RPM Radar: Heaps Good Friends

RPM Radar: Heaps Good Friends

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On a recent trip to Australia, Andrew from Brooklyn caught up with one of his favorite acts in the world: the delightfully wholesome, whimsical synth-pop outfit Heaps Good Friends. Join them as they chat about music, love, life, travel, and the band’s unique hometown of Adelaide.

Andrew: Alright Andrew from Brooklyn here in a gangster looking alley in Sydney, Australia, with Heaps Good Friends!

Emma Fradd & Nick O’Connor: Helloooo!  

E: We’re coming to haunt you.

A: Oh my, yes. This is exactly how I wanted to die: in an alley, in Sydney.

N: And the menacing looking headlights down the road.

A: This is like a scene out of Gangs of New York. I love it.

E: And this is live, so if we die…evidence.

N: You think Brooklyn’s hard. [Laughs]

A: Just wait ‘til you get to Darlinghurst. So do you guys want to introduce yourselves?

E: Sure! My name is Emma, and I am a member of Heaps Good Friends. I play guitar and I sing and also sometimes I like to play video games and i like to write horror stories.

N: And if she watches two people order food, she just has to…

E: Order food.

N: And I’m Nick, and I’m also in the band. And I ordered food. Emma paid for it. Thanks, Emma.

E: No worries, you got me yesterday so… [Laughs]

A: So one thing I like to ask always is you know every superhero or superhero team has a great origin story. What is the Heaps Good Friends origin story?

N: Haha! Well many many years ago I was employed to do like an art project in Port Pirie, a smaller country town north of Adelaide, where Emma lived. We got there and started doing work, and um this sort of pent-up aggressive grunge child came up to me and said, “you’re the music guy right?” and I felt an instant sense of responsibility and long story short we had a really killer week. Culminating in us recording Emma’s first demo in the G-wing of a dilapidated enclosed jail. It was a proper old school, sort of convict situation.  And it was picturesque–actually, it was quite cinematic. Anything to add Emma? No you’re chewing. How are the nachos?

E: (chewing) Um, they’re good. Yep, very good.

N: And back to the story.

E: And yeah that’s how we met Nick. And then Nick was like, “come to Adelaide and we’ll record your first EP.” So that was a really special experience for me– the first time I’d ever done recording. Then I kind of lived abroad for a long time.

N: Then we made a band called Kiko at that point and wrote one very amazing track the world will never hear.

E: True. Then I kind of moved away for 10 years and came back, and was like “hey I’m coming back to Australia. We should just get together and write a song.” And then we did.

N: And I said “yes we should,” but you moved to Brisbane which was economically frustrating. Fuck, here comes the headlights car. It’s okay it’s only a hatchback!

A: We’ll be fine.

N: Nothing bad comes from a hatchback.

A: I’d love it if Skepta came out of that car.

N: Hahah. Is he touring? Quick, Google it. Yeah, Em came down from Brisbane and we would write, it was kind of like monthly-ish every six week or so. Yeah the fourth track we wrote Triple J picked it up and ran around the block many times.

A: That would be “Let’s Hug Longer,” right?

N: Yeah.

A: So how did that song come about, because the message is one of my favorite messages in music, straight up.

N: What message? I mean, not in ignorance. I just want to hear your perspective on it.

A: Um… “Let’s Hug Longer,” like don’t be afraid to love. Loving is so often predicated with fear, and to love without fear is what it really means to be human, so don’t be afraid and just hug a little longer because know how much time we have. And that’s what I gathered from it, anyway.

N: Yum.

E: Yeah cool.

A: Am I close? Or am I just…way off.

E: You are, I mean, everyone is on it I think. Not to sound too relative, but I think everyone’s…well it is relative, I guess. Whatever you want to get out of it, you can. We didn’t really have this sort of sit down vision for it, in fact around that time a lot of our lyrics just came from cool things my friends would say. But that particular quote, I remember saying after I hugged a friend. Um, Nick?

