On and off the record with Heliotropes

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Talking shingles fakeouts, being fueled by Naked Juice, and how adolescence stays with us.

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Dayna Evans | June 18, 2013

heliotropes

Heliotropes minus Cici at Jimmy's Diner

On one of the last truly cold and rainy days of the Brooklyn spring, I met up with rock-and-roll foursome Heliotropes for a warmup brunch at Jimmy's Diner on Union Avenue. The rain was coming down in icy spits, an unusual and frustrating state of being for the middle of May, which was made only worse by being asked to wait outside of the cozy diner, since there was no room for us to wait under shelter. The band had just come from recording at Rubber Tracks and despite the pressure of a sitdown interview and getting soaked, the band was lively, spry, and eager to discuss their upcoming record, A Constant Sea.

Heliotropes' drummer, Cici Harrison, had to cut out before the interview began, but the band's manager, Alex Damashek, and their friend, Matt Meade of Friend Roulette, sat in as “fake Cici.” In fact, the whole thing was a little like a game of friend roulette. We ate brunch, had an early happy hour, and took on the tricky challenge of being honest, but not too honest. As a relatively new band, Heliotropes were very savvy in telling me when they'd like things off the record, which you can see in italics throughout the interview, but weren't necessarily prudish when they stayed on the record, either. Read below for a taste of what Jessica Numsuwankijkul, Amber Myers, and Nya Abudu had to see over some Anchor Steams and eggs, then pick up their brand-new record, which released today on Manimal Vinyl, at this link.

What were you doing at Rubber Tracks today?

Jess: We were just using their venue. They were nice enough to let us use their place. There is this thing called Access TV and they were filming us while we played through a couple of songs.

Alex: It’s actually a TV program owned by Mark Cuban and Ryan Seacrest.

Oh really? What are they gonna do with the footage?

Alex: They have a show called Access Live that is basically a live band show.

You guys will be streaming live on the show?

Jess: Was it just one long shot?

Alex: Each song is, yeah. I think it’s supposed to be very stripped down. The way he was describing it is when they air it, it’s going to be aired as live. They’ll be like, “Now we’re going to Rubber Tracks studio live from Brooklyn with Heliotropes!”

Jess: Playing right now!

You recorded some songs there previously, right?

Jess: One song at the studio. It’s exclusive for them.

How does that work? You record there for free and they use that song however they want?

Jess: Yeah, they can basically use it however they like. I guess it’s a really good business model. Instead of paying for licensing, you just record a bunch of bands because you know there are probably a bunch of pretty broke bands around here, and then the bands just agree to let them use it however. It doesn’t really matter.

Alex: Nah, nah. You still own rights to the song—they can’t just put it in a commercial. They can use it for their Tumblr and for their own promotional shit. It’s not like they get to just use it and not compensate anybody.

The conversation randomly turns to the politics of taking care of someone else's child while hungover, which becomes our first instance of taking things off the record, for protection of the integrity of childminders everywhere.

Jess: There’s nothing wrong with being hungover and taking care of kid. Now, being drunk and taking care of a kid, that’s a different story. We had a friend who got us both fired from a babysitting job because she lost a $300 stroller.

Alex: Nooo.

Jess: Yes. She went to a babysitting job, which I was filling in for, and she was like “Hey, sorry, I got fired, which means you’re fired too, because I lost the stroller.” And I was like “How did you lose the stroller??”

Yeah that’s a big piece of equipment.

Jess: It was a pretty long-winded story. Like she had a UTI and she was up really late.

Alex: All good stories start that way.

Jess: And then she was being really absentminded because of that, and she was really tired, and then she lost the stroller.

And the loss of the stroller wasn’t really talked about?

Jess: Yeah, that was that, and we were both fired. And strollers are, like, really expensive. Not that I would know.

Alex: The only thing she could have done worse would be to lose the actual child.

Jess: I kind of feel like she might have said that to the parents. Like at least I didn’t lose the baby.

