Intensity Through Repetition: An interview with HEADS. as they tour through Europe

(Photo Credit: Kristinakari)

(Photo Credit: Kristinakari)

Throughout the life of Birthday Cake For Breakfast, I’ve spoken with many bands and artists that have waxed lyrical over the joys of touring Europe. “They treat you like human beings out there.” said Spring King guitarist Peter Darlington, when we spoke earlier this year. The hospitality knows no bounds and the crowds are, by all accounts, thrilled with all these UK bands making the trip.

It’s a shame then that this whole referendum business has potentially fucked it for any band wishing to branch out of the UK and tour Europe…

Following the recent vote, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding just about everything, let alone how much DIY bands are going to have to scrape together just to acquire Visas. Lucky then that German-based power-trio HEADS. kicked off a European tour prior to this sorry mess, with a show this evening in Bristol marking the beginning of the UK leg.

The punishing yet intoxicating noise that HEADS. produce is born of a penchant for a straight forward, “no-frills” approach. Three like-minded individuals with a desire to create raucous, pulse-raising music – described by the band themselves as catering for those who like their music noisy and consistently abrasive. Just over twelve months on from the release of their self-titled debut album, a second pressing is now available through This Charming Man Records thanks to high demand.

Though the band have been battling to find power sockets and Wi-Fi connections across the continent, they did manage to track down both in lovely Rennes, where they recently played a show. It’s from this city in North-western France where Ed Fraser, guitarist and vocalist of HEADS., was kind enough to take out ten minutes and answer some questions for Birthday Cake For Breakfast ahead of their UK shows.

BCFB: You’re currently on a run of shows across the UK and Europe, which kicked off recently in the band’s spiritual home of Berlin. How have the shows been so far?
Ed: We’ve definitely been enjoying ourselves a lot on this tour. Playing with Kerretta in Berlin was a real highlight, and the show in Paris was a blast. For the last couple of days we feel like we’ve been driving around the South of France being tourists, eating ice-cream in the sun and then occasionally having to do a show haha.

Where are you looking forward to getting to throughout the tour? This is HEADS. first proper visit to the UK right?
That’s right, yeah, it’s our first time over there. I’m looking forward to it a lot actually. In England, I’ve only ever visited London as a tourist, so I’m really keen to see and play shows in Bristol, Leeds and Manchester. Bristol sounds like the kind of place I usually enjoy, so hopefully we get some downtime there and can hang out a bit, eat some more ice-creams or whatever. Plus we’ve got a day off in London, so we can be tourists again.

The tour is in support of your self-titled debut album, the first pressing of which sold out and has now been re-pressed through This Charming Man Records. Were you pretty stoked over the response?
Yeah, definitely. Stoked and surprised is probably the most accurate way to describe it I think. I played in bands in Australia for years and it’s pretty tough for bands down there, so I’m always surprised when people are actually buying our records haha. And really the response has been awesome; it’s a nice feeling to know that there are people in all these different places listening to our music. When we started this we just wanted to put out something we were proud of, we really had no expectations at all. So it’s been very rewarding, yeah.

How has it been working with the label on your debut record?
This Charming Man have been awesome. They are really very supportive of us, it’s been great. When we finished the mixes for the record, we had a bunch of discussions on which label we thought would be the best home for us, and TCM just always came up as the best option for us in Germany. There are some great bands on their roster, so it’s an honour to be on there too.

Speaking of the record, can you tell us a bit about the production process and the various picturesque locations where you pieced it together?
In terms of the production process, the main aim was to do as much of it live as possible, hoping to get that real feeling and energy to come across on the recording. It was important to us that it sounded like a band playing together in a room.

So yeah, we spent a week with Jona Nido (recording engineer) at La Chaux De Fonds in the Swiss Alps in a heritage listed venue called ‘Bikini Test’, which has this huge live room with a very high ceiling. We basically just set-up drums and amps on the floor in the middle of the venue. We put mics all over the place, even in the toilets, there’s a lot of good natural reverb in there too. Then we pretty much just hit the record button. 

I then recorded some additional vocals at a friend’s studio in Berlin in an all night session, before stumbling home bleary-eyed and sending the extra tracks to Magnus Lindberg (mixing and mastering engineer) who mixed the whole record in Stockholm. So yeah, the songs were spread around a bit in the end haha.

You guys met through Craigslist of all places. I always thought that was just a front for obtaining black-market goods…. Lucky that you’re all on the same page then?
Haha yes it could all have gone terribly, terribly wrong. Thankfully Chris listed a lot of my favourite bands in his original Craigslist post, so we were pretty much on the same page from the beginning. I used to have a chip on my shoulder about meeting musicians online, but not anymore.

You yourself are from Australia, whilst the rest of the band are native Germans – How does that dynamic work in the band and how have you found working in Berlin compared to back home?
There are definitely some cultural differences which require a bit of work for us all to understand each other sometimes. And it sounds like a cliché, but Chris and Peter are kind of like this German rhythm machine – very solid, always exactly in time. This precise perfection. I, on the other hand, am a sloppy Australian mess – never quite in tune, never quite in time, just dribbling all over their precision haha. Somehow it works. 

Working-wise, Berlin is very different to working in Melbourne. It’s a city that is kind to artists in some ways. It’s definitely not always easy though. But I certainly have more time and freedom to experiment creatively. And it’s a lot easier to tour in Europe. In Australia, you drive for a million hours and you still haven’t reached the next city, it’s just not viable for a lot of bands to do it down there. Still, there are a heap of great bands in Australia and lot of them tour, all credit to them.

It’s a year on since the release of your debut album; have you made any steps in working on new material? When is it likely we can expect a follow up?
We are in the middle of writing a full-length at the moment. Things are moving along and we think we’re on to something good. That’s hard to be sure about though of course. And it’s difficult to say exactly when the record will be ready because we are really taking our time with it, we want to make something that we’re as happy with as possible. Hopefully next year. 

Catch HEADS. in the UK from today – in Bristol, London, Manchester and Leeds.

(Photo Credit: Steffen Schmid)

(Photo Credit: Steffen Schmid)

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