N: I think Emma downplays the cool list of things that her friends have said. It sounds cool, good sales pitch, but what always loved about the “cool things that Em’s friends have said” lists that came to my house, um Emma would say “I’ve got lyrics” and that doesn’t mean “I’ve got a poem of my feelings, and don’t question my artistry” it meant “I’ve literally got a list that i’ve curated, that i’ve thoughtlessly wrote.” Well, not–she just writes it down and collects it, it’s crazy!  If you had to look at it all, they are all sort of pointing in the same direction. It was Emma’s sort of curiosity that picked it out, which highlights the joy of Em’s curiosity, and yeah they are all sort of full of that yummy-ness. And to add to it, my dad is a hopelessly short hugger. He’ll put you off him after like 1.5 seconds max. And about the same time, I was like “no hold me, hold me dad, hold my body, feel my body” and it was really cute because i sort of taught him how to love and that was one thing iIcould give back to the man that made me. Probably spoke too much of dad then really.

E: No, dads are great.

N: Yeah, dads are good.

A: Yeah, if you’re going to pay back anything.

N: But yeah love, not enough. Not enough of it.

A: Yes, true.

N: Thank you for traveling all the way here to share your message of love.

A: Of course.

N: It’s beautiful.

A:  It’s all I aim to do. The next question I wanted to ask was–so you guys came together after being apart for a while, and ended up back in Adelaide making music. Where there any musical either artist or movements that you encountered along your journey – Emma you mentioned you lived abroad for a while – that you brought with you to Heaps Good Friends or helped shape you in your personal journey that lead to the formation of Heaps Good Friends?

E: We have a third member that is not here that I feel like definitely should be spoken about. Dan is our loving brother and drummer, and I feel like we didn’t really…It was just Nick and I until we started playing live. And then at first it was like “we need a drummer” but we got so much more! I don’t know how to describe what Dan brings, but you’ll see tonight, a lot of love and positivity and craziness.

N: Stylistically though in the early sessions I remember you saying “I like ‘80s drums”. Where did that come from?

E: I think I just really like Haim, and some of their drum sounds sound ‘80s.

A: Oh my god, I totally get that. I came from a background of almost exclusively listening to ‘80s music. That was all my thing and I remember being 17 and hearing Haim’s “Forever” for the first time, and thinking like “wow, the sound I love is alive today!”

E: Yeah, cool.

A: So I’m glad you said that, because it resonates with me for sure.

N: And then I bought a Korg Poly 800, which is like a shitty Juno. I really wanted a Juno but I couldn’t afford one. And I read that this was the poor man’s Juno, and I was like “that’s my jam!”

A: [Laughs] “I’m the poor man!”

N: Yeah! And I wanted a Juno so I thought “I’ll just get this thing.” And it’s nothing at all like a Juno whatsoever but has that ‘80s nostalgia feel like every patch is like “oh my god, I know that sound!” You know? It had that familiarity, and I don’t know when I got that. Did I have that when we started? Like our first kind of songs? It might have been my like…I really wanted to impress Emma when she came down. It had been a long time, like a decade or whatever, of travel. Hey They’re is a big rat! [Laughs] It’s gone.

A: [Laughs] In case you didn’t know, we are in an alley. In case we haven’t said that before.

N: No it’s just Australia, mate! [Laughs] Anyway so sound-wise the ‘80s thing was a bit of a thing. Everybody was a little bit “‘80s-crazy” at the time. It was a little bit “Twin Peaks”-y the first couple of tracks.

E: Mhm our first was very different too, yeah it was very “Twin Peaks”-y.

N: The first two in fact were awfully slow.

A: What were those two called?

E: The first one we called “Perhaps I Killed a Tiny Stunt Double” but it’s not online anywhere. And the second one is called “The Song Where They Say ‘Fridge’” and we sometimes play that when we play longer sets but we are not playing it tonight.

A: And do you say “Fridge” in that song?

E: Yeah.

N: What was the third song?

E: “Cry” —

A: Is that “Cry Like a Psycho”?

E: Yep.

A: Ah! I love that song.

