27 Oct 2016

NAOTD #4: INHEAVEN's Music Will Take You Places, Man

Photo: Press / Niall Lea
Being around London quartet INHEAVEN is a sensation like no other. Mid-soundcheck at Norwich Arts Centre, they look majestic in their coolness, like a pastiche of every iconic band portrait that's ever been tacked up on a teenager's bedroom wall. They've been on the road for more than a month - it's their first proper headline tour - and, though they're not top of the bill tonight, tonight's performance promises to be a real experience. Their pre-debut repertoire, which draws from shoegaze, Britpop and noise rock styles, is already sublime, and decked out in leather and velvet with an equally magnificent array of hair colours, they've got the look nailed too. A bit later in the bar I'm joined by frontman James Taylor and bassist Chloe Little to get the low-down on being at the tipping point of greatness.

How’s life on the road?

James: We’re in week five so we’re going a bit stir crazy. But it’s been amazing. Having kids show up to gigs for us is mind blowing, especially because we’re going to all sorts of places we’ve never been before.

How does it compare to supporting more commercial acts, like Circa Waves and Sundara Karma?

James: It’s important to play with bands like that because you get a much more diverse and accepting audience. We had the time of our lives on those tours because every single kid in the room just goes mental. And they’ve all come back to see us on this tour. It’s really opened us up to a new fanbase which we didn’t have before. We used to perform to more leftfield crowds, people in their 20s and upwards, because we did the YAK tour before the Sundara tour. But now we’re getting the under 18 kids going mental too, so it’s a really nice combination to have.

Who did you listen to when you were teenagers?

James: A lot of Nirvana, The Clash, Smashing Pumpkins. I was always into heavier stuff but then also I love The Strokes.

Chloe: But also embarrassing bands. The bands everyone listened to when they were 15 like… Korn or NOFX, things like that.

Talking of The Strokes, tell us about working with Julian Casablancas.

James: We used to be called Blossom, and we had a weird website where we would put up demos every week. We started getting write-ups in American blogs, so we started to pick up quite a lot of traction under that name. But we ended up taking it all down and deciding to do it properly, and we had to change our name because there was a little band from Stockport called Blossoms, who funnily enough we’re now going on tour with. Months later when we’d become INHEAVEN, Rory Atwell who mixed some of the demos was like ‘you’re not going to believe this’, and forwarded me an email with the Cult Records logo on it. It read something like ‘Julian was obsessed with Blossom, we really want to release one of those tunes, can you put us in contact because we’ve got no idea how to get in touch with these guys’.

Chloe: I love that Julian Casablancas was literally waiting for months to find out how to get in contact with us. It was really weird. Through the power of the internet we crossed paths and they ended up releasing our first single ‘Regeneration’ in America.

There's a political theme that comes through in the lyrics of that song, as well as others of yours. Is that a topic you focus on when writing?

James: Not necessarily. When we write it’ll spiral more from a guitar riff or a melody or something. I think if you sat down and said ‘right, today I’m going to write a political song’ it would be rubbish. It has to come from almost the subconscious, really.

Chloe: I think it’s hard to avoid politics at the moment in the world that we live in. It’s almost like we’re in a pre-punk state as a country. Like what was going on in 1977 when there were nuclear threats and people thought the world was going to end. I feel like now there’s a similar feeling in this country that something’s not right. There’s definitely a movement going on.

Chloe, tell us about directing your own music videos. Do you have a background in film?

Chloe: I did study film but more out of wanting to move to London to be in a band. When INHEAVEN really started I made a 15 second video for ‘Regeneration’ and from there it was just decided that I was going to do the videos. Gradually we’ve done more ambitious projects and I’ve started to learn about different cameras. There’s definitely a story we want to tell and I don’t know if it’s come across yet but hopefully it will. I think it’s a big part of a band and we love it, I’d never want anyone else to do it for us.

And you do your own artwork – tell us about the running theme there.

James: I was really interested in pop art and Andy Warhol and I wanted to create something that was almost consumerist in the fact that it’s repetitive but with slightly different colour schemes and different faces. There’s almost a weird collectability to it, isn’t there? Like when you collect a series of toys as a kid. The splodge is a flower, which represents a blossom of speech. It was thrown together just from using printers and scanners and playing around.

Chloe: We want people to feel part of the world that we’re hopefully creating. I think all four of us connect almost telepathically, because James will come up with something completely separate to what I come up with but then we’ll bring it together and it looks like one style. But it’s not really, we’re just putting out stuff we like and for whatever reason it looks like it’s a linear idea.

Are there any bands you’ve run into repeatedly over the summer?

Chloe: We saw Black Honey all summer, they’re such nice guys. You just make friends along the way. You don’t expect to, but you meet them once and then you see them all the time! It’s cool when everyone’s getting booked at the same places.

James: I’d like to see HMLTD (F.K.A. Happy Meal Ltd.) live just because I’ve got no idea what they sound like. I’ve only seen photos online and they look mad.

Chloe: I also want to see The Lemon Twigs. Their album’s already out, but it got slagged off in DIY which I was surprised by. I’ve heard that live it makes sense. People go mad for it. I’ve only heard that one song…

[INHEAVEN and Vapour Trail pause for a rendition of ‘These Words’ by The Lemon Twigs]

The big question: is there an album and when can we expect it? And does it feel like a big step not having released an EP beforehand?

Chloe: I think the album is such a solid body of work that you shouldn’t need to break it up with EPs. And everyone’s doing EPs now, we do what we like. Another thing with bands like The Lemon Twigs is they released one single and then an album straight away, which I like. It depends what you want really.

James: I know everyone does EPs now but we just wanted to do that final single thing that people used to do. We’ve basically put out double A-sides every time, so I guess it’s the old-school way of releasing records. There is an album, and it should be early next year. Definitely in the first six months.

'Treats' is out now. INHEAVEN support Blossoms on tour across the UK this November/December.

Leicester, O2 Academy (30/11)

Hull, University (01/12)
Manchester, Albert Hall (02/12)
Manchester, Albert Hall (03/12)
Edinburgh, Potterrow (05/12)
Aberdeen, The Garage (06/12)
Middlesbrough Empire (07/12)
Oxford, O2 Academy (11/12)
London, O2 Shepherds Bush Empire (13/12)
Bournemouth, Old Fire Station (14/12)


Words: Alex Cabré