Breaking Out: The Heavy
West Country Brits leave England to find love for their raucous stompers.
Two years ago, something finally went right for the Heavy. After almost a decade of inexplicable U.K. indifference to their swaggering garage rock and sweaty R&B, the then-intermittently gigging quartet found an appreciative audience — 5,000 miles from their tiny hometown of Noid, England — when the band was invited to Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest festival.
Three raucous shows later — including one with MGMT at a Playboy party — the band knew they had found a safe haven. A U.S. record deal soon followed.
“That was pretty special,” admits singer Kelvin Swaby, 36, sitting alongside guitarist Daniel Taylor, 35, bassist Spencer Page, 26, and drummer Chris Ellul, 27, in a posh central London bar. (Keyboardist Hannah Collins left last year when touring became too demanding.) “Our whole thing has always been to take everything America has thrown at us — a little blues and soul, a lot of rock — and give it a British twist, so recognition from the land of our forefathers was sweet.”
The band’s sophomore release, The House That Dirt Built (Counter/+1 Records) is a different kind of tasty. With guttural funk (“How You Like Me Now”), apocalyptic reggae (“Cause for Alarm”), and muddy blooze (“What You Want Me to Do”) splashed among the fiery motorvators, Dirt plays like a blast of bad hoodoo, all topped off by Swaby’s licentious howl. When he sings, “What the Devil wants / the Devil gonna get” on the jailbait ballad “Sixteen,” you don’t doubt him.
But even though the band members have been able to quit their day jobs, Taylor, who started the Heavy with Swaby when they were still working at a Gap store outside Noid, can’t shake some lingering cynicism, lamenting everything from downloads (two months before its October release, he estimated that Dirt had been illegally dug up more than 30,000 times) to an upcoming Stateside jaunt. “Our ridiculous touring schedule makes meeting girls impossible. After all the traveling and all the shows, you feel so rubbish that the last thing you want to do is meet anybody. You’re too tired.”
So it’s all early nights, then?
He smiles. “I didn’t say that.”
WATCH: The Heavy, “How You Like Me Now”