Fiddling Around With The Heavenly States
Lend an ear to the Heavenly States’ most recent album, 2008’s Delayer, and you realize, this Bay Area band has it. And what, pray tell, is “it”? Imagination, guts, and the wide-angle ambition to put together a great, layered, multi-textured indie-rock album. Add the fact that Heavenly States was the first to tour Libya -- an adventure captured in the as-yet-unreleased feature-length documentary, Borderline -- as well as a super-energized live show, and you have a slice of heaven right here in the Bay. I caught up with the always-friendly, down-for-anything vocalist-guitarist Ted Nesseth -- with invaluable assists from multi-instrumentalist-vocalist Genevieve Gagon, drummer-multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Gagon, and bassist Masanori Christianson -- via e-mail on the brink of the Heavenly States’ free show at the Uptown on July 3.
Q: What have the Heavenly States been up to since we last spoke, around the time of Delayer’s release?
Heavenly States: Writing songs for our new LP tentatively titled HE LP! Lots of great new songs and ideas. Novel concept, huh? Songs with ideas? And a synth? And horses. Stop me. System overload...
Q: Any interesting tour adventures of late, especially since your tour of Libya? Perhaps another visit to the Middle East? (And by the way, is there something about the region that compels you, as a band?)
HS: We're consultants on the script being written for the film at this point. It's the new Ishtar, the story that wouldn't be told. We'll see what happens there.
Tour stories, huh? Well, we were on tour in New Mexico, and Masanori was asked how he felt about something “as an Oriental.” That was astonishing. It was like we went back in time. A time before sensitivity training in the workplace. Back then, mullets were crusty. Not like now. Now they're crusty and funny.
Q: It seems like the band has a previously hidden humorous side (witness the Osama Bin Lozenges video) -- how else has that manifested itself and will it be rearing its whimsical head in other ways in the near future?
HS: I will lay something whimsical and humorous on you right now. I have a new joke I've been working on.
“Did you hear about the indie label who wanted all their band’s publishing?”
“Yeah. They thought it was the ‘rights’ thing to do. It's not, though.”
It's a little clunky, I know. I am still workin' on it.
Q: Any thoughts on the current pop/rock/indie landscape? And the local music scene (or even recent news events like Michael Jackson's or Sky Saxon's demise)?
HS: Landscape? Oh. You mean wasteland. It is what it is. Local musicians rule. Wherever they are. R.I.P. Sky Saxon. Michael who?
Q: Can you describe the new songs or their direction? Any plans for a new album or project?
HS: We are heading to L.A. in July to track some of the new songs. We're pretty excited about that. We think this one could be like our last record Delayer but further north.
Q: What do Heavenly States do on sunny hot days like today? Any summer recommends?
HS: Like Janis said, "Get it while you can."
The Heavenly States play Friday, July 3, 9 p.m., at Uptown Night Club, 1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Boatclub, the West of, and the Dashing Suns open. Free. (510) 451-8100, www.uptownnightclub.com