N: But see that was different. The Soundcloud version was half-time and really slow and epic. It was good fun as a recording, but live it was like, “come on mate!” like, “let’s go!” And Emma was like, “we need a jungle beat, come on!” [Laughs].  So yeah, that’s the EP version.

A: Hell yeah.

N: [Sniffs] Mic smells good. [Laughs]

A: I’m glad, I’ve been marinating it all day. It’s um…lemongrass. [Laughs]

N: Oh lovely! Thank you for being so nasally aware.

A: I take care of my guests. [Laughs]

N: Hmm! What do you call a sense of smell?

A: Olfactory. Right?

N: Is that it?

A: Yes, I know that Olfactory is “smell” in some way. I don’t know if there’s another word for it.

N: Hmm, I don’t know.

A: It’s always good to be an “Olfactorarily” friendly interviewer, I reckon.

N: [Laughs] I agree. It has paid off.

A: I appreciate it. I try to shower at least once a month, so.

N: Excellent, that’s what we need. [laughs]

A: Well, I wanted to ask Emma, so you lived abroad. Where did you go, and for how long?

E: I lived in Canada for 6 years.

A: Oh! Where in Canada?

E:I lived in Northern Alberta for a year. Then I traveled for a year, then I lived in Ottawa. And then i moved to England for like a year and a half. Yeah, I was also like sort of living in Ireland for six months, on and off in the middle of that, as well.

A: That’s awesome. I’ve always wanted to go to Alberta.

E: Oh yeah?

A: I mean, Banff obviously but Lake Athabasca looks really cool, and I am big fan of hockey up there so i’ve always wanted to see Calgary and see a game.

E: I’ve been to one NHL game, and I really liked it.

A: Where was it and what teams were playing, do you remember?

E: Um I think it was Oilers because I lived near Edmonton so it was the Oilers versus..someone. I remember they were doing bad, but then they won that game. [Laughs]

A: Alright, nice. Yeah, and so after six years, what made you want to come back to Australia?

E: Well I moved to England to be in another band, and that didn’t work out. So I just kind of, well I think I was visiting home and I realized, “oh yeah home’s a place that means something to me” so I just moved back and it worked out well I guess.

A: And now you guess obviously are still based in Adelaide. What do you reckon about the South Australian music scene?

N: Yeah it’s going off! There are so many artists and really broad genre choices there, really high skill level. We are sort of geographically isolated from the very strong Eastern board of record industry community and hype, and sometimes that is seen as a negative, but I think creatively that is very much so a positive.

A: Does that mean more autonomy?

N: I think we rely heavily on East Coast business, but when it comes to creativity we are not drowned in the culture, which can be a con, as well. But the pro is that you are sort of left to your own devices and you come up with your own thing. There is a bit of a reputation for Adelaide coming up, like “Adeladide’s got such good music” is right next to “Adelaide makes such weird music” and i think that they are related. It is okay to sort of have a bloody good go at whatever and no one tells you it’s shit and no one tells you it’s good. So you don’t really fit anywhere so get to be whatever and you get to grow quite strongly in that direction, which means when you introduce it to the national and international scene it can cut through in a different way. Yeah the Adelaide music scene is sick, yeah?

A: Yeah. Are there any acts in particular that you guys really love and would recommend to someone that wanted to get into South Australian music?

N: There’s the obvious big teams like Bad Dreems and West Thebarton and Horror My Friend are very strong rock, they’re very sort of Aussie rock–maybe not Horror My Friend, they’re a bit more shoegazey. Of course Dan’s other band, Towns, coming in hard. They just released a new song and video and it is very very fun. Their chorus is perfect.

A: So good.

N: Their energy on stage is the best. Um other people from Adelaide that I love, there is a teenage duo called Teenage Joans which are like very very young and very very very sick. There’s a killer, South Sudenese rapper, DyspOra; an incredible indie songstress, Mane. There’s like actually heaps. Argus and the Liar, they are like hip-hop for adults. They’re amazing. The list goes on, like loads!

