Heavyman Interview on Soft Sound Press

Interview: Heavyman finds new values & serendipity in isolation

Despite the circumstances, Heavyman is having a great year so far. They’re finally releasing music, even premiering “Pigs” on Kerrang! Radio, and their new music video has just dropped. In a time when emerging bands don’t have face-to-face ways of gaining fans, they’re thriving. So what’s it like to be in this position right now? I had to find out for myself. I chatted with Charlie & Nick about releasing music (however slowly), art in society, and reevaluating what matters in an ever-changing world. You can read our interview below + watch the video for “Pigs“.

First of all, congrats on the success of “Pigs.” It’s my favourite of the two singles so far. How has the response been?

Charlie: It’s been really good. I’ve been very happy with the response. We’ve had some stellar reviews and it’s great to hear that people are connecting with the song and they understand where we’re coming from.

I understand that you wrote this song six years ago?

Charlie: Yeah. *laughs* I’m a little slow to release stuff. The song was written back in 2014 and it was inspired by when Russia invaded Crimea. I was actually reading Animal Farm at the time and I thought, okay, well, here’s something interesting. Here’s a book that was written decades ago and it seems to be just as relevant today as it was then. And even now, six years on from when I wrote this song, unfortunately you might say the topics seem just as relevant.

Yeah, that was my thought, I figured it wouldn’t need any updating to make it relevant. It’s the same issues happening over and over again.

Charlie: I can’t take too much credit. You’d have to give the majority of that to Orwell, it’s lifted directly from his book.

Did you have anything that you changed about it along the way, or is it the exact same as when you wrote it six years ago?

Charlie: The song was fairly fully formed when it was first written. It’s undergone a few changes since it was first conceived, but I think it’s pretty much stayed the same. Except for the killer guitar solo at the end. That was all Nick’s doing, and he didn’t join the lineup until we were actually Heavyman.

It’s cool that you guys have been able to make the best of the situation right now. I know this is probably a very difficult time to be starting out as a new emerging band.

Charlie: We have to say a massive thank you to our new manager, Bianca Mukhi, for keeping us in line.

Nick: She stepped in at a very interesting time, and kudos to her for doing something like this. For me, it’s quite an incredible thing to take on at this time. As a musician, it’s quite uncertain. We want to go and gig, right? We’re kind of desperate to go and play somewhere. We’ve booked our first rehearsal on Wednesday, so that’s going to be like an early Christmas present.

Charlie: I’ll be completely honest. You said it yourself, Paige. I wrote that song six years ago and that for me is kind of indicative of the type of work ethic we’ve built around the band. I’ve been a little bit slow to get things done, even before the pandemic. Having Bianca come on board and help us get a sense of direction in this crazy time, that’s been the most invaluable thing. I don’t think we’d have been able to release our music as successfully, if at all, if it weren’t for Bianca. We’re very happy to have such an awesome person as part of our team.

Without live music, hopefully getting back to rehearsing will make things feel a bit more normal. What changes have you had to make to your plans, in terms of sharing your music and connecting with people? How do you keep things exciting as a band?

Nick: The first few months, it was hard to meet up because of restrictions and things. Trying to write and collaborate and think of the next thing that might happen or the next thing we’ll write together as a band after we release this material… it’s been quite interesting. We’re demoing a lot. I haven’t really played with the guys from the initiations of some songs that they wrote a couple of years ago. So for me, it’s still quite new, which is quite a nice thing to uncover as a rock band. I’ve been in quite a few rock bands in my life, but this one is different. Charlie is a bit of a wordsmith and a dreamer in the best sense of the words. His perspective is refreshing, and it makes the music and playing live really exciting for me. It’s been great to get all of these things to come together. This is the first time they’ve released anything, so I came on at the right time.

Charlie: Nick is the latest addition to the lineup. He joined the band when we were basically halfway through recording this stuff and we were looking for someone to mix it. We found Nick and it turned out he was an incredible guitarist. It took a little bit of coaxing, but he finally joined us. As this lineup, we’ve only had a handful of gigs, which were in the months leading up to the pandemic. And then everything went to shit. But what it means is that while we were adjusting to what was happening in the pandemic, I got the opportunity to write with Nick more. I don’t want to speak for you, but I feel like we’ve discovered this really lovely working relationship.

Charlie: There’s this lovely rapport here, and I think we’re just excited to continue writing more and see how the band’s sound develops. The first tracks we’re releasing have had a touch of Nick in there, in terms of the mix and his production contributions. And he’s played on a few of the tracks. The new songs that we’ve been writing are very exciting and that’s been one of the big pluses about lockdown. Just being able to concentrate on writing.