Laughter ensues and we all begin talking about what it means to be actually “gluten-free.” A moment passes when the group takes in that this is the exact diner that serves world-famous boozy milkshakes, another moment that goes off the record.

You all spend a lot of time together, I’m assuming? You didn’t know each other before the band started, right?

Jess: No, we didn’t.

I read that you guys found each other from Craigslist. When you started hanging out, was it an immediate connection or was it awkward?

Jess: It was a little different because we didn’t meet all at the same time. Amber and I met up first. When we first met up, we went to the Gowanus Yacht Club, didn’t we?

Amber: Yeah, and then we ended up hanging out all day.

So it was like a date?

Jess: Yeah, it kind of was like a date.

Amber: And then you had me rub steroid cream on your back.

Jess: No, no, that was like a week later.

Amber: Yeah, it was pretty soon after, though.

Jess: Well, that’s how I knew we’d be friends for a very long time.

Amber: It was like, “Well, we’re in this now.”

Jess: Yeah, and I think we even discussed it afterward. Like, well now we know we’ll be friends for a really long time. Basically, what happened was a bunch of baby mosquitoes laid their eggs in my air conditioning unit.

I’m not ready for this.

Jess: They came out and just bit me up in the night. I’d gotten so many bites that night that my body couldn’t handle it. I actually thought I had shingles because I had a friend look at it, too. He was like, “You definitely have shingles.” It was a ribbon stripe. I went to the dermatologist and they gave me steroids because they said I was having a severe allergic reaction from getting bitten too many times. My back looked like Mars. It looked like Kuato from Total Recall. So Amber rubbed steroids on my back literally a week after meeting me.

Then after forming this friendship over steroid cream, how did that evolve into Heliotropes as it is?

Jess: Well, we played a show with the old band that Cici was in, they were called Astrid Pierce. I remember being like, “Oh, we wish she was in our band” and then a year later, she was! We found Nya just on Craigslist. It just worked out, it was really nice.

It seems like you guys are best friends.

Jess: Yeah, we spend a lot of time together.

That’s gotta be a good feeling, too.

Jess: Yeah, it is. It definitely doesn’t feel like we met on Craiglist.

Amber: No, it definitely doesn’t.

Nya, what were you doing before?

Nya: I had just graduated college and was living in Philly at the time.

Oh, cool, are you from Philly?

Nya: I’m originally from Los Angeles, but I was in school and right after I graduated, I decided I wanted to move up to New York to play music. So I reached out to Jess and Amber, who were looking for a bassist, and I think they had said preferably female.

Jess: Did I say that?

Nya: I don’t remember.

Jess: I think that might be against Craigslist’s rules. [Laughs]

Yeah, it might be.

Amber: There are rules of Craigslist?

Nya: I saw something about you being a female, then, and I really liked the sound of it. I’d only played with guys up until that point.

Jess: We definitely had a male bass player before her.

So what was your first practice like when you played together?

Jess: Easy.

Nya: Yeah, it was.

How did you know what kind of music you wanted to play together ?

Jess: Actually, it just sort of turned into what it is now. Honestly when we started playing, we had kind of envisioned it being something else. We thought it was going to be a little more . . . well, we often tell people that Amber and I really wanted to do something in the vain of Another Green World Brian Eno era stuff, but it was too hard, so we started a rock band.

It evolved kind of naturally into what it is?

Jess: Yeah, and it’s also just more fun to play kind of loud. We have a lot of mellow songs on the album, actually, that we rarely ever play. I think it’s just easier to sustain that certain level of energy when you’re playing really heavy songs.

Right, right. Since you guys have been playing together since 2009—how did these songs evolve into the album? Do you write the songs together or is there one songwriter?

Jess: I usually bring in the parts of the song and we’ll sort of arrange them and come up with our parts and stuff like that. There are a few exceptions but that’s pretty much it. There are concrete parts but they sort of just come together.

You do it in practice space together?

Jess: Yeah.

Where’s that at?

Jess: It’s on 10th and Roebling. We share it with, like, a million bands. College-guy jam bands. We came in one day and there were ten guys in lawn chairs drinking beers and watching some jam band practice.

