Who? This Los Angeles twosome with deep roots in punk and hardcore — singer Matt Skiba also fronts Alkaline Trio and instrumentalist and arranger Josiah Steinbrick is a former member of F-Minus — started making music together when the pair became roomies in L.A. The fellow “music nerds,” as Skiba puts it, began recording a demo after a night of swapping favorite tunes led Steinbrick to share a tape of instrumental tracks he’d put together. Impressed by the songs, Skiba suggested they collaborate. Several trips back and forth between rooms later, the demo version of Patent Pending was complete, and Heavens were born.
What’s the Deal? Patent Pending’s eleven tracks are laden with images of slow decline in small towns, the haven of punk. Unlike the work of Skiba and Steinbrick’s former bands, however, these images aren’t set to thrashing guitars. Instead, Heavens take a cue from artists like Television and Brian Eno (which the band admit are reference points) and set Skiba’s pensive vocals alongside Steinbrick’s surprisingly beautiful arrangements. Their influences also align Heavens’ sound with other Eno hat-tippers like Interpol and the Killers, but lyrics from the hardcore punk’s imagination (thankfully) pervade. With songs chock-full of “arterial spray” and “warm, razor-blade embraces,” no one is likely to forget where Heavens really came from. There’s even the occasional love song…for a girl who divides her time between putting her head in the oven (“Another Night”) and “painting pictures of death and decay” (“Heather”). Well, it’s like they say: You can take the guy out of hardcore, but you can’t take the hardcore out of the guy.
Fun Fact: Ever wonder how Gnarls Barkley got their name? Look no further than Heavens’ own Josiah Steinbrick, who claims responsibility for the cheeky moniker. He was working on his album with producer Ben Lovett, Danger Mouse’s roommate, at the same time Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo were crafting their now-ubiquitous release. When the crew went out to breakfast one morning in Spring 2005, Steinbrick mentioned something being “Gnarls Barkley,” a term, as he told SPIN.com, he “had recently created to explain truly bizarre situations. [Danger Mouse] found this quite amusing and asked if he could use the name for the project. I gladly let him, [as] the tracks he played us were blowing my mind. The rest is pretty much history.” KAITLIN FONTANA
Now Hear This: Heavens – “Counting” (Download MP3)
On SPIN.com: Download Heavens’ First-Ever Single!
Talk: Should Heavens have stuck with punk? COMMENT
On the Web: heavensband.com