Posted On 24 Oct 2014
On Friday, October 17th, I ventured to the Hollywood venue, Fonda Theatre, to check out the indie-pop group, Haerts. Despite being the opening band for label mate, St. Lucia, they held the attention of everyone in the very crowded space.
Their music is hypnotic and enchanting. It’s very easy to get lost somewhere in between their easy flowing melodies and their deep beats. The Haerts front-woman, Nini Fabi commanded full attention on stage and she looked amazing in her all white ensemble.
They performed many of their well-known hits including “Wings”, “All The Days”, “Giving Up” and more.
To learn more Haerts, check out the following interview I did with the group just days before this show:
Can you guys remember the very first moment that you decided to start the band?
There was never really a moment when we decided to start HAERTS as we are a band now. It seems like everything we’ve individually done throughout our lives lead up to it and the band formed in a very fluid way. Benny and I met and started making music together when we were teenagers. It’s what we’ve always done ever since and HAERTS is what we landed on. We did start writing Haerts material when we moved to New York 4 years ago and that might mark the beginning of what we are doing musically now as a group with Garrett and Derek.
Where did you come up with your name? Why the misspelling of “hearts”?
After writing and recording for almost one year we first started thinking about a name. We wanted one word with a universal quality that was simple and strong, and meaningful to our music. We went through the lyrics of all the songs and the red thread was the heart, or more specifically all shapes and states of the heart/hearts. Almost all of the songs even literally contained the word. We chose the “ae” because we wanted it to stand out graphically and the reverse spelling was an idea we felt drawn to at the time, both conceptually and visually.
Nini and Ben were raised in Germany. What was it like making the transition to life in the states? Was it scary moving to the states without a plan?
It was not scary at all. We did it for doing something we love, so it was the opposite of being afraid. We came here to do music, so there was definitely a plan. Moving to New York was something I always knew I would do and ever since my first visit here when I was a girl, I’ve felt something comforting but at the same time unsettling or electric here. Of course NY is extremely different from our hometown of Munich, but even though I’ll always have a strong connection to Munich it is the things that are unique here that I’m drawn to. It’s a faster pace and different rhythm of life and as any transition, it was extreme and difficult at times. Now New York is my home, but every once in a while I feel like it’s my first day here and in those moments I can perceive the city like at the beginning. I hope that never goes away.
How has New York and the city of Brooklyn influenced your music?
It’s hard to tell since I don’t know what we would be doing if we lived anywhere else in the world. I think the creative process works both ways from outside in and from inside out. In that sense it is important that you are in a place where you can do your work and find yourself stimulated. I think that can happen anywhere but right now for me and us all as a band, the city to be in is New York.
What/who else inspires the music that you make?
It is hard to pin this down, since anything can be an inspiration. I’m inspired by the things that impact me most in my life. The events or moments that shake or touch me deeply. The things I love, the ones I hate, the painful and the thrilling and what’s in between. It can be the seemingly smallest thing. Sometimes a word, a look, an image or a sound. For me the creative process has always been rooted in some kind of internal weight or melancholy, and that might be an inspiration in itself. I always wrote and sang for release or to understand things and once I experienced that, it was like am addiction, and I always tried to go back.
You guys have toured with a ton of awesome bands. Have any really stood out to you?
Derek: It’s been great learning experience to be alongside bands that we admire, and most of all with Washed Out; we toured with them for a while last year. It was very inspiring to be performing alongside a band that I’ve been a fan of for a long time and to see great musicians translate a great album was really amazing to watch.
What do you think it was about your 2012 debut single “Wings” that really spoke to people making it such a smash?
I wouldn’t call “Wings” a smash, but I think it’s interesting for me to speak on this, because the song was written and recorded before I started playing with Nini, Benny, and Derek. I am less close to the song and have a perspective on it as a listener, which would be biased if I had been part of the creative process.
I was looking at our Instagram the other day, and somebody had tagged us in an image they posted: the “Wings” lyric “Counting days won’t buy us years,” in black text on a white background. The comment below read, “Story of my life in that perfect song.” It’s not the “perfect song” part that interests me though, it’s the “story of my life” part. This song has touched people, and for me it comes down to the stark honesty in the lyrics, and the honesty in how they are sung. You can hear Nini giving herself to the song. Again, I am speaking as an outsider here. The message and the emotion of the performance embody each other and their candidness lets people in to make connections with their own life. I remember Jean Grobler, our producer describing the recording of “Wings” as “a moment”. And I think there are other such moments on the album, but you can’t plan when that happens, when things come come together and are captured.
I have read that you guys think that every time something major has happened for Haerts, it seems to center around the birthday of a band member or someone close to them. Can you elaborate on that?
Yes, certain things happened around our birthdays. We met Garrett on Jean from St. Lucia’s Birthday, we signed with Columbia Records on my Birthday, and so on. It’s probably fair to say that we are a bit superstitious when it comes to numbers. My number is 12 and it is crazy how many times it’s come up in connection with HAERTS. Most important events of the band happened in a 12 day, on house numbers 12 and 12th floors. 2 days ago we played a show in Vegas and I bet everything on 12 at the casino, but unfortunately I had no luck there.;)
Benny: Our work with Jean was very much about experimentation. When we first started working with him would just go into the studio and play around with whatever felt good. Nini and I came to him with many songs and ideas and Jean played a big role filtering those ideas and pushing us to try different angles musically. There was rarely a dull moment and our collaboration always felt very fortuitous in a way that we just came together at the right time. We mutually respect each other as musicians and most importantly have become great friends.
Living or dead, who would you love to collaborate with and why?
Nini: Patti Smith and Johnny Cash.
Derek: Brian Eno.
Benny: John Lennon and Rick Rubin.
Garrett: Kate Bush
You guys seem to be consistently touring lately. Where are you looking forward to playing at next?
Terminal 5 in NY with St. Lucia. We are looking forward to every city of this tour, but opening for your friends in the city you live in is very special. It will be a crazy night.
What can fans expect from your debut album out next month?
For me, a great album is more than the sum of its parts, much more than a collection of songs. It’s an extended feeling, with each song having its own context and meaning in creating this feeling. This was very important to us when it came to conceptualizing the album and in choosing how to record and arrange the last songs that would make it on the record. I think we strived for a certain essence that is shared in all these songs and it’s my hope that people can go into this album and have an experience for 40 minutes that will stay with them. And I also hope that these songs have a life of their own and are enjoyed in many contexts outside of the album.
I think people should take away what they need, want or have to take away from it. It will be different for everyone who listens and that’s how it should be. We don’t want to push any kind of message. This album is our truth and if someone is touched by that and can find their own in it then that’s the greatest reward for us and for our work.