I’ve been a fan of UK rock n’ soul band The Heavy for some time now, instantly hooked by their big, 2009 hit single “How You Like Me Now?” and then again by their 2012 release The Glorious Dead. So when I found out that their new album, Hurt & The Merciless, was dropping April 1st via Counter Records/Bad Son Recording Co. I was over the moon, and also anxious, hoping that it would live up to the high standard that The Glorious Dead set four years ago. Hallelujah! A couple of listens in and I was elated to find out that Hurt & The Merciless was indeed living up to the hype, a worthy and welcome fourth studio album.
I spoke with humble-as-pie front man Kelvin Swaby to learn more about the making of the new album. The band took a different route in the recording process. “This time myself and Dan (Taylor, guitarist), wrote material separately, due to familial circumstances. Then when we came together, we just rehearsed like we would for a show. Getting these songs together and just making them sound as hard, and as tough, and as meaty as they possibly could before even hitting record.”
When it comes to favorite tracks on the album it’s truly hard to choose just one but I had to ask Kelvin what his favorite is: “I love “What Happened To The Love.” I wrote that at a time where I was going through some personal distress. I remember getting on a plane, to go record some gospel in Columbus, Georgia, and by the time I left Heathrow and arrived in America, I had written this song. It was only 12 bpms (beats per minute) slower than the version that’s actually on the album, but I knew it was a great song. Later on, I ended up making it 12 bpms faster, took it back to the band and we got the song down perfectly in about four hours. When a song takes four hours from beginning to end, it’s pretty fucking cool.”
Another cool thing on The Heavy’s roster was their recent Coachella side show gig at The Roxy this past Wednesday. Their set at The Roxy spanned their discography, with songs both old and new. The crowd showered them with praise throughout. From a soul clapping session during “What Happened To The Love?” to howling loudly along with “Big Bad Wolf” — charismatic vocalist Kelvin Swaby joyously shared hi-fives with the entire front row at the top of “Curse Me Good.” The band thoroughly impressed with their high energy set and they even presented a long-time fan and his fiancee a bottle of champagne on stage just before “What Makes A Good Man?” I was soaked in sweat by the time the encore was through, so there’s no doubt in my mind that Coachella crowd-goers will be beyond stoked to catch their performance this weekend. The band is committed to always performing their best and as Kelvin swears, “Whether it’s a crowd of 20 people or 20,000 people, we still kick it out…We’ll always kick it out, regardless of whatever the crowd is.
When touring the states, I asked Swaby what he misses most about the UK but also what he loves about spending time in the States, “…everyone misses family, and you wish you could take your family with you but it’s just not a viable option with a band our size. There are things like PG Tips English tea, stuff like Marmite that you miss. Marmite is a British staple, it is a yeast spread that you either love or hate, but we all love it…I also love record shops. You still have an abundance of underground record shops which I absolutely adore. Trying to find and seek out and use hours to find records that I never ever heard of, love that shit.”
In addition to listening to a lot of doo-wop and ’50s music, Swaby revealed what always gets him moving on the dance floor:
If I think of tracks that I absolutely need to dance to, it could be anything from The Sonics to…Scenarios’ remix by Tribe Called Quest, or some shit. I don’t dance too much because I’m an old man, man, so I’m like grand dad dancing.”
In addition to their Coachella set, The Heavy’s Hurt & The Merciless tour continues to roll through North America until early June, including Southern California dates at The Glass House on April 22 with the Arcs and Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara on April 25.
Words: Emily Saex