That’s perfect.

At this point in the conversation, everyone turns to ordering breakfast/lunch and a conversation strikes up about which bands do the most drugs. It is very distinctly pointed out that this is off the record.

Now that drugs have derailed us, let’s talk about tour. How was your first US tour?

Jess: It was pretty cool! We went out with Esben and the Witch and it was our first US tour ever, so we were definitely happy to be with them. I couldn’t imagine sharing a fifteen-passenger van with another band. That went as well as it could have. There were seven people, so chances are one of them is going to be insane.

Amber: But it was completely effortless to be with them the whole time.

Nya: We would have to climb over each other. We were so close.

Amber: If you had seen this van. [Shakes head]

Jess: It was disgusting. It wasn’t dirty, it was just packed to the gills with merch and instruments and cabs.

Did you have a trailer or just the van?

Jess: Just the van! We shared equipment and all of the people were packed in really tightly. One guy brought like one small backpack, that’s it. It was like this big.

Nya: It was unbelievable.

Amber: The craziest thing about that van as opposed to every other tour van is that we couldn’t take out the rear seat for whatever reason, so we could only have the middle section where our gear was all stored. So it was like driver and captain in the front, and then the middle section where all our shit was piled up to the ceiling, then people behind the gear.

Jess: We had to text each other in the van!

Amber: It was completely insane.

Jess: It also contributed to people wanting to stare at us really hard. On top of the fact that our van looked funny and had a 212 number on the side of it, there were also two people in the front, a bunch of weird shit in the middle, and a ton of people just crammed in the back.

At least it could be like the people in the front got some alone time or some privacy.

Jess: Yeah, but a lot of time, we had to text each other like, “Hey can we turn off this music?”

Amber: Or “Can we stop and pee soon?”

What do you guys listen to in the van?

Nya: Ohh, everything. We listened to a lot of Tiny Tim.

Jess: Yeah, we did listen to a lot of Tiny Tim. And Kenny G when we were in Arizona.

Nya: Oh my god, yeah.

Jess: Yeah, it was because we were in the middle of this sandstorm and we were terrified.

Alex: Jess is a big proponent of Kenny G, from what I understand.

Jess: When you’re terrified and you listen to Kenny G, it really helps to calm you down.

Amber: It was very soothing in one of the most terrifying driving situations I’ve ever been in.

Jess: Yeah, there was an eighteen-wheeler flipped over in a sandstorm.

Amber: The wind was blowing so hard that the trucks were tipping back and forth. Everyone was driving so slowly, but you couldn’t see anything.

Jess: We heard this was called a “haboob.”

Who was driving during all of this?

Amber: I was driving.

Jess: Yeah, she did a great job.

Amber: I have trucker's blood, so we made it out.

Were there any cities on this tour that really stood out?

Jess: Yeah: Vancouver, Seattle.

Nya: The West Coast was just awesome.

Jess: I found Portland to be slightly terrifying because it was exactly how I’d pictured it. And when that happens, it’s just a little unsettling.

How had you pictured it?

Jess: I pictured it exactly as it turned out. I sat down for a meal and within the first half hour, there were some gender warriors sitting next to me talking about how sexism was symptomatic, and how people who suffer from sexism exhibit certain symptoms, and how when he goes back to Montana, he can’t talk to anybody because as soon as people use the word sexist, people just look at him like he’s insane. And then he ordered some edamame and paid a lot of money for it.

That really is very Portland.

Jess: Yeah, and it was very quaint and pretty and there were cherry blossoms everywhere.

I guess that’s nice, though?

Jess: Yeah, it was nice. I mean it was nicer there than it is here.

Yeah [laughs]. Did you guys have big crowds at the shows?

Amber: It was a mix.

Jess: I’d say the West Coast shows were really well-attended but then in some spots it was really grim sometimes.

Nya: Chicago!

Jess: Yeah, Chicago was one of our best shows. The Empty Bottle was great.

Amber: We often forget to talk about it, but Chicago was great.

