“A horizon is obviously something you see everywhere. It’s constantly refreshed, but it’s the same, and it’s never really boring. It ties in with the record, too. Like, that’s a fleeting moment or consideration,” explained vocalist and guitarist Mark Grundy, of Heaven For Real’s debut LP Kill Your Memory’s cover art.
It’s is a rendering of an amalgamation of 64 individual photos of Montreal, Toronto and Halifax horizons. Halifax’s experimental pop-rockers, Cheryl Hann, Nathan Doucet, and Scott and Mark Grundy all took photos using disposable cameras and sent them to Mark in Montreal to piece together. “We figured that it would look different everywhere,” said Mark.
On June 11, Heaven For Real embarked on “The Enduring Flashback Tour,” weaving through Canada and the US. They released Kill Your Memory through Mint Records on July 15 and have been traipsing all the way from the east to west coast, and back again in their van. Nate, Mark, Scott, and Cheryl celebrated at the Astoria on the 16 with Vancouver pals Slam Dunk, Other Jesus, and Whitney K.
“It was legitimately one of the best of the whole trip,” said drummer Nate, of the Vancouver LP Release show. “Really good vibe, great buds playing, good crowd… Like people came and they watched our songs,” added guitarist and vocalist Mark.
Heaven For Real’s make-up is parallel to a family unit. Nate met Mark and Scott about 10 years ago. He was running The Pavilion, a DIY venue for youth in Halifax, and the fraternal Grundy twins were playing in the now-retired band, Gamma Gamma Rays. Despite their age gap, with time, their Halifax friends and musical interests merged. The twins formed Quaker Parents with Brad Loughead (Nap Eyes/Each Other) and released their first record Huge Mask in 2010. Nate joined them on tours as a travelling bassist. The three of them later founded Heaven For Real in 2012, their side project to try out a different sound. Cheryl Hann, one of Halifax’s funniest comedians and calculated drummers, joined in late 2015 as their auxiliary percussionist. Hann also plays drums in Old and Weird and Wayne World.
Kill Your Memory has been two and a half years in the making. Heaven For Real used to be a side project, with Quaker Parents being their main focus. Additionally, with both Grundy’s moving away from Halifax, it’s not always been easy getting together to write and record. “Recording it was kind of a home-based project. We did four different sessions for the record, I would say… There were months and months between recording sessions. The first recording [for the album] was done in 2013,” said Scott. “It’s one of those sort of ‘collage-y’ perspectives… I think that the current and the themes of the songs are pretty representative of that era– that era for us. So it’s pretty intertwined,” said Mark. The LP features quirky and catchy beats, reflective and narrative lyrics. The Grundy twins don’t finish each other’s sentences (all of the time, anyways), but they do harmonize really well. Mark’s drawn-out vocals bring life to the band’s careful and seasoned songwriting, with his distinct cadence offering a certain feeling that lingers.
While in Vancouver they hung out at the Mint Records Office while Cheryl continued to tug away at her masters thesis (so, she unfortunately was unable to join us for the interview). I met up with the dudes of Heaven For Real at Muffin Break on West 4th, a shabby and lovable cafe with great muffins (duh). Below is our abridged conversation with with Nate, Scott, and Mark about their LP and all of the wonderful weirdness that has encapsulated their North American tour:
Why is it ‘Kill’ Your Memory? Is it that there are things that you mull over so long that they just become stagnant?
I wouldn’t say that it’s literal to the whole record, like it’s not ‘This record? Forget it!’ Nah, I think it’s more that it’s the title track. Most of the songs seem to be kind of a propulsion thing– like, about moving forward and moving away. The track, Kill Your Memory is actually not like that though. I feel like it represents how you can look at things from both sides. You can either forget it all and move on, or hold things in– hold nostalgia. It’s maybe a little bit tongue-and-cheek, too.
Has there been any signing or fan photos after the show?
Nate: That happens sometimes because people are just weird, but that didn’t happen last night. Pretty friend vibe, there were a lot of friends around and a lot of the bands are just incredible. I’ve never played [The Astoria] before either, it’s a pretty classic rock n’ roll style venue, which I was pretty happy about. The crowd response was amazing.
Where was the place that Cheryl cried? It looked really beautiful.
Nate: We were in Montana, that was intense oh my god. It was very real. Like, you could see [the view] in front of you, and then you actually turned around for the picture and then only in that moment she realized where she was, and it was over. [Laughing] It was like ‘Oh my god, I’m here right now.’
Mark: It’s the Glacier National Park in Montana, it’s supposed to be one of the most scenic drives in North America, or something. The drive is beautiful. It’s for sure worth doing if you want to see some cool stuff.
