THE chaps of Heavyball have been talking to me…
about their concept album, When Can You Start? It was released last year and looks at the routine of everyday work and the need to break free. The guys chat about their treasured musical memories and the song, Top of Your Game, and whether each has a standout song from the album. I ask the band about making music in the Midlands and whether there are any tour dates – and a new artist they recommend we check out.
The band choose albums that mean a lot to them; they share their advice to new artists and what they hope to achieve, as a band, this year; whether their own experiences with work influenced their latest album – they talk about London and its influence on them.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Iball: Alright thanks, mate. Ducking and diving. You know how it is…
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
We are the greatest band to come out of Nottingham since Paper Lace. We are New-Tone band pulling together influences from Ska, Rock and Indie. We are a group of mates making the music we want to hear.
We just hope other people like it as well.
When Can You Start is your new, concept album. What kind of themes and ideas can we expect from the album?
It’s about a nobody that’s everybody - stuck in a job he hates, slowly seeing his life for what it is and desperate to do something about it. It’s bleak but to an upbeat soundtrack. We are a right laugh on a night out, I can tell you. There is a lot going on in the world right now - and we wanted to capture our version of Britain today.
I know there is a tip to the drudgery of the average working week. Were you inspired by your own work experiences to write the album?
Is my old boss reading this?! No? Cool; then absolutely, 'yes'. I have rotted behind far too many desks. Working is a con.
Is there a song from the album that, to you, defines what it is all about – that one you could never get rid of?
Tricky one as they all tell different parts of the story. If I was to choose it would be No More 9 to 5. Without it, the album wouldn’t have the release it needs. Actually…it’s probably the shortest song on the album called Retail Is Detail.
If you just listened to that you would get the idea...
Top of Your Game is already out there. What has the response been like to that track? Was it fun shooting the video for the track?
Frosty: It’s been very positive, so far, which has been great. We opened our live sets with it on the last European tour just after the album had come out and it has been going down very well. We didn’t shoot a proper video for this track. A video is available online but we don’t make an appearance. We did shoot a video for the Perils of Midweek Drinking - which is also out at the moment and doing well. That was about as good a video shoot as we could ever hope for. It was us in a pub drinking for a few hours. What more could we have asked for?!
The album itself has really done well in Germany and Austria - it’s been in top-40 in the D.J. charts in both those countries for the last four weeks.
You guys formed in Nottingham. How did you all find one another and get Heavyball rolling?
Matt and Habs are brothers - so they had no choice but to know each other. Johnny is a childhood friend of the pair of them, so they have known each other all their lives. When they all relocated to London, they found me meandering the streets of Bromley - with nothing but a guitar in my hands.
Is Nottingham a great place to make music? Was it easy getting gigs in the early days?
Bigface: We actually formed in London when we all ended up living there at the same time - so that’s a difficult one to answer. I hear it’s a good scene and Dean Jackson (BBC Introducing East Midlands) has been very kind to us. That’s particularly surprising considering he had the misfortune to teach me for two years!
Jimmy Sommerville applauded your version of Smalltown Boy! Was it humbling hearing that? Is that a song that you all love and admire?
I always loved that song. It’s a great song melodically and rhythmically but the story it tells intrigued me. I suppose everyone has felt they don’t fit in at some point and that resonated with me. Jimmy’s voice is (still) brilliant, so it was an absolute honour to hear him say that.
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
Buster Shuffle – five young lads from Bradford. Punk-Pop, I suppose. Great.
If you each had to choose the one album that means the most you; which would they be and why?
Habs: It changes all the time - but albums that bring back great memories are always good…right now, it’s Power in Numbers by Jurassic 5.
Iball: For me, it would be The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths
Funny and bleak.
Bigface: The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
No need to say any more really…
Frosty: Probably Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? or Axis: Bold as Love
They changed the way I wanted to play guitar.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
We have a couple of acoustic gigs coming up - then we’re playing the London International Ska Festival over the Easter weekend (on 31 March) which has a great line-up. After that, we’re back in Europe; starting with Cologne (Freedom Sounds Festival) and Bochum in April.
The likes of (BBC Radio 6 Music’s) Chris Hawkins has named you as one of the best live bands around. Does that kind of praise give you a lot of drive and heart?
Habs: Absolutely. We love to play live. From the point of view of writing, you never really get a song right until you’ve played it in front of people. That might be where you think ‘we need to make more of that intro’ or maybe ‘ah, sh*t; that final chorus goes on for far too long.’ More often than that, playing live really gives you a sense of how to make a song connect with people - so you know what to push for the next time.
What do you each hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
To keep playing and recording music that I would want to listen to.
Iball: I want to get back on the oche and play some quality darts: I’ve been too busy to play.
Frosty: Just to keep on pushing forward with what we have achieved so far; more gigs and European tours - and see if we can get ourselves out to some new places.
Have you all got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Iball: After a not-so-packed gig in Essen in Germany; we shared digs above the venue with another band, The Phantoms, from Norway. Top bunch of lads - and there were about twenty of them! We bought a few crates of beer from the bar and sat up taking turns playing songs and singing all night. It was a really unexpected highlight of the tour. Music is a great leveller: two bands from two different countries getting on brilliantly over a few beers and passing a guitar around.
Habs: We always love playing in Europe: it’s basically like being on a stag do with a sense of purpose. Travelling around and playing and staying in different places always brings a lot of interesting people and comic moments. Clambering down scaffolding outside the old SS Kaserne barracks in order to get to our next gig. On the last tour, in Nuremberg, we stayed overnight above the place we’d just played. The next day, we needed to be on the road at 8 A.M. as we had a long, long drive to our next gig. The problem was that when we got up, we realised we couldn’t get out of the building or even get downstairs because every door had been locked…
The band’s plan was to go back to bed and try and make the problem go away but our ever-resourceful tour manager saw there was some scaffolding on the side of the building. In the end, we all made our escape by clambering down three flights of scaffold with our kit, instruments and leftover beers…an excellent hangover cure.
Bigface: In Austria, a few years ago, the hosts took us for a massive Schnitzel (not a euphemism) which was so big I couldn’t finish it. The restaurant wrapped it in tin foil - which I stuck it in my guitar case backstage. Turns out, I’d accidentally stuck it in an identical guitar case belonging to one of the other bands on the bill that night - who were flying back to Canada after the show.
We haven’t spoken since.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Find a niche…Punk; Metal, E.D.M…whatever – generic Indie is a very difficult scene at the moment. If you want to make any money, get a laptop and become a D.J. Sad times.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Long Shot Kick De Bucket – The Pioneers