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TAS In Session: The Heavy

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The Heavy is a band that just outright refuses to be put into any one musical category. In keeping with that ideal, their latest release The House That Dirt Built incorporates an amazingly diverse mix of genres: funk, soul, rock, hip hop, punk and more.

Aside from music, singer Kelvin Swaby, guitarist Dan Taylor, bassist Spencer Page and drummer Chris Ellul also seem to have an affinity towards film as well. The opening track of their new album includes a creepy spoken warning: “ if you value your sanity, don’t go in the house." It's an audio clip from, as they put it, "a dodgy, D-list horror flick" and thought it was very appropriate. In my opinion (and theirs too) their music begs to be on the soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino film

"We're definitely very influenced by his style of filmmaking," Dan told me. "It reminds me of the way we write tunes. Because he kind of takes everything from everywhere and smashes it all together."

Unfortunately, The Heavy haven't landed on a Tarantino soundtrack yet, but their song, "How You Like Me Now?" off of The House That Dirt Built is featured in a pretty great car commercial. Now, I don't normally endorse products, and I'm not doing that now but you have to see this. Think of this as a band endorsement instead. And watch the live version of the song the band did in The Alternate Side's studio.

Alisa Ali: You have a lot of heavyweights involved on [this album] - pun intended. Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, Editors, Sneaker Pimps) produced this for you. How did he become involved?

Spencer Page: That was kind of a weird one. We thought it would be a good idea from the start and then found out that he'd been doing the Noisettes record as well so it's kind of a weird approach to him just before it and then it all happened at the same time. The Noisettes spoke to him a bit and it's through that, basically, but he'd loved what he'd heard and wanted to get involved.

Alisa: Did you learn anything from him?

Chris Ellul: Nah, he's rubbish (all laugh).

Kelvin Swaby was just fantastic. He plumbed the house, basically.

Dan Taylor: He kind of cleaned it up for us.

Spencer: There's a lot of sonic stuff, sounds.

Dan: He made it audible whereas we usually make it as inaudible as possible.

Swaby: Yeah, we try to go as rough as possible, so we still wanted the grittiness in there, and the dirt in there but it's kind of up to him to make it sonically so it works for radio.

Alisa: You have a notable sample on the album of Screaming Jay Hawkins' ["I Put A Spell On You" in the song "Sixteen"]. What made you decide to use that?

Swaby: It's not a sample, but ["Sixteen"] is completely influenced by that track. It's actually us playing everything. It kind of sounds heavier in his version.

Dan: We wrote it first and he sampled us!

Swaby: Yeah, crazy! I don't know how that works ....

Alisa: That song also has a weird carnival vibe mixed with a 60s girl group sound. Who [was] the guest vocalist on there?

Swaby: Actually it's Shingai Shoniwa of the Noisettes. She kind of came in and joined in the party. We only wanted her on one song originally and then she ended up doing three so it was great. She's a good girl. She gives good neck massages.

Alisa: I did not know that about her!

Swaby: You do now!

Alisa: Are you a fan of the Noisettes?

Dan: We had a mutual friend, somebody who was doing our sound who knew them and worked with them and he suggested it would be a great hookup and he was absolutely correct.

Alisa: I hate when 16-year olds act like forty year olds.

Swaby: So do I, that's why the song had to be written. Kids nowadays are trying to grow up far too quickly. And I think with media and celebrity magazines we try to make children grow up too fast and the song [is] anti that [trend]. I don't want to see kids in nightclubs at the age of 16. Getting drunk and being taken home by the devil. You want to see that? You want to wish that on your children?

Alisa:No, I don't! Though to be honest with you, I did try to sneak into clubs when I was 16.

Swaby: Exactly! That's what I'm saying. Now you're hanging out with devils.

Alisa: You're known for mixing genres in your music; you've got garage, hip hop, funk and soul. Are there any [genre] you wouldn't [touch]?

Swaby: Nose flutes.

Spencer: Nose flute techno.

Dan: There's probably lots of music we don't like.

Swaby: Probably Gabber techno. Then again there's probably some sounds in there that [we] might use.

Alisa: I don't know what that is.

Chris: It would make your nose bleed.

Dan: Horrid, nosebleeding techno. Horrific pace.

Spencer: It's about 200 bpm, I think. Originated in Holland.

Alisa: What inspired "Cause For Alarm"?

Daniel: It was my girlfriend's positive pregnancy test about a year ago. Now it's all good. Not such a cause for alarm now. I'm a proud daddy. Her name is Tallulah.

Alisa: How does the songwriting work or the lyric writing work for you guys in general?

Daniel: Sometimes we do it individually and give bits to each other [or] contribute and finish each other's songs. Sometimes they come all at once. Sometimes we're working in the studio, the four of us. There's no set kind of way of doing it, really.

Alisa: Everyone gets involved on writing lyrics?

Dan: Not so much lyrics.

Swaby: Not so much lyrically, but musically, everybody kind of does.

Alisa: So you and Daniel do the bulk of the lyric writing?

Daniel: [Swayby] helped me on it. I got to a late stage finishing ["Cause for Alarm"] but I knew [Swayby] had to sing it, so I presented it to him. It makes so much more sense.

Alisa: Do you notice anything about each other's lyrical writing style?

Daniel: It's always about sex (all laugh).

Swaby: It's not sex, Daniel, it's relationships.

Daniel: It always about sex.

Spencer: Sexual relationships.

Swaby: Yeah, generally.

Daniel: Mine are always a bit more sensitive ....

Swaby: (overlaps) So you can see whose written what on the album.

Daniel(continues): Whereas [Swayby] just batters the door down (all laugh).

Swaby: Usually the back door as well ... sorry (laughs).

Back in January, The Heavy played "Late Night with David Letterman" and in a first for Letterman, he was so blown away by Swaby and the gang that he asked them for an encore.