Friday, March 16, 2018

Duff Interview: Heavyball!

[Editor's note: Thanks to the members of Heavyball for taking the time to answer our questions (and to their manager Ed for arranging everything)! If you haven't heard about their brilliant new album "When Can You Start?," read The Duff Guide to Ska review of it here!]

The Duff Guide to Ska: What inspired you to write "When Can You Start?" as a concept album about a week in the life of British workers? Were any of the songs based on some of your actual work experiences? (Do you all have day jobs?)

Iball: "All the band have jobs. I guess it's just part of the music scene now; having to do a day job when you have another passion. It ends up highlighting the both of them. It doesn't matter what I am doing at work, sometimes you can't help but think about the band and the music that you would rather be doing. In lots of ways it's good to have a job, as the characters you meet inform a lot of what we do and write about. The album is about the grind that so many people go through."

Bigface: "I think it would have been a difficult album to get right if we didn't have day jobs - at least it's authentic art! 'Retail is Detail' was inspired by eating a ropey pasty in my car, on a lunch break, in the carpark of an 'out of town shopping village.' Really fucking depressing."

Frosty: "We can only write about what we know and the day job is something we all have in common. It’s one of those difficult situations where we don’t want to sound like tortured artists because we are forced to work the 9-5 and our lives are terrible, but at the same time we want to talk about the monotony of the 9-5."

The Duff Guide to Ska: What were you listening to, watching, or reading when writing these songs? 

Iball: "I can't really think of anything in particular, but possibly the way I have been consuming things is different than it used to be and informed what I wanted to bring to the album. I know there is a tendency to assume times have changed and it's all about the immediate, but I love podcasts like 'Serial' and 'Shit Town.' They aren't quick. They take a story and investigate it over a number of weeks. We wanted to tell a story rather than a collection of 'singles.' The hope is that people will listen to it as an album."

Bigface: "A lot of the Beatles/WHO/Kinks, quite a bit of Two-Tone, and a dash of Country 'n' Western!"

Frosty: "We recorded the album over a long period of time and wrote it over an even longer period, so it changed a lot. No doubt I had a lot of The Clash and Jimi Hendrix for most of it. I was listening to a lot of The Smiths around the time we wrote and recorded 'After Dark,' which definitely influenced how the riff ended up sounding."

The Duff Guide to Ska: I think of "When Can You Start?" as kind of a mod-ska-Britpop opera (kind of like The Who's "Tommy" or "Quadrophenia"). Is that on the mark? Are you playing the album in its entirety live? Are their plans to make a long form video or do something else with this cycle of songs? 

Iball: "To be mentioned alongside those albums is as good as it gets! We all listen to The Who. It's great that they were ambitious with the music they did. Personally, some the of the slower songs on our album are the ones I like the best, but we get to play them the least. Our live set tends to be more high tempo and we bring a few slower ones in as we go. Maybe as the album gets out there and better known it might give us more licence to play 'Yesterday's Man' for example. I would love to play the album live in its entirety at some point! We work with the film director Sameer Patel and he has done a great job with our videos. I know if we had the time and budget he would love to pull the album together into one video/film."

Bigface: "I'd actually listened to a great deal of 'Tommy' on vinyl, and that kind of interconnected journey is what we were going for. Something good about the resurgence of vinyl in the digital age, which means you can go back to a collection of joined up songs, rather than random singles on your phone. Suppose it's easy to disappear up your own arse with a concept album, so glad you like it!"

Frosty: "We haven’t been able to play the whole set live so far, but we are looking into how we can start bringing parts of the slower songs in. It really feels like we have just started with this album and are still exploring the full possibilities and potential of what we can do with it, so I wouldn’t rule anything out yet. We tried songs like 'No More 9 to 5' live a few times, but the reception can be hit and miss. Now the album is out and people have had a chance to hear it then we might be able to start bringing it out again."

The Duff Guide to Ska: I love the track "After Dark" and how it describes how London "breathes" at the end of the workday--and suggests that there's another way to live and work. Overall, the album is critical of Western capitalism--what do you think is the better alternative to aspire to?

Iball: "'After Dark' has a different feel to the rest. I think it means different things to different members of the band. For me, I see a late night/early morning walk home at that cross over time where you pass people coming home on a night out and people heading to work. I imagine the lads will all have something else it means to them. They way we live and the system we are in is fucked. It functions, but only a few really get what they want out of it. I love London and love living here. However, it is a huge beast that sucks the money out of people and pushes people hard in the process."

Bigface: "We're not Communists or anything, but I suppose a lot of people feel trapped in the system. I suppose Capitalism is the worst system there is, apart from all the other ones we've tried!"

Habs: "There is something about the city being a living thing...maybe even a monster for some. There is a history of London by Peter Ackroyd called 'London the Biography,' which talks about the city as a living thing with each area having its own distinct personality. I think there is a sense of that in 'After Dark.'"

The Duff Guide to Ska: The album closer "No More 9 to 5" is both defiant and defeated--death is the only way out. Why did you chose to end the album in that fashion? 

Iball: "We originally recorded this track in Leeds and in a classic rock and roll story, that we can't go into, the whole session was lost. It was written and recorded just after the band lost someone close to us and there is no doubt that it made the song what it is. It is defiant and takes the end of the world head on. If the world was going to end tomorrow, you wouldn't be going to work. That shows you how important work really is."

Bigface: "It was inspired by the death of someone very close to the band, and it was a kind of black swan event that shows you how these unexpected, catastrophic moments can hit you out of the blue. Makes you realise how pointless working a shit job you hate, to pay off a shiny car you don't need is - in the grand scheme of things!"

The Duff Guide to Ska: What does the name Heavyball mean or refer to? 

Iball: "I am not answering this question! Ha!"

Bigface: "Ask Johnny."

Habs: "It was the name of a family dog Bigface and I had when we were young. Think it was a Bedlington terrier."

The Duff Guide to Ska: What's next for the band?

Iball: "We just want to get the album out there to as many people as possible. I can't tell you how proud I am to have been part of the process and to do it with my best mates makes me feel honored."

Bigface: "Keep playing, keep writing - have some fun. What more could you ask?!"

Frosty: "Hopefully, anything and everything. We are looking forward to a year of festivals, tours and anything else that comes with being in a rock band."

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