DS Interview – Heartsounds on their new album “Internal Eyes”

East Bay punks Heartsounds are gearing up for the release of their new album, “Internal Eyes,” on October 15th, followed by a series of tour dates on the East Coast. Recently, vocalist Ben Murray took some time out of his busy schedule to do a little Q & A with yours truly. We talk about the inspiration for the new album, dream touring partners, and what we can expect from Heartsounds in the future. You can read the full interview below.

“Internal Eyes” in the third full-length album from Heartsounds and will be released on Creator-Destructor Records.

Dying Scene (Meredith): Your third full length album, “Internal Eyes,” comes out October 15th. Can you tell us a little more about the album?

Heartsounds (Ben Murray): Yep!  We are super proud of this record, and we certainly worked our asses off to get it sounding the way we wanted!   This record follows 2011’s “Drifter”, which Epitaph released, and it’s got 10 songs on it instead of 12.  We wanted a bit shorter of a record, and this one clocks in exactly at 30 minutes.  The 10 songs on “Internal Eyes” have a lot of variety to them while still sounding like a cohesive, fast (more or less) punk record- at least in my opinion. haha.  It definitely feels more like a record than the past two, which might have to do with the fact that Trey and I wrote all the music in a span of about 8 months, and focused really hard on making each riff the best that it could possibly be.  Laura and I then finished all the lyrics and vocal melodies, and we went straight into the studio!  I’m especially excited about this album because I feel like we tried some cool new things for Heartsounds, while maintaining our general sound that our fans have come to appreciate.  I think they will dig it, for sure!

What was the creative process like for this album? How are each of you involved with writing and recording the different tracks?

Well, I usually come up with all the riffs and vague kind of structures for the songs.  Then, I record rough demos and show them to Trey.  Once he hears them and gets them in his head, we start jamming on them in person, and he helps to change a ton of things, writes his own drums parts, and he always making them 1000x better, haha.  We then send the demos to Bobby who writes his own bass parts and starts learning all the songs.   Laura and I always split lyric-duties, and each write half the lyrics for every one of our albums.  We both try to write lyrics before all the music is done, but Trey and I focus on finishing the music 100% before Laura and I will start applying our vocal melodies and lyrics to the tracks.  Once Laura and I finish that part, we’re usually good to go into the studio!   We definitely leave a bit of time to ruminate on the songs and change parts if we want, but by the time we go into the studio to record a new batch of songs, we’ve thought things out to death, to the point where we just NEED to record them already.

What thematic elements lyrically inspired this album?

Well, Laura and I always write our own songs, which are pretty personal for each of us, but they sometimes overlap thematically. For this record, it seemed that both of our songs largely dealt with this idea of obsessive thinking, and beating oneself up in an unhealthy way.  That’s what “Internal Eyes” is really about-  Just trying to get a handle on our overactive and compulsive minds that never seem to give in and give up.  When things are going well for me, I usually have a tendency to convince myself that something horrible is going to happen, or is happening already, even if it’s completely delusional.   I’ve dealt with it most of my life, but I still work on it every day.  Anyways, the record as a whole is about trying to overcome self-hatred and abuse in a way that can benefit yourself and the people around you.  That battle is a tough one though, and it doesn’t seem to slow down for any extended period of time, ever.

You have obviously worked in a few different musical genres – ranging from metal to punk. Are there any specific musical influences for Heartsounds?

Heartsounds has a shitload of musical influences, but I know all of us really, really love punk rock a lot.  We all listen to lots of punk, whether it be 90’s skatepunk, old-school 70’s and 80’s punk, melodic hardcore, modern punk, etc.  We love it all!   We also all listen to a lot of indie rock and singer/songwriter kind of stuff as well.  Laura absolutely loves artists like Neko Case and Fiona Apple.  I still listen to a lot of metal, for sure.  I love it, and I’ll never stop loving it.  Trey and I have similar musical tastes-  we both love fast stuff.  It’s all over the map, and I don’t exactly want to speak for everyone else, but some of my specific musical influences that never fail to inspire me are bands like Bad Religion, Propagandhi, A Wilhelm Scream, Wintersun, VYGR, Carcass, etc.   That wasn’t the best answer, but I tried!

