The not-really new on the scene Heavy Suns have just released their debut single and video. The more observant local music fan may have caught a glimpse of the band on the recent Of National Importance Records compilation, Misophonic Minds.
Followers of the Barnsley indie scene will know the band were previously known as Yellow Elevators and debut single ‘Hold’ signifies a markedly new era for the band, incorporating a heavier Alt-sound into their psychedelic groove.
I caught up with Travis, Ross and Tom from the band, to find out more about what we can expect from Heavy Suns.
For local followers of the indie scene, there is no getting away from the way the band has developed over the last five years. The majority of the band played as Silent Gestures, and then in the popular Yellow Elevators. After a brief hiatus, you’re back as Heavy Suns. Can you talk me through why those changes happened and how the sounds of each band developed over time?
Travis Eaton – Well the band started out as a three-piece, consisting of myself, Callan Mellor and Ben Scarfe under the name Silent Gestures. This was basically a case of the three of us meeting up, jamming ideas and getting to know one another more rather than having a clear idea of what we wanted achieve or where we wanted to go with it in terms of a specific sound.
After recording a few songs and playing a few live dates as Silent Gestures we began to bond over the new era of Psychedelic music that started to become more common around 2010, with bands like Tame Impala, POND and The Black Angels. From this we then started to play and write in a different way and our music started to go down a more psychedelic route.
Moving from an indie-rock three piece to a groove/psychedelia band and the songs that we wrote from that meant we would have benefited from another member in the band, which is where guitarist Tom Laffey came in to make us a four-piece under the new name Yellow Elevators.
At this point the songs were largely based around that new Psychedlic thing that was happening around that time, particularly the very early Tame Impala releases. At that point that gene of music was really exciting, both to play and to listen to and was a breath of fresh amongst all of the indie/rock bands around but we feel that sort of groove-psych genre ship has sailed a little now and has ‘been done’. The thought of that coinciding with a change in drummer after Ben left the band and Luke Ibbotson joined and then adding a fifth member to the band in Ross Micklethwaite on keyboards lead us to being a little bored of writing songs in that genre. We began to play around with new ideas with different sounds and this is a sound, which we instantly felt excited about. So much so we decided to draw a line under Yellow Elevators and begin down a new path with a new sound as Heavy Suns.
Barnsley has a very healthy Psyche Indie scene at the moment, for a long time headed by Exit Calm, and now Pusher. The gig I put on at the beginning of the year with Clay Garden, This Condition, Pusher and your-good-selves showcased that perfectly.
What’s your feelings about being part of that scene and on what it takes for its bands to get noticed out of town?
Ross Micklethwaite – That’s a strange one for us really. In my opinion, of the bands involved in the Barnsley scene at the moment, there are two distinct groups.
There are (or were) bands like Exit Calm and Pusher who have always been focused on getting out of Barnsley and taking their music to new audiences. Taking support slots here, there and everywhere just to get out there and play and be recognised.
Then there are bands that are happy to stay in Barnsley and play to a home crowd or a ‘following’. Obviously, it depends how you look at it, which of these you feel works for your own band. Bands like The Black Lamps and This Condition make this work for themselves really well. These are bands who have a lot going on other than the band they play in but whenever they do play it still feels like an event and something to get you out of the house.
I feel we currently sit in the middle of these two categories. Due to the number of changes in the band (both in terms of genre and line-up) it has inevitably stunted the bands growth and ability to build a reputation in the major cities. We get loads of gig offers from Sheffield, as Yellow Elevators built a bit of a reputation there but that’s another thing we feel we have done to death.
What it will take for us now is to kind of follow the example of bands like Exit Calm and Pusher and keep reminding promoters that we exist and hopefully get thrown a few support slots around the country and from that, prove ourselves in a live capacity and hopefully word can spread.
The main thing for us is playing well-put-together gigs with other good bands.
…and the Barnsley music scene as a whole, what do you think of it? Good things and bad? Do you have any favourite acts outside of your genre?
Ross Micklethwaite – I think it is potentially a great scene but one that’s difficult to understand. One big issue for me is that not enough bands from out of town come here to play. Nobody wants to take a chance on booking bands simply because they are good when they can book a local band that will sell it out with their mates, aunties and uncles. Which isn’t really benefiting anyone but the bar and the brewery. Also, bands don’t support one another anywhere near as much as they should which is a shame.
There are some really good bands in Barnsley. The obvious ones – Pusher, I am a big fan of Aztec Doll. Outside of our genre, Bruja have a style I really like and is different to anything else coming out of Barnsley. Also, New Road Kings (formerly MLD), now they have dropped that nightmare of a band name (sorry lads!). They are ready to be taken as seriously as their talent deserves.
Tom Laffey – The Hurriers.
Travis Eaton – Aztec Doll. Although I’m not allowed to say This Condition, I’m going to include them. I don’t think they’re strictly the same genre as us and I like them a lot
You’ve recently been recording a 2Fly Studios – favoured by many local bands, including big names such as The Arctic Monkeys and Reverend and the Makers. What recordings did Heavy Suns hear that influenced the decision to record there?
Travis Eaton: It wasn’t really a specific band that attracted us to 2Fly. It was basically the reputation of David Sanderson and Alan Smyth as producers. David Sanderson recorded all of Yellow Elevators releases and he never gave us a reason to go elsewhere.
The sound of the band means that Dave gets to play around with the production more and be a bit more adventurous than he can with the masses of indie-rock bands, which means it is a very good creative process from both sides. Also, we trust him enough that when he tells us something is rubbish we listen!
What can we expect from the new record – tracks, themes, sounds etc?
Ross Micklethwaite – We have recorded a video for our single with the very talented Liam Gilroy form Arcadia Film that should be released by Friday May 15th.
The sound of it is difficult to describe. The songs we have been putting together over the last few months have followed I bit of a quiet/loud, light/shade theme, which is shoegazey in parts and basically modern rock music in others. In terms of influences, I have no idea who I would draw comparisons to.
In my opinion, it is just a much bigger and better than our revious material.
Can you tell us about some of the gigs you’ve got coming up this summer?
Travis Eaton – Our very first live date is a hometown gig at our spiritual home Opium-10, Barnsley; which we are really excited for. Obviously supporting Blossoms at a free entry gig will be good but we get to play with our friends Two Skies as well.
We’ve also just announced we’ll be playing this years Long Division Festival in Wakefield, alongside bands like British Sea Power, Ash and Pulled Apart by Horses which should also be a great day. That’s Saturday 13th June.
All photos courtesy of Mark Tighe.
For more on Heavy Suns, follow https://www.facebook.com/HeavySuns.