Jess: I think when we hit Dallas, things got really grim. We were on a high because we were in Austin and then we got to Dallas and it was just not great.

Do you have plans for future tours with this record?

Jess: We would like to go on tour! We’d like to maybe in the fall.

Let’s talk about this record [A Constant Sea], then. I’ve listened to it and I love it and it’s great.

Jess: Thank you!

Have you been playing these songs on tour before? Or is this all new stuff?

Jess: Yeah, we haven’t played the mellow ones pretty much.

Some of the songs on the record I was surprised by because they are so mellow. Do you think you’ll play them live?

Amber: I think we’re going to try to. The reason we play what we play is because it’s very high energy. And so I think we’re still trying to figure out in the live show how we can incorporate the mellow songs.

The record feels very seamless in that sense. Would you have to bring an acoustic guitar on tour with you?

Jess: I think I probably won’t. There are a couple of tracks that we’ve actually modified to be playable electric. There’s a track called “Everyone Else” on the record and in it there’s an acoustic guitar and there are a bunch of guitar tracks. Honestly, instead of bring more people on tour, we just modified the song to be more friendly. I’m not sure what to do with some of the other songs, where we have keys on the track. One of them we play with him [motions to Matt of Friend Roulette]. It’s this 60s love ballad that’s called “Christine” and we hesitate to play it live a little bit because we feel like keys are such an integral part of that song, you know. Or we’ll just take Matt into the band.

Replacement Cici.

Matt: I’m the new member of the band: the straight, white male. I fit in very well. [Laughs]

But there’s no real plan for tour yet?

Jess: Yeah, I think there’s a high chance we will. Alex is probably working on it as we speak.

That’s great. What do you guys think about being a band from Brooklyn? Does that mean anything to you that you’ve originated here?

Jess: I like it. There’s a lot going on and I think that’s a really positive thing. It’s really nice to play music in Brooklyn and have so many bands around so that you actually have a lot of people you can play with. That’s the best thing about playing in Brooklyn. You can say, “Oh I really need a bass clarinet player” and you can actually find that person.

Right. Do you feel that it’s harder to stand out here too or have you not encountered that at all?

Jess: I think it probably is, but it’s just sheer numbers. There are also probably more people watching music, too. I think overall it’s a positive thing.

But you’re not all originally from here, right? Nya, you’re from LA. Amber, where are you from?

Amber: I’m from West Virginia.

Jess: I’m from around San Francisco.

Amber: And Cici’s from New Jersey.

Jess: She’s our only Tri-state area member.

So what brought you all here?

Amber: I moved her right after college.

Jess: I moved here for a job, actually, but it was right after college.

What kinds of things were you doing before the band started?

Jess: I was living in Sweden finishing college before the band started. I had a job at D.C. Comics and I was an editor and I really liked that job . . . I’m really into comics.

Amber: I just moved here alone because I had friends here. I didn’t really have a goal. I ended up working in a nonprofit here and then I got my Masters.

And Cici? What was her additional career?

Jess: She works at a law firm for their R&D department. It's one of the biggest law firms in the city, I forget the name of it.

Nya: I just wrote a cover letter for it. [Laughs]

Change in pace: What about going to Europe?

Jess: Oh we would love to. We really want to visit our label mates there, they’re called AACT RRAISER.

We just had them on Impose, we streamed their newest album.

Jess: I used to stay at this commune in Oslo where they live, and I want to go visit that commune again.

Alex: Those guys are the sweetest guys, ever.

Amber: They stayed with Jess and I and they’re like our little brothers.

Would you tour with them if you went through Europe?

Jess: We would love to but I don’t think our music meshes very well. That’s a general thing. We would love to go on tour with lots of our friends but if the music doesn’t mesh, it doesn’t usually work.

Alex: I gave the guys in AACT RRAISER a slice of pizza and it looked like I’d just given them the keys to the world. I was like, “Yo, man, I’ve got some pizza back there for you, I got it from a good spot,” and they were like, “Pizza??” It was the best. Literally as soon as I walked into sound check, I was like, “Oh you guys must be the guys from Norway.” They were like 6’5”, all blonde, blue-eyed, and innocent-looking.

