as one.