Nate: Yeah, and then someone got mauled by a bear the next day [at the park].
Woah. So the trip has sort of taken a dark turn?
Nate: Yeah, I find that’s been happening to us. We were at this restaurant yesterday morning owned by this really rad lady that we got to read about– she’s the head of a biker gang and there are like all of these tributes to her all over the wall and there are pieces of motorcycle hanging from the ceiling. Her name’s Julia, and it was unbelievable because we looked around and felt like we sort of got to know this person and like her, but then in the corner of one of these tributes to her, it said ‘In Loving Memory.’
Nate: She died in 2005 and the article we were reading was from 2002–
Oh, so you didn’t know yet. Damn.
Nate: She drove off a cliff on her motorcycle– it affected the whole breakfast, it changed it completely. Like, okay, we were just looking around this place like ‘oh my god.’ I don’t know who was working there, but they’re all really good at their jobs… I would for sure go back. I loved the food.
So last night you didn’t play the album, but have you played the entirety of the album throughout the tour so far?
Mark: For the most part… there are a couple that we haven’t done live.
Scott: We kind of reach back into the back catalogue. And we have a few releases– one new one too.
Nate: We don’t touch that.
Woah. Do you need a minute, man?
Scott: We made a CD of old material before hitting the road, as well.
Mark: Our own CD, unbeknownst to our label… it’s not like a real release though, it’s just for the tour.
What have you been listening to in the car?
[All of them start laughing]
Nate: We all just look at each other, like, we all know the answer, but who’s going to say it?
Scott: We listen to a lot of Kanye West— his new stuff. We have lots of cuts, but Life of Pablo is definitely on heavy rotation.
Nate: We have a bunch of our own CDs too. Like, CE Schneider Topical. They’re from New York. [They have] a very interesting take on writing songs and playing bass.
Mark: Cheryl also made us some SUMMER ULTIMATE MIXES, so we’ve been powering through those.
What do those feature?
Scott: Volume 1, 2…
Nate: A lot of ‘90s R&b, rap– R Kelly, Mariah Carey— fuckin’ name it.
Scott: They’re awesome and get you through the long drives.
Nate: Sean de Paul.
So you played Salvation Mountain right? How was that?
Nate: We did. Oh man.
I didn’t know you could play shows there.
Nate: We didn’t either!
Scott: You can, but only if you go on Saturday night when they have an open mic.
There’s an open mic??
Mark: We didn’t know that, though.
Scott: It was a coincidence, really it was. We like went to camp there.
There are no rules on Salvation Mountain.
Nate: They literally said that to us. Cheryl went up and asked them about the rules for lighting fire and if it was safe or not, and as soon as she said ‘rules,’ he was like ‘Woah.’ And she was like, yeah—but like all of the gauges have been in the red lately, so is there a fire warning or not??
Scott: Have you visited The Mountain?
I haven’t yet!
Mark: It’s in the desert and it’s pretty sweet. It’s like three hours outside of LA.
Nate: Yeah, at least.
Okay… so what else happened?
Nate: Well this is a place that I’ve heard about since I was 15 or 16 so I was sort of fascinated with this idea of this ‘free love spot,’ but it’s also kinda Christian. Well actually, it’s really Christian.
Nate: It’s written all over it. It says ‘GOD IS LOVE’ in huge writing.
True—it also has a huge cross on top of it, too.
Scott pulled out his phone to show me some of the pictures, and as I was scrolling through I landed on some very funny pictures of them with some friends in LA posing beside a food truck, clearly very out of it.
Wait—what’s happening here?!
[Everyone bursts out laughing]
Nate: Oh! Those are our friends in LA. We went and partied with our friend Tyler Ross AKA ‘White Trash Tyler,’ one night. We did a lot of crazy shit. That was a crazy night.
Scott: Things were actually getting crazy.
Like, crazy good or crazy bad?
Nate: Like, at one point they were chanting ‘NO SCO,’ at us… because we’re from Nova Scotia and Tyler is really involved in the scene there and he’s also from Nova Scotia. They took us to this place called Cha Cha’s.
Was there any particularly weird or freaky things or people you came across?
Mark: There was a party that we went to in Malibu on July 4th and it was just a strange experience of extreme wealth. It was on top of this huge and mountain look-off, mansion style thing.
Scott: Also… there was the guy who was bleeding from his eyes.
You’re really calm about this, jeez.
Mark: I didn’t even see him.
Nate: I saw him.
Mark: He was just there. Oh—People knew who he was.
Nate: He was driving this big old truck.
Scott: He said that he loved us.
Nate: No, he said ‘I love you, Scott.’
Scott: It was more gradual! He was like, ‘what’s going on here,’ and we explained that there was a show happening later.
