Coming from the retirement community of Niagara-on-the-Lake doesn’t keep Heavy Hearts from working hard. Pushing out release after release over the past few years, the band already has a handful of EPs and a powerful full-length album with Bliss. Trying to reinvent their sound once again for their latest EP, On A Chain, the band decided to escape their usual jamming and wrote right in studio. On A Chain was released between some of the longest tours of their career, and now the band is hitting the road once again. We caught up with member Justin Glatt to talk about the band’s evolution, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and how sometimes, mistakes work out for the best.
Considering your earlier EPs, what made 2016 feel like the right year for your debut and what had been missing before?
I know we had all really wanted to make a full record. So in the summer of 2015 we got together and wrote the songs to see if we could do it. On the previous EP, we had figured out what sound we were going for so the full-length was following that. With the new EP it was all about branching out into things we hadn’t done before. That was why this release was an EP, because we wanted to try things and see where they went.
What inspired the big leap forward you all took sonically for On A Chain?
There was a song with some dissonant sounds, which was the first idea we were really working on. As the ideas kept moving forward we were wondering if the ideas worked together. We recorded it up in Ottawa, and we were trying a few new things so we figured let’s do an EP. That way if people don’t like it we know not to do it again, we’ll know what went wrong. It’s also much less commitment than a full-length would have been. We had the songs about 75 per cent of the way, and then when we went to the studio that’s where they really came together. We wrote the songs a lot more differently than ever before. Normally we get together and jam them all as a group until the song is done. This time our drummer had a studio, so we’d go in and, instead of jamming, we’d record a guitar demo, then build from there. There’s a song called “Headroom” with an electronic outro and all the drums are programmed, and I don’t think that would have happened if we’d just jammed it out, it would’ve likely been a regular guitar, drums and bass track.
What is the scene like in Niagara-on-the-Lake and how did that small-town vibe shape your music?
Where we live is more of a retirement tone, so it’s a lot of bar bands that are there for three hours. If you go to St. Catharines that’s where the scene really is. It fluctuates though, there can be a lull, but often it’s pretty great. Writing-wise around here: at first it was mostly playing in a room together, but now we want to be our own thing so we feel like we’re going even further away from sounding like other bands.
I also understand “Unravel” came from a mistake, how did this happen and what inspired the song lyrically?
For the guitars I was working on the opening riff for another song and played it wrong, so that’s how the guitars came out. I thought it sounded cool, and the band wasn’t sure if it was good for us but eventually we made it work. Lyrically, there was a friend close to me that was really struggling, and some of the lines are just direct quotes from what they were saying that stuck with me. The song felt really dissonant and tense when we recorded it so I felt the lyrics should reflect it as well.
How has your recent extended tour been as a learning experience for you? I understand it was also your longest to date?
This tour was definitely a learning experience for us. Past tours we’d gotten off days, and we always said off days sucked. We had two weeks straight and it was fine, it was the end of July in Texas, just hot without AC. The drives were fun, but we were playing and then would drive, sleep, and drive the rest of the way. The longer the tours get, the more we learn about going out and staying healthy while saving money. It’s harder than going out for a weekend, but when you’re off the road you just miss it.
What inspired the projected looks of “Easy Mark”?
We pitched the idea to J.J. Sorensen, he talked about how the vibe of the song had a colourful element to it. He said even if it would cheesy it would be cool to get coloured lights and play with that. The lights played a big part in the visuals, and we didn’t want to worry about a really long narrative, because this was really the first time we hadn’t played with a half-performance, half-narrative structure.
Where’s your journey taking you next?
We’ve been writing, so we’re chipping away at our next full-length. We’re about to go on tour through Ontario and Quebec with Goldfinch and King of Scorn, then we’ll be back for Christmas and New Years, writing for a while. Then we’re off to the UK and Europe, writing out on the road.