Published Jun 28, 2010The debut album from San Francisco, CA's Heartsounds opens with a diatribe so simple and honest that anyone with an inkling of the satisfaction they've found with this band is bound to shamelessly smile. "I've found my true calling/and it sounds so fucking good." After the break-up of Ben Murray and Laura Nichol's previous band, the metalcore Light This City (wherein Nichol employed a hell of a growl that you wouldn't know existed based on her strong, stable vocals here), the two formed Heartsounds as the punk outlet they'd always been drawn to, and the passion shows. Until We Surrender was recorded as a duo, with Murray and Nichol sharing guitar and vocal duties (the interplay being an album highlight, especially on "Return"), and Murray also tracking bass and drums. It's immediate, ecstatic and infectious, mixing early '90s skate punk energy with the technical precision found in their metal roots. Influences such as Strung Out ("Highway Robbery") and Bad Religion (check out the awesome melodies and chiming riffs in "Our Last Hope") are evident in spades, but Murray, Nichol and their unbridled inspiration ― not to mention raw talents ― have crafted an exciting sound of their own.
You guys released this record yourselves, not even a year ago. What happened in between that and Epitaph?
Vocalist/guitarist Ben Murray: Not much really happened! Basically, I took a year to write the record when me and Laura [Nichol, vocalist/guitar]'s previous band broke up. We got home and I immediately started writing new punk songs, as opposed to metal songs. Then we went into the studio and just sort of took our time with it, took a couple of weeks, and I was just planning on releasing it on my label, which is Creator Destructor Records. I just kind of wanted to see how people reacted to it and sort of see what happened and not really go guns out with it. And then I think about two months in ― I think last October or November, a couple of months after we released it ― I got an email from Brett [Gurewitz, owner] from Epitaph and Bad Religion saying he wanted to meet with us, and then my jaw was on the floor. He flew us down there the next week and we loved everyone at Epitaph and they seemed to like us, and they seemed genuinely excited about the kind of music we were writing. So it just kind of went from there. Then it was a couple of months and we signed with them and played a couple of shows with Bad Religion right after that and the rest is kind of history.
Did he say how the record came to his attention?
That's what really surprised me ― that we didn't send the record out to anyone. We didn't send it to labels or anything because we weren't really looking to get signed, we just kind of wanted to do it ourselves and see what happened with it ― just let the record speak for itself, you know what I mean? I guess a couple of the employees at Epitaph had been listening to it and one of them sits behind him and was playing it pretty loud, and he just kind of turned around and said, "what's this?" and just started looking into it. I think he saw that, despite the fact that we were a brand new band, he saw the fact that Laura and I had toured for years with our previous band and kind of knew the rules of the game. We weren't 16-year-old kids with our first band or whatever. I think he had some confidence about that, which is why he approached us, despite being a really new band.
And it's just you and Laura on the record?
Yeah, she played guitar and sang and I did the same. I also played bass and drums on it.
But you flesh out the band for touring?
We've only actually played about ten to 15 shows as of now. We haven't played all that much, but we've been able to play with some of our favourite bands, which is awesome. We've played with Bad Religion, Strung Out and A Wilhelm Scream, and we played with this band Fun, which is the singer from the Format's new band, and they're awesome. So we've been playing with a lot of our favourite bands, but we haven't done a full-fledged tour. We're starting a month-long tour next month and that'll be the first real Heartsounds tour.
And you don't have to play all the instruments!
No, fortunately, we have a couple of friends. Our friend Trey is playing drums and our friend Kyle is playing bass, and they're both really good musicians, so we're pretty confident and happy about that.
Do you think you'll consider writing or recording as a full band?
Laura and I are the only ones that signed with the label, and our initial game plan and vision for the band was to keep it her and I, and keep it almost more of band with a singer-songwriter-type deal, you know? Like, say, Tegan and Sara or whatever. They're the real creative forces behind the band ― they are the band. But they have people play with them on tour. That's kind of what we were thinking, just considering that I have the tools to record a whole record and I can play drums, so that's not really an issue. And I like writing by myself. It depends, I mean, if things go really well, we might consider incorporating someone else, or other people. But for the time being, our plan is just to keep it her and I.
If you haven't had a chance to tour this record too much yet, you're not burned out on playing these songs.
Yeah, it's still all pretty fresh to us. There are new people hearing about it everyday, especially since Epitaph. There are new kids getting into the band, and playing the songs still feels like brand new songs, so we're pretty pumped on doing this.
Do you write ongoing or do you take time after a record's process and write separately?
After we finish a record and get out of the studio, whether it was an old band or this band, I'm usually kind of burnt out for a while, just because you invest so much into what you're doing at that point. So there's usually about six months where I don't really come up with anything. But about four or five months ago I sort of started, not really intentionally sitting down to write every day, but a lot of stuff came out. I currently have maybe four or five structures of songs. It comes pretty naturally and I don't really force myself. But I give myself enough time so that by the end of the year we'll hopefully be able to record another record, or maybe in January or something, so we won't be rushed or cramming writing a bunch of songs in a month or something.
Maybe you guys will end up taking a Tegan and Sara direction?
[Laughs] Yeah! Or maybe we'll put out a dance record. I love everything they've ever done, but I think we're set in our ways for this band. (Epitaph)