Q&A - An interview with Heavy Heart

Having recently performed live shows in London, Barcelona and New York growing a following for their genre-loose, rock-circling sound, South East London five-piece Heavy Heart  started the year releasing a new track a month on Soundcloud  and in the midst of this, we thought it a perfect time to get to know them better.

We threw a few questions over to the band's lead singer, Anna, who spoke to us about Heavy Heart's formation, their favourite venues to have so far performed in, gender discrimination and the term 'female fronted', her love for Joni Mitchell, and so much more.

How did Heavy Heart come to life?
We started in 2014 in southeast London as a three-piece - mainly just guitar and vocals - inspired by the acoustic, stripped-down aspects of things like The Pixies, R.E.M. and Violent Femmes, and Nirvana's 'Unplugged...' album. I'd already written a few songs before we started, but Heavy Heart began to take shape once I showed them to James and Patrick and we started playing together. We got booked for some festivals that year and figured it would make sense to become a full live band, so Adam and Craig, who we knew from other bands, joined us on bass and drums.

For those that are unfamiliar with your music, what can they expect from it?
We don't like to pin ourselves too much to one thing, each song has its own feel, but essentially it's a rock band, with drums, bass, guitars, effects pedals, more gentle, fragile moments and then a little bit of noise and dissonance for good measure. Other people have described it as "euphoric melancholy", "lush alt-rock", "part slack, part dream". I love the sound of a big rock band all playing full tilt, but I think it's good to strip that away here and there and show the bones of the song.

As you're based in London, what are your favourite and least favourite things about the city?
I'm addicted to London, even the less nice stuff. I grew up in New Cross, in southeast London, so my heart will always be there, wherever else I go. I love the view from the top of Telegraph Hill park, the fact that you can see an amazing band every night of the week (if you know where to look), the mixture of different people, Denmark Street for guitar window-shopping, Soho for feeling like you're in a film. I guess I could do without the air pollution, and it makes me sad to see small businesses being squeezed out by big corporations, that's the kind of thing that can strip a place of its character.

Heavy Heart are currently in the middle of a project that sees you release one song a month throughout 2016. Could you tell us about the ideas behind the project?
At the beginning of the year, we had three songs which we'd been planning to self-release as an EP. But we liked them all equally and didn't want any of them to get overlooked, so we decided to spread them out across January, February and March. In the meantime, we were writing and recording new music, so it occurred to us to just keep going with this approach. We're now at a stage where we're finishing songs just a few days before we release them, which keeps us very busy, but also means what you're hearing is as brand new as can be. We produce and release everything ourselves, so I guess this feels like a good way of keeping our listeners interested and pushing ourselves to write
more and be better.

Have you faced any gender discrimination or difficulties from being a frontwoman in a male dominated industry? This is a really interesting question. I haven't really felt any gender discrimination myself, so I guess I've been lucky so far because I know it's still out there, and I see it every day in the way female musicians are treated differently by the media.

And leading on from that, what are you thoughts on the way gender is always made a point of when speaking about female lead bands who are referred to as "female fronted", but we never hear a band described as"male fronted. Do you feel it's a relevant label?
I am in two minds about defining our band as "female-fronted". I can understand that this might be seen as something which, to an extent, determines our sound, and if it brings listeners to our music for positive reasons, or gives us an extra leg up, then I can't complain. But there are so many female or mixed gender bands now that it almost seems like having to define as such is a bit of a throwback. Although I inevitably write about things from a female perspective (our current single 'Pretty Thing' is, in part, about my frustration with the way girls these days are encouraged to focus so much on appearance), I'd hope that our music would appeal to everyone. There are five people in Heavy Heart and it's as much about them as it is about me.

Let's pretend you're hosting a "dead or alive" dinner party and you can pick 5 famous people (across any industry) (past or present) to join you . Who would be sitting at your table?
I'm kinda shy so I'd probably actually feel really awkward if I had to sit at a dinner with the five people I most admire. Maybe I could just have ten minutes in Laurel Canyon with Joni Mitchell, because she's my absolute hero and I'd want to tell her how much her songs mean to me.

Imagine Heavy Heart had the opportunity to provide the soundtrack for any film that has ever been released. Which film would you pick?
There are plenty of films I love but which our music would probably not suit, but maybe one of those 80s or 90s coming of age movies, because I guess a lot of the stuff I write about is to do with growing up, trying to fit in, or not wanting to, and the unbearable taste of nostalgia.

Being no strangers to a live show, what would you say has been your favourite venue to perform in so far?

There have been a few - Sebright Arms is always fun and the burgers there are so good, I really enjoyed the Old Blue Last when we played there a few months ago, and also The Flat in Brooklyn when we were there for CMJ was a great one.

And lastly, what are your plans as a band, for the rest of the year?
We're continuing with our song a month project, and working on the next one this week. We're also playing back at the Old Blue Last on Friday 1st July and at Greenstone Festival in August. Our aim is to release these songs as a series of vinyl EPs by the end of the year, because so far they've just been online, so keep an eye on our Bandcamp for those if you want one.

Interview feature by Karla Harris