‘Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it.’ ~Henry David Thoreau
Let me tell you about addiction. Addiction is when you can’t have enough of something. My exponentially growing music library is testament to the fact I am addicted to music. Addiction can happen quickly, just one hit of opium is enough to confine you to the drunk-tank of the junkie for eternity, so it is with Heliotropes. I can’t wait for my next hit from my speaker syringe.
Look at it another, more professional, way. I was recently talking to a friend and when the topic came up, realised there hadn’t yet been an album yet this year I had unequivocally fallen in love with; this was before I got my first hit of Heliotropes. As someone infatuated with music and a frequent voyager to the places it can take us, I subsist on those magical moments when music becomes more than the sum of its parts, but sifting through the current mainstream music vomit feels like sifting through the bins behind a Michelin star restaurant. What I mean is that modern music seems to have gone through a system removing all of the things one would normally associate with goodness and transportative energy. I find it’s usually better to get your soul food at the farm. The place where music is still raw and passionate and money is not a factor. People play in bands because they love music, and they love playing, and in this crop of excellent bands, sometimes you find one which epitomises these values, but has excellent production and what feels like a fully fledged identity. These are the things we toil for, and as the needle crackles along the black disk spinning into eternity, all those hours of disappointments and cynically produced records piled high on my desk fade away underneath sumptuous, arresting grooves of people who love music as much as you and I do. Bunch’a New York rock queens by the name of Heliotropes who play a sultry soothing brand of retro rock burning with Kyuss-meets-Hawkwind spacestoner that with one typhoon wind blows away the cobwebs round the ears and shoots through the veins like quality spiritual hee-hee straight up into the soul. Moments like this are as essential as oxygen.
I spoke to Jessica Numsuwankijkul about how two girls from the west coast and two girls from the east coast could manufacture this thudding groove tyrannosaurus:“[we] got together at the beginning of 2009 and started playing these mellow acoustic numbers and Brian Eno songs for fun after work. Eventually we turned into Heliotropes”
This blog has a fascination with female music-makers; our Jex Thoth piece, P.J. Harvey piece, and there are more in the works my friends, and Heliotropes are an all-woman all-rocking band, I asked how Heliotropes write their songs, and if being of the fairer sex effects that process or how they’re perceived;
“When I write songs, my goal is basically to think of the band as the middle of a wheel -- you could branch out in all different directions, but at the end of the day, it's still the same wheel, and you know it's the same wheel... I'm not sure if being in an all-female band lends a different dynamic to the music aside from the female vocals... There are plenty of women making music today, but it's obviously something that people notice when they see us live. A sound guy at an venue here in Brooklyn came up to us after the show and said something to the effect of "Wow! That was so awesome! When you were setting up, I thought you guys were gonna suck!" I think if anything, being an all-female band leads to assumptions about what we're going to sound like -- that we're going to be real bad at playing our instruments, only sing fun songs about boys, etc. I guess that goes with the territory”
Heliotropes’ two currently released records, III and the brand shiny new Ribbons 7” (with cover art by Belgian photographer Koen Jacobs) both resound with summer sun sampler excellence. Jessica and her bandmates wring the world clean of all its stress, like a massage of the soul focussed on blissing you right out. I was amazed in speaking to Jessica just how much of that rubbed off on her and consequently on me. Speaking about Koen Jacobs she says, “he’s an über talent”, and in speaking about her experience playing with Heliotropes, “my bandmates are some of the most mellow, pleasant, reasonable people I know; playing in a band, I don’t take that for granted”. In listening to and writing about music, it’s my constant mission to try to understand the spirits behind the strings and the drunks behind the drums, so to speak. I always seek to make sense of the creative process and the thousands of tiny decisions that went into each second of the thing that so improves my life. With Heliotropes I found someone completely on the same stressless plane, and the good news is that it’ll all continue, “I’m sitting on a stockpile of songs at this point” says Jessica, “[I’m] pretty eager to get them demoed out”
Most tellingly, I asked Jessica about Heliotropes, what is the meaning behind the band; what, in essence, is the band about; She remained silent. Heliotropes are a trip. They’re a straight-up-sonic smack hit of saucy proportions. Slap it on the stereo and you won’t be heard from in a week and you’ll only be seen going out to get food still plugged into the portable hit with a mile-wide grin across your slack-jawed face. It’s happened to me. Jessica’s silence indicates one thing. She doesn’t need to tell me who Heliotropes are, and I don’t have to tell you. Just go to their website and scream “gimme gimme gimme” and find out for yourself how my copy of the Ribbons 7” has picked up thirty-odd plays in three days. Ask for t-shirts, tours, more records and simply more.
Written under duress by Steven. Big ups to Jess for her time.