BURIED TRACKS + INTERVIEW: HEAVYBIRD
Heavybird is the psychedelic solo-project of multi-instrumentalist Evan Benzinger. His latest album 'Smile, Beautiful; You Are Free' is officially out and we're happy to share a single off of it. Listen to single below and read on for an in depth interview with Evan. Enjoy!
Have you played in other bands? Is Heavybird your first and only solo-project?
I started playing the drums when I was 9. I played with bands and ensembles in high school, but I didn't get truly serious about music until college with my old band Really Old Airplanes. We ended up moving from upstate New York to Seattle and broke up soon after; that was in 2012, and I took a break from music after that. I sold my drum set and spent my time writing fiction, exploring photography, and writing poetry. It wasn't until 2015 that I started practicing guitar again and learning to sing. This was the start of Heavybird, which is not only my first solo project, but the first time I played music seriously in years.
When did Heavybird start and how did it come about?
Heavybird started because I missed playing music. I wanted to prove to myself I could create a recording on my own, and I wanted to do it at my own speed without having to rely on or to answer to anyone else. I had originally planned on making a 5 song EP and calling it quits, planning to move onto some other endeavor. But the EP quickly turned into an album, and I borrowed a drum set, a bass, an electric guitar, and an amp from some friends. By this time I realized how invested I was in the project, and just went with it.
The more we listen to your music, the more we realize how diverse it is. How would you describe your music?
I would like to describe my music as "psychedelic", or "neo-psychedelia," or "psych". Any of those genres are what I hope for. As time goes on, and I release more music, I feel like I'm getting closer. My goal is to make music that can cause an altered state of consciousness for the listener. Whether or not I reach that is up to the listener's opinion, but that remains the end goal behind my music. My first album "It Hurts & It Heals" feels indie/ lo-fi / psych / folk, my EP "Smile, Beautiful; You Are Free" moves further away from indie rock, and my upcoming second album embraces more psych, as well as noise-rock and shoegaze. I have a lot of musical influences, but at the core of it, it always comes back to John Lennon and Bob Dylan.
"Smile, Beautiful; You Are Free" is your latest release, is there anything specific that inspired this one?
The biggest inspiration was meeting my girlfriend. I started writing more music instantly, daily. She gives me reason to be happy in life, emotions to sing about. I was listening to a lot of Syd Barrett at the time, and I wanted to create something in that style. Syd's recordings have this very raw feeling, a very open emotional feeling, and I think a lot of that comes from his mistakes, his voice missing a pitch or his strum slightly missing a rhythm. I tried to capture that by doing almost everything I recorded first take. "Counting Crickets" I had written previously and just recorded all the parts on the first take. For "That Line" I picked some chords based around my harmonica, and came up with a few lines of lyrics. Then I turned on the microphone and recorded it all at the same time and just let it flow. I wanted to put something out that put value on imperfection, that showcased raw emotion as close to the source as I could get it.
What does the name "Heavybird" mean to you?
I came up with the name in that state between waking and sleeping. I jumped out of bed and wrote it down, and rediscovered it the following morning. I like the way you worded the question because I ended up inventing a meaning for it after I had the name. I like to quote the Simon and Garfunkel song "El Condor Pasa":
"Away, I'd rather sail away
Like a swan, that's here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world it'ssaddest sound
Its saddest sound"
I really like the sentiment in those lyrics. I feel like a singer is in many ways a bird too heavy to fly.
What does the future hold for Heavybird?
In the immediate future, my second full-length album. The recording is completely finished, and it's currently undergoing the mixing and mastering process. I'm incredibly excited to release it. I feel it's much more polished and focused than my other releases so far. I've taken a break from shows for the time being, but I should be returning to it in the upcoming months. There's, even more, music beyond that, on the horizon, so even if I'm not sure what the future of Heavybird may be, it should be a lengthy one.
Do you have any other hobbies outside of making music?
I love hiking, camping... reading... listening to music (if that counts as a separate hobby)... and making any other kinds of art. I still love writing poetry, and I've started drawing more. But most of all I've been collaging lately. My girlfriend and I both collage together, and it's incredibly fun and relaxing. Her collaging is incredible, you can find her on Instagram @dani.danelion, and my stuff is @evanbenzinger.
Anything else you would like the folks at home reading this to know?
All You Need Is Love.