It’s so funny because in a lot of the interviews I’ve been doing lately, one of the topics that keeps coming up is just… serendipity. How everything seems to work out the way it should. It’s funny how lockdown happened and then you finally get to actually work together and grow what you started. It’s just weird how timing happens.

Charlie: It is strange. Um, Nick… I feel like you’re about to say something.

Nick: I actually wrote a song called “Serendipity” over lockdown.

No.

Nick: It’s just a coincidence that you’re mentioning that word, but it’s resonating right now in my world.

Oh my God.

Nick: It’s uh… it’s spooky. Yeah. That’s the word.

Wow. I feel like something’s happening right now where it’s like the world needed to slow down for a minute. Everybody’s been getting their life in line and figuring out what’s important to them and what they want to do going forward.

Charlie: It’s all re-evaluating. Just figuring out, okay, what are my new values in this world?

When you’re moving so fast all the time, you don’t have time to really think about what you’re doing. You have to keep moving.

Charlie: Or it’s easier to live that way. It’s not necessarily that you don’t have the time, but it’s easier to not make the time. Whereas in lockdown, you’re confronted with time. It’s been an interesting journey, the last few months.

Have either of you found things that you’ve been valuing more since being locked down or hobbies that you’ve picked back up?

Nick: I was quite ill last year. In fact, when I met the guys to mix this stuff last year, I had to take some time off work. I’m just appreciating taking a day out to do nothing, taking my time and just breathing and going for a walk. I play a lot of golf at the moment, to get out of the house. It’s allowed me the time to reflect on what’s important to me. That’s really helped, especially in the last few months. I really value that.

Charlie: I definitely feel the same way. I’ve given a lot more attention to looking inward, figuring out what what’s really important. I’m giving a lot more time to relationships and trying to be a bit more present all around. It’s funny, sometimes I feel one of those moments of complete lucidity. It’s such a liberating feeling to be in a moment, present and lucid and so alive and responsive to all the things around you. All the little nuances of social behaviour, whatever it is, being appreciative of your moment you’re in.

Yeah, it’s nice to find the bright side of everything happening right now. I feel like bands have either separated from music entirely and found other things to focus on for balance, or they’ve taken that dive into creating more and going deeper with it. It sounds like you guys have really done… both, actually, so good for you for being able to balance and also do everything.

Charlie: I think it was an interesting turning point for me. When it comes to being a musician in today’s world where everyone’s racing to the end goal and you’re bombarded on social media with other people that are doing as good a job, if not a better job, than you. You’re constantly comparing yourself. And then all of a sudden, everything stops and the race stops and nothing makes sense. I feel like a lot of musicians must have felt this way. You kind of take a step back and wonder, what the hell am I doing? Is this what I really want to do?

It was a real turning point for me when I went actually, you know what? I know that I’m a musician. I know this is what I do, so let’s not be afraid of looking at other things. Let’s not be afraid of asking myself, “so what if I didn’t do music for a little while? What else is there for me?” And I haven’t fully answered that question yet, but being able to stop and turn around and know that’s always going to be there. That’s cool. That’s safe. What else is there?

Yeah, I feel like I should have looked more into new interests back when everybody started making bread.

Charlie: Oh yeah. Everyone’s baking, now we can’t buy flour.

Heavyman press photo 2020

It feels like that happened six years ago. Quarantine has both just started and been happening my entire life. I wonder what the music industry will look like at the end of this. What sorts of things are going to be different? What sorts of things won’t change? Will I ever be in another mosh pit again in my life?

Charlie: I don’t like to think about it, but at the same time, I think — honestly, music’s always been such a selfish pursuit for me. It’s always been about creating what I like and expressing how I feel. While I love performing live and I hope that can come back, the fact that I still get to write and record music with people that I love making music with, that’s the most important thing. And I still have that. So that’s great.

Do you have anything that you hope changes when this comes back? Like for me, I personally think streaming platforms should be paying artists more fairly, and I hope this gig-less time moves that ahead.

Nick: Yeah. Accountability. The point where if a country like America — who enforces copyright more stringently than any nation in the world — would actually enforce copyright fairly for the platforms that they’re creating. It’s redistributing wealth to regenerate and re-incentivize new acts and new genres and new music, so an artist can look and say, “this isn’t a throwaway idea, this is a feasible career to choose.”

It’s hard to do that online now, and I appreciate how hard it is to enforce it, but I’d like to think it’s a possibility. Whether or not you put the ownership on acts taking it into their own hands, like with Patreon. Looking at a different route to success where you think longevity instead of short term. If there’s accountability at the top and it means that people who break into the scene and start releasing music get something back in the short term to be able to keep building… If that is something that happens, that would be such a fantastic thing for new bands to get a slice of the cake and be able to use that to fuel their careers and their futures.

