How you like me now. I know what you're thinking...where is the punctuation? But here's the thing; I'm not asking you how you feel "about me now". Rather, I'm telling you. I'm stating with such passion that there is more to UK blues/soul rockers The Heavy (who will be hitting up our SXSW showcase in Austin this Friday) than the rightfully-famous track "How You Like me Now."
We had the pleasure of chatting with Kelvin Swabylead vocals for The Heavyto discuss their upcoming tour and their highly anticipated April release called Hate & Merciless. Kelvin had a lot to say. With or without his commentary, we know the band has huge things ahead of them. Nonetheless, it was wonderful to get a first look at Swaby's process and his perspective on The Heavy's past, and their growing success.
You guys are in Okeechobee, Florida, at their Music & Arts Festival right now? Do you see this festival as a good way to start off your US tour?
Kelvin Swaby: It's a cool way to cut your teeth again. We love playing America and it just sorta happened that it worked out really well because my wife and I are actually moving here.
It has been nine years since The Heavy released their first album? How have things changed for you guys?
We've just become better. There have been a few things that have definitely strengthened the band. It's always hard work being on the road for as long as we have. We have pretty much taken two out of the nine years to kind of really settle down and record the last record that we did. Whereas, before, we were recording other records...we were still going off here and there to tour. So we were all around. This time it was different. We kind of took 2 years and dedicated it to a record and it has definitely payed off. We stopped touring about three years ago. But then we had major success in Japan. So we spent 6-8 months out in Japan just working the record out there. [Hurt & the Merciless] was made out of songs that were made on the road, but also personal experience, too.
The Heavy creates a very specific type of music that pairs with an angsty, playful,rock, blues kind of mood. You guys have really stayed true to rock & roll, and the purity that it all started with. Are there any current bands that you guys see as staying true and pure in that same way?
We stay true to the essence of rock & roll and there are tons of bands...there are the Black Keys. They've kind of grown into another style, but I love that. Jack White is still killing it. From where we're from, we've got a couple of bands kind of coming up as well. They've really kind of embraced the blues and the rock and roll. There is a band called Bite the Buffalo that is really very cool. We kind of hope that we will see them have success soon. Chris has been working and producing their latest record and it sounds great.
"How You Like Me Now" is a huge part of The Heavy's identity. The song was sampled in various media, and that definitely helped get the word out in 2009. But how do you feel about that track being so connected to your current identity?
It's amazing. I cannot believe that that song has kept working like it's kept working. But I think it's because it suits a multitude of the dynamics of what is going on in a person's life. It suits so many different areas of that. It works in a ton of media, and I never would have thought that at the time that I was writing it. I think for an independent record signing like ourselves, it's fantastic...because we don't operate or work on the same massive budgets that a lot of the majors have. It's great because it enables us to keep working and keep doing what we do.
After watching some of your interviews from 2012, which was a huge year for you guys as far as production, you were talking about "dirt" and just keeping your sound vintage and rough. How has The Heavy maintained that raw, rugged sound over these past four years?
Well it's still in there. We kind of recorded this record a little differently than how we would have generally worked out or recorded the first three records. But, essentially, the dirt and the weight is still in there. And we're still enjoying everything about what we do. You can't get rid of the dirt that's ingrained in the house.
Is there a song off of Hurt & the Merciless that you can see potentially blowing up as much as "How You like me now?"
You know what, it's crazy. We've been in Paris playing on TV shows. I was watching the football the other day and there were two of our tracks kind of in the same soccer show, which was pretty funny. They were playing "Turn Up" and "Since You Been Gone" just on the TV. It would be great to have something that has the same kind of success as "How You Like Me Now." But, ultimately, we're just making music that we see as a progression from what we've made before. So you know, if people can connect to it, then that's amazing. Through it all, we'll still kind of rise from the flame. It's about turning poison into medicine for us. I think that's what this whole record is about
Is there anything that fans may find surprising about Hurt & the Merciless?
No. I think we still kind of deal with the same angst and stuff in a miserable situation which is where the title comes from...from being hurt and dealing with those situations of hurt and how they might affect you.
You guys have a pretty effortless sound. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems likeeven if you are working really rigorouslythe creative process remains effortless.
KS: Yeah, definitely. In the past, we would start with demos and say that that was the ballpark that we wanted to be in. For this record, we rehearsed a lot. We really sat down after rehearsing the songs and played with them a lot. With Hurt & the Merciless, we really just wanted to nail the song immediately and still give it room for what we could do live.
You guys don't have a consistent opener on this tour. Was that a conscious choice?
You want an opener that kind of has what you do. You also want a display of talent as well. For me, I always love it when we can have that slot open and we'll blow peoples heads off. You never know what the opener is gonna do.
The Heavy has been on the down low for a while. You have a geographically extensive and highly anticipated tour coming up. Do you think the band will struggle being back on the road at such an intense level?
The American market is our largest market followed by the Japanese and European market. We really are trying to fit everyone in. We've been doing this for a while. Just as long as we're not jumping from continent to continent in a matter of a couple of days, I'm okay with it. Overall, I'd say this tour makes the most sense so far, geographically. We're not going to burn out. The geography of this record means that we get to see the major cities first, before we get to the depths of the country.
Is there something specific that you are personally psyched about that you would like to see crowds react positively to as well?
KS: Any time we play live, it's about just bringing it. Bringing all we have to each stage. We never go out halfway. We have so many songs that the crowd loves to participate in, and the audience becomes part of us. All we can hope is that people are as enthusiastic as we are and that we can keep bringing in new listeners.
The Heavy's latest record, Hurt & the Merciless will be out April 1st on Counter Records.