How do you think your sound has evolved since your last album, 2011’s “Drifter”?

I feel like this record is way more well-balanced, and actually sounds a lot better production-wise too.   “Drifter” was really fast and riffy, which I obviously love, but we wanted a better combination of that side of our band with the side that loves to write more mid-tempo simpler punk songs with big hooks.  “Internal Eyes” is definitely a fast record, and there’s nothing “slow” on it, so to speak, but I feel like it comes off as more well-rounded, better choruses and whatnot.  It still sounds like Heartsounds, but I feel like we’ve improved in every aspect of our sound. I’m especially proud of the vocals on this one- I think Laura and I did a good job at sticking within our ranges a bit more, and exploring some cool new harmonies.  I’m just glad that we all feel like it’s an evolution, and not just a repeat of our last record.

What is your favorite song on the new album and why?

For me it’d have to be either “Cycles” or “The World Up There”, but I dig them all!   “Cycles” just means a lot to me lyrically, as it is kind of a desperate song that I wrote when feeling like complete and total shit, wanting to get out of my own head.  I love the riffs on that one, and the chorus is something new that we’ve never really tried doing before.   “The World Up There” is just really fun to play because it’s pretty fast for most of the song’s duration, and has some simple kind of fun vocal melodies and harmonies that I feel like Laura really shines on.  Her voice sounds killer in that song.

The artwork on this album is amazing. Dave Kloc has done illustrations for a number of bands – how did you connect with him? How do you see his artwork reflecting your music on the album?

We’ve known Dave for years, and he’s done a few T-Shirts for us in the past.  He’s just a righteous dude, and has a great sense of humor.  We work really well together, so it seemed natural to choose him for this record.  We also wanted to do something new for this record, as Horsebites did our last two.  We wanted a new kind of color scheme, and a new style to the hand-illustration that we like sticking to for our records.  Dave was the perfect man for the job!  I told him my general somewhat-vague ideas for imagery, and sent him our lyrics, and he just went bananas with it!  That’s a good thing, though, it’s exactly what we wanted!  He took our ideas and made them WAY better.  He rules.

I know you are currently touring on the East Coast. Any plans to expand that tour (either across the US or internationally)?

We are heading over to the East Coast with NO TRIGGER, CLEAVE and THE STEREO STATE before FEST in late October, but we definitely plan to do a West Coast run early next year.  We also hope to get back to Europe and Japan sometime in 2014 as well, if that’s possible.  I’m sure something will come together, we’ll be stoked when it does!

Do you have any “dream” touring partners? Any festivals you would love to play?

I think we’d all absolutely love to play Groezrock, so maybe that will happen one day!  Any of those European festivals sound really fun, though, we’d play any of them!   As for dream touring partners- it’d be insane to tour with Propagandhi, if that ever happened. Touring again with A Wilhelm Scream would always be a dream come true.  Those guys are just the best.  I’d also love to tour with Carcass, but that would never, ever happen, haha.  If it did, we’d get booed off the stage every night and then I’d get really drunk and headbang when they played, regardless.

Where do you see Heartsounds going from this album?

We’re just going to continue to do our own thing!   We’ll tour as much as we can on this record, play as many shows as possible, and then write another record in a few years!   I hope to keep doing that as long as we can.

Anything else for the Dying Scene readers?

Definitely check out “Internal Eyes” at creator-destructor.com, and while you’re there, check out all the other amazing bands!   Lots of rad punk, metal, and hardcore that some of you will probably enjoy.  Thanks to Dying Scene for always being awesome to us, and we hope you enjoy our new record!   See you in the pit.

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