Mark: He said he crashed his car into a brick wall in 2002, or something.
Nate: Something had just happened to this guy, but he never once commented on it—and then he said ‘I love you,’ to Scott and ripped away.
I just loved that he only said that he loved you, Scott.
Scott: I got the vibe that he says that to everyone.
Nate: That guy’s a free man—not even bleeding from your own eyes matters.
So you guys are in a bunch of bands—everyone knows, and you’ve talked about it a lot… In 2013 Aux interviewed you and asked how Quaker Parents is different than Heaven For Real, and you (Mark) said, ‘The main difference is that Scott plays drums.’ What’s different now?
Mark: I mean, it’s still the case.
Mark: Well, the main difference is that Heaven For Real is a more active band than it was then, and we have this record now too. But it’s still like the same thing—
Scott: –with what we’re trying to say with both bands, as much as we can going forward.
Wait, so has Quaker Parents been opening up for Heaven For Real on the tour?
Scott: I mean I would love that, I don’t know if you can do that?
Nate: We’ve done that on this tour one time already.
Did that confuse people? It’s essentially one chunk of the band coming on.
Mark: I think it worked.
Scott: I’m pretty sure we have distinctly different shows.
Mark: I think at this point it’s definitely different.
Do you guys change your outfits?
Scott: Well, we have. Not usually though.
Scott: Well even just switching one person on an instrument makes the band sound different—it changes the headspace. It’s weird that it’s so specific, but even with recording and playing shows.
Mark: Yeah, very different bands. Both bands have had similar sounds, but it’s diverged in a way since 2013, that makes [both projects] way more clear. The writing is also different. But, at the same time, Scott still does play drums in [Quaker Parents].
Good. Good for you, dude.
And [Nate] you’re playing drums and Cheryl’s playing drums?
Nate: Yeah! So Cheryl’s been playing percussion/rhythms, so like the electronic drum pad, a noise machine…
Scott: It’s so sweet.
Nate: It just adds completely to the style that we’d like to explore more things of that nature, so adding it in and having that texture is super important now. She’s so coordinated.
Mark: And Cheryl recorded with that set-up on the record too. And being able to fill in that space live…
Scott: She’s got like… this math for like fitting in sound. She’s an amazing drummer, she compliments everything.
Nate: Cheryl also plays drums in another band that Mark and I play in, called Wayne World.
Oh! With Andrew Neville (Halifax-based musician)?
He’s so supportive of you guys, it’s stupid.
Nate: It’s the perfect relationship we have with him. I kind of love being dumb. There’s some wit in being stupid– of like, living your life in a way that’s kind of dumb. It’s relaxing. [Laughing] What the hell are we even talking about?
Scott: Yeah, Andrew’s really special to us.
Nate: There are a lot of people in Halifax who are really willing to be open. I just feel like I have friends who I can actually talk about stuff to, which is rare… Halifax has really turned a new leaf– this new sort of space has opened up.
Do you mean around awareness or accountability?
Nate: Yeah. 100 per cent.
Nate: People are too dissatisfied with the way things are, so we’ve gotta do something about it, or else we won’t have a community there.
So how long have you guys known each other– I mean, I know you two [the Grundy’s] are related. Like, we get it.
Scott: Mark and I have known Nathan for 10 years or something.
Did you go to school together?
Nate: No, there’s actually quite an age-gap between us. I’m in my early 30s, so I’m six years older than them, which is a pretty massive gap. When I would’ve been 21-years-old, they were playing in a band called the Gamma Gamma rays… it was a divided relationship for a while.
So you’re kind of like a Father figure for them?
Nate: My nickname is Daddy.
Mark: Just in day-to-day life. Going to the post office like, ‘I’ve got more mail for you, daddy!’
And that’s what you need right?
Scott: More mail for daddy…
Okay, that’s enough.
Given that all four of you have known each other for more than a decade collectively, are there any things that you’ve learned about one another while you’ve been on the road?
Nate: I agree fully, I’ve toured so much recently and I’m very surprised by this dynamic. I mean, putting four people in a band is a pretty risky idea from the get-go. It’s just such an unreasonable thing to ask people to do. It unravels your entire way of life and routine and you have interpersonal dynamics, as well. But this has just been so like, cordial and nice. We communicate and handle problems pretty well. Also like, we’re on tour playing music. [Laughing] I mean it’s pretty easy waking up.
Who are quintessential East Coast bands that you would recommend for West Coasters to check out, and really, for anyone?
Old and Weird, Nap Eyes, Monomyth, Vulva Culture, Special Costello, Century Egg, Walrus, Phern, Moss Slime, Un Blonde…