Ian and Wesley are best friends going all the way back to Boy Scouts and have always shared a passion for roots music. When Ian began writing folk-y, alt-country songs and hitting the open mics during his stint in film school, it made perfect sense to team up with his old scouting buddy. They added Steve Andrea on lead guitar and a few more guys, then recorded a six-song EP. at Kill Room Studios in 2013.
The CD was well received by fans and critics and is currently represented through the Play Network, helping put Blackheart Honeymoon into the ear holes of shoppers at the Gap, Nordstrom and Starbucks around the country. Then, half the band quit to do other stuff.
So, Ian, Wes & Steve tracked down Dusty and Adrienne, and for the past two years, the quintet has been rapidly entrenching itself in Seattle’s roots-rock/americana/indie-rock community. Their second performance together was for CW11’s local hit television show, Band in Seattle (aired March 2014). Now, the group regularly gigs around town, sharing the stages of the Crocodile, Tractor, High Dive, and the Sunset with other up and coming hopefuls like Star Anna, Prom Queen, Vaudeville Etiquette, and the Swearengens.
Their current sound, while culling influence from classic American artists like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and the Byrds, ends up sounding more like Neutral Milk Hotel teamed up with Fleetwood Mac and made a record with Fleet Foxes producing. They often draw comparisons to Wilco, Ryan Adams and the New Pornographers, as well.
BHH returned to Kill Room Studios last February to record twelve new tracks for their debut full-length, Mountains Speak (street date: August 7), with producer, Ben Jenkins (Hobosexual, Walking Papers, Young Evils). Followed by a session at Bear Creek to make a single for Lost Hymn Recordings with Jerry Streeter (Lumineers, Brandi Carlile). Their studio chops are getting as tight as their live show, a sweeter spectacle you will seldom witness.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with the band to discuss Mountains Speak. This is what they said about it.
When did you begin writing the material for Mountains Speak?
Ian: It’s sort of a labor of a couple of years. Some of the songs were written as early as 2006, when I was in film school and I was still drinking really heavily. The song “Rapid Mutation” was written by Scott Helgason (previous drummer, now drummer of The Young Evils) while we still lived together, a few years ago.
So the earliest was 2006, but a lot of this record was written after I got sober, in 2011. A lot of this record was written about my now wife, Robin Ginnis, and about my relationship with Wes, our bassist, especially in that early process of getting sober.
A few of the songs are really new, like “Bodies” and “Particles.” I wrote those and we worked them out within the last year. Our drummer, Dusty, started writing songs for the band in the last year, and a few of those have become core songs, with two making it on this record.
Dusty: Those songs (“Don’t Look at Me” and “Wishin’ and Hopin’”) kind of just popped out of me a couple months before we went into the studio. I played them for the rest of the band and they dug the direction, so we ended up recording them for the album. Everybody added their own touch to the songs. Adrienne and Wes came up with that beautiful intro/outro section for “Don’t Look” one day at rehearsal. Steve and Wes put together that cool jazzy riff for “Wishing,” and Ian left his mark by tweaking the melodies here and there. Most of our songs are like that – a group effort, where everyone adds some of their own personality to the composition.
Adrienne: Yeah, that hook for “Don’t Look” came to me like an epiphany one day last year. I’d been killing time at Diablo Coffee in Queen Anne, reading some Murakami, when I suddenly realized I’d eaten way too much of an edible (I’ve been baking for years for medical reasons), and I wasn’t comprehending what I’d been reading. I started to feel really stoned, and I realized I needed to be anywhere but in public, so I rushed to our practice space early and sat in a corner, feeling way, way too high. And then, suddenly, there it was: this jazzy little part that flowed really naturally. As soon as the guys walked in the door, I played it for them, and they loved it. Wes and I later worked spent a session or two together to lock into each other for those parts. He and I did the same for the outro to “Mountains Speak (Reprise),” which is quite possibly my favorite part of the entire record.
Which of the songs on the LP is most different from your original concept for the song? Did the sift in members greatly change any of the songs?
Ian: I think “Particles” is one that’s really different from how I envisioned it. I’ve really changed how I play the guitar part, and Steve wrote a lot of the musical break parts. “Love It All” is also really different, and I think everyone in the band changed that song for the positive.
Wes: As I recall, “Love It All” was originally a lot slower. As we were wondering what to do with what we had, Steve had written a hook that really fit well, and Dusty and I picked up the tempo, and everyone’s parts just seemed to fall into place. The shift in lineup has changed the sound of the band quite a bit. The addition of female harmonies and more involved keyboard parts was and is a huge difference from our first EP.
What was it like recording with Jerry Streeter? How did that relationship come about?
Adrienne: First and foremost, it’s important to note that we did not record Mountains Speak with Jerry Streeter, but instead with a good friend of ours, Ben Jenkins, who owns and runs The Kill Room Studios in Georgetown, Washington. We have a longstanding relationship with Ben; we run in the same circles in West Seattle, and he did a great job recording our first EP, Nothing and Everything Else.
We did have the wonderful opportunity to record a separate single with Jerry Streeter up at Bear Creek Studios. It’s much more rock-influenced, heavier, and better song than it was, thanks to Jerry’s amazing guidance.
Our relationship with Jerry started through another solid connection in the Seattle music scene. James Germain, another musician in the West Seattle circle, founded a boutique record label called Lost Hymn Recordings, which is focused on releasing exclusive singles for bands. James and his team picked us to record a single at Bear Creek, and that song is exponentially better for the experience. That single, “Rest in Bone,” will come out some time later this year.
Your music is all over the place. We definitely hear the Americana influences. But also hear contemporary bands, like Band of Horses. What do you attribute to having such a varied sound?
Ian: Part of it is just that we all come from different musical backgrounds, so we sort of bring elements of that, you know. There are bits where our musical taste overlap, which is why we have the cohesion, but also having very different musical tastes brings out that eclectic sense to our music. Wes comes from a jazz, funk, rockabilly background; Steve and I come from that folky Americana, but Steve also has that experimental influence; Dusty comes from the mid-90’s Seattle scene, playing in grunge and pop bands, but is rooted in classic rock; and Adrienne comes from a diverse influence of both pop and industrial music.
Adrienne: I think it’s also just a testament to the fact that our music isn’t confined to any particular genre, and we kind of break genres in our songs. Our songs are very us, very Ian, and they really do speak volumes about our lives, our struggles, our thoughts, and who we are.
Wes:I think we as a band try to make sure that everyone’s musical backgrounds and influences, broad as they are, are represented as much as possible. It keeps things interesting and fresh.
Do you have any plans to tour outside of the Pacific Northwest this summer or fall?
Adrienne: We certainly hope and plan to tour. Right now, we’re in the planning stages, but we’re aiming for maybe mid-October for at least a west coast tour.
Ian: It can be difficult to schedule a tour because everyone has jobs, and we all have rent to pay, but we want nothing more than to get out on the road.
(Visit the band here: http://blackhearthoneymoon.com http://facebook.com/blackhearthoneymoon http://twitter.com/bhh_band)