A: Sick. I want to ask you guys, before we sign off – What’s next for Heaps Good Friends?

N: Red Wine EP.

E: We’ve been writing music lately that sort of sounds like you could listen to in the dark with a glass of wine and or port.

A: Oof, I love wine, and I love port.

N: Yeah ports. Em’s on the port these days, aren’t you mate? [Laughs] Yeah just writing. Writing, writing, writing and and enjoying writing and creating, waiting for it to coagulate into a thing that you put out.

A: Nice!

N: Although, we do have a June tour. It is a mini festival that is called “The Squeeze” with Australian brothers, really strong songwriting brothers, Lime Cordiale. They put on a super fun tour through some very big venues. Yeah, so we get to go and do that!

A: Yeah Lime Cordiale are great. I saw them at South-by in Austin two years ago.

N: Yeah right on, and they know how to do it correctly that’s for sure.

A: Certainly, can we expect you guys to make any overseas trips? Is that in the plans? It doesn’t have to be in the near future, but just in general?

E: It is in the “Dream Bucket” I think [Laughs].

A: What else is in the “Dream Bucket?”

E: Opening for Haim.

N: [Laughs] Be honest, you actually want to be in the band. Emma is currently wearing a T-shirt that says “Go Haim or Go Home”.

A: Oh I just realized that!

N: Emma photoshops herself into band photos of Haim.

A: Have you seen them live before?

N: Ha! How many times?

E: Twice! Once here in Sydney, once here in Montreal.

A: Oh wonderful.

E: Yep!

N: When she goes to see them, she sings all of their songs like to their eyes, and also makes the chord shape with her hand just in mild hope that they’ll see that and she get her on stage. It hasn’t happened yet, but if anyone sees them, just say like “Emma Fradd can hold it down.”

A: All you gotta do is find the Haim parents and ask for an adoption

E: [Laughs] No we can’t talk anymore, if they heard this I’d be exiled.

N: Oh no we are fucking it up! Step away from the joke. [Laughs]

A: I saw them open for Taylor Swift a couple years ago. That was so rad. I also saw them at Governor’s Ball, this festival in New York. It was June of 2016 and it was a couple months after Prince had passed away, and they did a cover of “I Would Die For You”, which was spectacular to say the least.

E: Awesome! That’s wicked.

N: Was that the 1989 tour?

A: That was the 1989 tour.

N: Ah that would have been good times!

A: It was tremendous. I saw Red and 1989. 1989 it was great because it had her, and also had Vance Joy on that tour.

N: Have you got Christine and the Queens internationally?

A: I am actually, so what’s today Saturday? I am seeing her in Denver on Monday. She is opening for Florence and the Machine at Red Rocks.

N: Ohhhhhh! [gasps in envy]

A: So I am jumping on a plane on Monday morning here in Australia.

E: Can we jump in with you? [Laughs]

A: [Laughs] Be my guest. Seriously.

N: That is going to be an amazing show.

A: It’s going to be pretty spectacular.

N: And does she have the full dance troupe?

A: I think so, because I mean, if she is going to bring it out anywhere, Red Rocks is a pretty impressive place to do it.

N: That’s right. Have you been there before? That’s a beautiful venue.

A: Only to visit. I’ve never seen a concert, so this is my first Red Rocks show.

N: It’s an amazing venue. Sort of like a big natural rock amphitheater, and I love the crap out of it. Yum. Yum, yum, yum.

E: It’s beautiful.

N: Very good, jealous. Right on.

E: Thank you for having us!

A: Thank you so much for coming and hanging out, it’s a real pleasure.

N: You’re life journey is clearly very magical. It’s going to be amazing.

A: Wow, thank you!

N: The energy you are putting out is really solid, I think you’re going to go, and keep going.

A: I really appreciate you saying that Nick, thank you so much.

N: My pleasure, it’s beautiful man. Thank you for sharing with us.

A: Have a wonderful show, have a wonderful rest of the tour, and wonderful Red Wine EP.

E: [Laughs] Thank you!

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