That’s the thing, it seems like it’s getting exceedingly difficult for new bands to get the capital they need to take things to the next level. It’s hard to reach a sustainable point where you can stop going to a day job in order to put more time into building everything you need for a music career, and it bogs artists down. But hopefully this quarantine period helps companies figure out how to make their organizations more sustainable in the long run after this is over. And hopefully that will help the whole industry in turn.

Charlie: I think making things easier for struggling artists is a very interesting question to ask or to explore. Obviously as a struggling artist as well, I think it’d be incredible for governments to be more supportive. On the other end of the spectrum, you get places like Korea where the artist industry is a government funded thing and it’s taken so seriously. These people are cultured and educated to the point where they become a product that’s produced. I don’t know if I’d want to live in a place where it goes to that extent. I mean, it’s really impressive because everyone that’s an artist in Korea is incredible. But they are, in a sense, more manufactured.

And while it’d be amazing to have a government that’s willing to support and promote art more, there’s also this other part of the equation, which is that the race makes for gladiators. It makes for people that are struggling and willing to do crazy things to promote and develop their art. You’re talking about people who don’t necessarily have the time to work on their music because they’re working two jobs or whatever —

Nick: And it’s high rent to live in a city.

Charlie: I think the pandemic and lockdowns probably created a paradigm shift. It’s evened the playing field for some people. Or maybe some people who are doing music before now find they don’t have the same passion that they did or the impetus to do it. There’s this “luck of the draw” aspect when it comes to people that become successful musicians, which I think is a very big part of the process. Especially in places like London, where there’s so much of this pay-to-play business. When it comes to gigs, the artists are taken advantage of because everyone knows there’s this race. There are people in London who want to make it as musicians and they need to have gigs, and then there’s this whole semblance of success when you’re really just inviting the same people to your gigs. It’d be nice to have a less impoverished view of the importance of art in society, at least in the UK. But I think there’s a line.

Nick: I hate to bring it back to “Pigs”, but again, politics has a huge thing to do with that. About how sports are viewed in education, how art is viewed in education, and how that’s promoted. It’s not what it was like when I went to university, I was very lucky. There was massive arts funding in the unis that I went to, and that really helped my initial career, but I’m not seeing that now. I’m seeing the complete opposite. That funding is not there. Those courses are dying and that’s a huge issue, to keep continuing to be progressive and to develop. To me, that’s quite a sad thing really. I don’t know what it’s like in the US. I mean, I know it’s expensive to go and study anywhere there. I just feel like the money’s not there for the arts as much as it used to be 10 or 15 years ago.

It’s always been sad to me how when they have to cut something, arts tends to be the first thing to go. Because it does add so much to society and to quality of life. It’s such a bummer that it’s not seen that way in terms of importance, despite how it inspires us. I think it’s interesting to know what inspires bands and what they listen to compared to what they create. What have you guys been listening to lately and how does it compare to the music you enjoy making?

Nick: I listen to French radio, it’s this station called FIP. It’s so eclectic. I don’t have to search for the music, it just comes at me and that inspires me more. I can just switch off, it’s like a soundtrack to my day. They’ve got different genres that they play, no advertisements really, just music. And that’s really inspired me. I’m in a few different types of bands: neo-soul, disco, folk. And also this band here, alternative rock. FIP throws all of that at you randomly in the day. Instead of trolling through YouTube or playlists and things, I just turn off and if I like it, my ears prick up and I’m straight to the screen going, “what is this?”

Charlie: I’ve been terrible at finding new music for myself over the last 10 years or so. I rely very heavily on my friends to introduce me to things. I cocoon very easily when it comes to artists that I really like. I’ll get in that zone and then I won’t listen to anything else for a long period of time. That’s partly academic, just trying to almost physically embody the world. I’ve been relying very heavily on my flatmates and other people around me. I was introduced to Sublime for the first time and… Where have they been all my life?? They’re the best! So yeah, I’ve been jamming Sublime like crazy recently.

With touring, hopefully coming back next year and more new music on the way, what’s next for you guys?

Charlie: That’s a good question. We’ve been working on a number of songs. We’ll probably put together another EP to release after these first six tracks, or it could be an album. I think we just want to keep putting out material. We’ll keep developing the sound and get out there and see what bites. Hopefully the opportunities present themselves and we can get back out to do some live shows. It’s kind of what it’s all about.

Nick: That’s why we do what we do. Although we love writing in the studio, just to get back out on the road with the guys would be amazing.

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