Jess: I have a really great photo of Markus and Adrian’s shoes sitting in our foyer. Their feet are size 15 and so I just took a picture of their shoes next to ours. And it was like, who are these people?

Alex: Your shoes fit inside of theirs.

So you’d eventually like to tour Europe? To see the big shoes again.

Jess: Yeah, as soon as possible. I mean, hell we’ll go anywhere.

More of this is off the record when we talk about what “anywhere” means.

You just did the Chris Gethard Show, too, right? How was that? It was your second time doing it?

Jess: It was our first, actually.

Oh really? How was it?

Jess: It was riddled with errors. [Laughs]

Amber: It was our first live TV performance.

Jess: We had a technical difficulties meltdown, live.

Oh no, what went wrong?

Jess: I had a faulty speaker cable in my amp and this was of course something I discovered while we were playing, so half of the first song is Amber trying to fix it while I’m trying to play, and then the second song someone handed me a new cable, which also did not work, so as soon as I strummed the first chord, Chris Gethard handled it really well. He started sounding like a televangelist. He was like, “Do you believe that we can get another one to work?” It was awful. But basically, the best thing about the Chris Gethard Show was that there was a guy dressed as a banana dancing and freaking out the entire time.

Really? At your performance?

Jess: Yeah, it really helped me to play through the technical difficulties.

Nya: Also the mimes! The mimes were great.

There were mimes too?

Amber: Yeah, our friends came dressed up as mimes.

Our food arrives and we start talking about our different food preferences, of which Jess mentions that she made wontons from scratch, though not the dough. Not necessarily off the record, but more lunch chat than interview.

Do you guys like to cook?

Jess: Yeah, I actually work at a restaurant. Do you know a place called The Narrows? We have a secret menu. We age our own steaks, we hand roll our own pasta.

How do you guys eat on tour? Is it a good experience?

Jess: It’s a great experience (sarcastically). We went to a lot of good places, but we only really decided to document Cracker Barrel. A lot of our band members had geoduck for the first time, and it’s the most hilarious food ever but it’s very phallic. It’s a shellfish and we had to actually watch the guy—

Like jerk it off?

Amber: Yeah and it squirts out water and the guy was just standing there looking totally uninterested while he’s making this motion that looks like jerking off.

That’s great.

Jess: And Nya had her first Dungeness crab.

Oh man those are my favorites.

Jess: The best crab ever, right?

Nya, you’re previously vegetarian? How did you decide to change that up?

Nya: Well, the reason why I answered no when you asked if we ate well on tour is because I have a lot of stomach issues and for a while I was vegetarian and I decided to try eating gluten-free, and that was really helping, but it’s really hard being both gluten-free and vegetarian. So I’d order a salad and they’d literally just bring me a wedge of lettuce on a plate and that was it.

Jess: To be fair, the guy looked at you and was like, “That’s just lettuce,” and you were like, “yeah.”

Nya: I think at that point I was just really fed up from not having many options so I decided to start eating meat again because it opened up my options.

Jess: How’s your meat?

Nya: It’s delicious.

Jess: We went to this place called Woody’s Smokehouse in the middle of nowhere in Texas. That was my favorite part of tour, there is this entire part of the United States where they just make, like, meat sticks from scratch that are available everywhere. When you go down from Canada, you start to just see meat sticks pop up everywhere.

That sounds incredible. What kinds of tour snacks do you guys eat in the van? Are there any staples?

Amber: We drank sooo much Naked Juice. That all started with Esben, actually. They were like, “This is the best thing to get: The Green Machine Naked Juice.” We all came off of tour addicted to it.

That’s good, though. You’re getting all your nutrients and vitamins.

Amber: I think if you have to choose between like a bag of Doritos and gas station coffee, or Naked Juice, you should just always go with that.

Jess: I had a lot of V8 on tour. I just feel like sometimes on tour you really feel like you might get scurvy, and when you drink something hyperacidic like that, it really helps you to feel better.

Do you guys have favorite places to play in New York?

Jess: Union Pool.

Amber: Glasslands.

I haven’t been there since they took down the clouds, I don’t even know what they put up in their place.

Jess: Oh yeah, I haven’t either.

I’m going to really miss the clouds. What’s the draw of playing at Union Pool?

Jess: It just sounds good and the lights are cool and our favorite sound guy is there, Robert. He has really nice hair.

Amber: Yeah, we love Robert.

Jess: Hair is a really integral part of a great sound guy. We just really like the general vibe there. It’s low-key but it’s not super shitty, you know. It’s easy to play a good show there, as opposed to—I don’t know, I won’t name names.

More off the record for obvious reasons.

Jess: My other favorite venue that is not really a venue is Ripper’s out in Rockaway. There’s this guy John Taggart, he put on a few shows last year. It was like us and Naam and our friends bands, like Dusters and Friend Roulette did one, and you basically just play on the beach. I think the venue has something to do with Roberta’s. You face the ocean while you play. There’s sort of a built-in audience of people who wander in from the beach, and they pay you in food and beer. It’s great because it’s for bands who would not otherwise play a show for free. Oh I wanna go to the beach? Let’s play a show. People are less likely to play a show in town for free, but if it’s at the beach, it makes it a little easier.

The beach is an equalizer.

Jess: Yeah, that’s true.

Do you guys have a favorite place in New York to drink?

Jess: Dram, since it’s right next to our practice space. But we definitely do a lot more drinking at home. I make a lot of micheladas at home.

Amber: We’ve been doing a lot of summertime sprtizers, too.

Alex: We actually spent a good deal of time at SXSW looking for micheladas.

Jess: We even went to a place called Micheladas.

Alex: We were lamenting the fact that we couldn’t go to this place that was mad far away, but we turned around and there was this sign that just said Micheladas, and it was like destiny.

Jess: And we loaded up on all these free chips and salsa, too.

How did you guys like your SXSW experience?

Jess: We had a great time there. We’ve been twice. It was a different experience this year. We definitely played a couple of official shows this year. It was different than sort of willy-nilly going in and playing low-key unofficial showcases. We played with the Geto Boys. It was definitely surreal.

Amber: The fact that we even had a trailer was weird, you know.

Alex: Everything was on schedule and the sound was tight and we’re used to going out to SXSW and everything is haphazard and it sounds shitty and stuff.

Amber: And people were taking care of us, people were checking on us.

Alex: The Red Bull stage was an official stage, too.

Jess: I have to say that I really enjoyed our Converse show because Mac DeMarco played really soon after us and I didn’t know who he was before and there was this guy who was playing these hilarious Metallica covers. It was like if Metallica were being played by physics students.

Mac DeMarco was playing Metallica covers?

Jess: Yeah!

Amber: He was just laughing about it, too.

Alex: Yeah, we had this band called Little Barrie open for Heliotropes and it was such an insane lineup. It was those two, Geto Boys, and Ultramagnetic MCs.

Jess: Yeah, Little Barrie really reminded me of that band Jet. Remember Jet?

Oh yeah, they were ostensibly a cover band.

Amber: Yeah, we played five shows in three days, too, at SXSW.

Alex: And one of them was at 2am. And the DJ was playing like trap music when they were setting up. It was like 2 Chainz.

Nya: People were popping their asses, and then we played.

Jess: There was a guy who snuck on stage and started playing sax. We have no idea who he was.

Alex: But people really liked it!

Jess: Half the people left the room when we went on, but then they came back for the trap music. I just smelled a lot of weed, so that’s probably part of it.

That’ll do it. I’ve asked most of the things that I’ve got here, but do you guys want to speak a little bit about the album and the title and the cover? The album art is amazing—who did it?

Jess: It’s this guy named Nor, he’s a guy in Indiana that we know over the internet. He just posted it one day and I saw it and I was like, “That’s the album cover.” It was way before I knew we were even coming out with album, which was the cool thing. “If I ever need to grab something for an album cover, I definitely want to use that,” so we used it. I kind of see it as the natural follow-up to the cover of the Ribbons 7” we put out. A lot of people ask us about that, too. Another guy we know off the internet named Koen Jacobs who works at a hospital in Belgium somewhere did it. He took a picture of this ram after it drank water, you can see these water droplets coming off it and it is super hi-res. To me, it’s like a natural step. Some image that was stark and dark without being too “We’re evil!”

And what about A Constant Sea? How did that come to be the title?

Jess: It’s actually the title of a song that we didn’t get a chance to record because we ran out of studio time. It’ll probably be on the second album, which will probably be really confusing.

And what about any side projects? Or is it just full-time Heliotropes?

Jess: Yeah, this is pretty much it. The commitment of time is a lot right now.

What about influences—when you were thinking of making this record, were you listening to anything in particular?

Jess: I was listening to this Talk Talk album, Spirit of Eden. It’s definitely this huge, monolithic album. I don’t think our music resembles their music at all. They had a couple pop albums in the early 80s, and Mark Hollis, basically after he made all his money, he made this crazy experimental pop album and it was recorded in '87 and when you listen to it today, it sounds like it was just made. Ultimately, I find that to be the most impressive thing about it, besides the weird time signatures and stuff. I was listening to a lot of that and Prefab Sprout, nothing really obvious. I think a lot of your influences are things that carry over from adolescence. I think that most people end up playing music that—unless you make a conscious effort to sound a certain way—they derive influences from their adolescence. It’s an age where you don’t forget things. If you really think about it, you’ve never forgotten the lyrics to that Richard Marx song because you heard it a lot when you were 10 or 11, even though you don’t want to remember it.

What were you listening to in your adolescence?

Jess: I think generally for all of us, we’ve listened to a lot of Nirvana or the Smashing Pumpkins. There’s some overlap in bands, but for me, the first Pumpkins album is one. I find that inadvertently I end up sounding that way when I play guitar. I definitely listened to a lot of My Bloody Valentine around that time, simply because Billy Corgan said “Hey I listen to a lot of Black Sabbath and My Bloody Valentine,” so I started doing the same really early on, even though I thought that My Bloody Valentine was an old person’s band. I didn’t really get into it again until I was in college, when I got it.

Right, when you’re old enough to understand.

Jess: Like hypothetically, if I did drugs as an adult, I’d listen to Loveless.

What about you guys, Amber and Nya? What were you guys listening to at this age?

Amber: I think Jess and I were probably listen to the same things, actually.

Jess: Can we talk about a really fun part of tour?

Oh, yes.

Jess: Well this is probably showing our age, but Amber and I were stuck in the haboob so we decided to listen to all the cheesy emo bands we listened to when we were in high school. So we were like “Let’s listen to Sunny Day Real Estate.”

Sunny Day Real Estate, though!

Jess: And we put on Braid and were like, “Hey, this is actually still pretty good.”

Amber: [Laughs] We actually listened to Braid a lot.

Jess: The Promise Ring does not hold up, though. It sounds like Mickey Mouse getting beaten in a burlap sack.

What about you, Nya?

Nya: I grew up listening to a lot of hip hop and R&B. I feel like it was that time in LA, I was listening to a lot of Luther Vandross and a little Marvin Gaye and Aretha, too.

What about Cici?

Jess: Cici definitely listened to a lot of garage bands. I know that Cici listened to a lot of Nirvana. I think you can tell when she drums, that sound is very much there.

Do you guys think you’ll stick with Heliotropes for a while? What are the future plans?

Jess: I think it’s really hard to impose plans on something like this, because we never expected to be doing this now, even. We kind of just started this band as a diversion from our nine to five jobs, so we were—how would you put it?—unfulfilled.

Amber: We’re just taking opportunities as they come, as long as those opportunities present themselves.

Jess: As long as it continues to feel good, we’ll keep doing it.

A Constant Sea is out on Manimal Vinyl today.

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