The Band In Heaven Explain How Florida, Ray Bradbury + Growing Up Influenced Their Debut LP
When the Band In Heaven started working on their debut LP, ‘Caught in a Summer Swell,’ it wasn’t exactly the brightest times in the band members’ lives. It’s ironic, then, that the dream-pop band out of West Palm Beach, Fla., whipped up a bright and summery record that makes listeners long for those sunny summer months.
Following a string of EPs and singles, ‘Summer Swell’ shows the quintet’s versatility, and it’s a testament to how making music with your friends can produce something special. The album arrived on Sept. 17 via Decades Records, and the band has since promoted their new music with a series of shows, including a few at CMJ in New York City last month.
Diffuser.fm recently spoke with Band In Heaven frontman Ates Isildak about persistent rumors of a romance in the band, making music in West Palm Beach and his fascination with Ray Bradbury.
How did the Band in Heaven get together?
Lauren [Dwyer], the singer in the band, and I were roommates and actually knew each other since high school. We were roommates and bandmates in college, but we don’t talk about that band too much because it was a bad breakup as far as that goes. We were accused of having an affair together in the band. So we ended up leaving that band, started our own band and happily dated other people. But it’s been a long-range joke about having a romance together. We were even fake-married onstage for Halloween, dressed as bride and groom. I’ve known the bassist, Jay [Tillman], since college as well, and the Ryans [Schemm and Burk] since high school. This was just a project we worked on together in a band fashion before and built as a backup when we moved to our hometown, which is West Palm Beach. We spent a few years on college in different cities and states, but then we all got back together and started playing music together.
Since you mentioned moving back to West Palm Beach, how has moving back there influenced the band’s sound?
It influenced us a great deal, I’d say. We were with a lot of our friends who we grew up with, and there are a lot of punk bands around here — some kids in the band Cop City and the band Love Handles, and Weird Wives. Some of those kids had a venue. They started their own bar. That’s where the shows were being played for a while. A lot of the bands are kind of weirder and darker. We started as sort of a dream-pop band, but when we moved to West Palm and started playing with these kids, our songs took on a darker edge. That’s when we released the 7-inch ‘HoZac,’ really dark and guttural music. We didn’t start or have an intention to do that, but we’ve been influenced by that surrounding scene. Unfortunately that venue’s closed. It was called the Snooze. And we spent kind of a year in hibernation, writing and recording this record. We did the whole thing ourselves.
The music now in this album is a lot brighter, and it’s a lot sunnier. And I feel like because we were so dark the music took on more of the surroundings, which people would think of with south Florida and West Palm and all that kind of stuff. So it worked in two ways — just from the musicians around us and just from the laid-back lifestyle that we do have in West Palm.
Where did the band name come from?
It’s from the Talking Heads song ‘Heaven.’ There’s a lyric in there — “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens” — and it’s one of my favorite songs. And I was listening to a lot of Talking Heads when we first started the band, and that line struck a chord with me. And I thought drone and shoegaze was what we were working on at the time, and I thought it was fitting for a static-sounding band, even though our sound’s changed a little bit since then. It just works in a few different ways, but I didn’t realize that it would be a phrase musicians would say like, “Oh this person joined the band in heaven.” We do see that all the time that there are new members in the band, and really, it’s just a musician who died.
There are a lot of Ray Bradbury references in your lyrics. Are you a huge fan of the author?
Yeah, I’m a big fan of the writer. His favorite novel, to me, is actually ‘The Martian Chronicles.’ Lauren and I went to the same high school, as I said, and it was a private high school. And we read a bunch of books that were interesting at the time that were different from other school curriculums. And he was an author they touched on often, and that particular book was something I started reading again about a year ago. It was one of the later books of his that I read, and I really just like the conflict he head within himself as a writer. He romanticized youth, and he demonized being an older man. I feel like I do that often. I don’t think I even enjoyed being a child, but looking back on it, it’s filled with good memories and things I wish I could go back to. It’s kind of the frustrations of growing up, and that’s what that novel is about. And that’s what ‘Dandelion Wine’ touches on as well. We didn’t plan to include those tropes into our album, but it seemed to make sense, since a lot of it was about trying to capture this sense of this youthful energy and this bright outlook on something. And while, at the same time, us having full-time jobs and full-time responsibilities. It just seemed to ring to what the author was feeling at the time when he was writing the novel as well.
Since you brought up ‘Dandelion Wine,’ what’s the premise behind the music video?
The director recently moved here to West Palm from Los Angeles. He’s more of a photographer, visual artist. But first we met and listened to the song and called out random images that came to our head. Listening to it, I was inspired by the movie, ‘The Wicker Man’ — the original, not the remake. Just a lot of pagan and animal imagery. It had a ritualistic feel, but in a bright setting like the movie. I don’t remember what island they filmed on, but it was a bright ritual movie opposed to a dark one. We wanted to do something that felt bright but had some kind of ritualistic pagan undertone to it. It was a lot of fun to make. We had friends come out for it. And every music video we’ve done, including that one, wasn’t a huge budget. We were good at rounding things up and bringing in some friends. It was a lot of fun to do and something we did over the past summer.
There’s also a song on the album called, ‘Farewell Summer.’ With the summer gone, what would say was the best part of that time this year for you personally or for the band?
This past summer for us went really well. But what’s actually funny is the album is finished before. We actually started working on the album on the previous summer, like a whole year ago, and that summer was a really dark period in all our lives. And like I said, writing the album and finishing it in April or May, we really got to enjoy this summer. And this summer that went by was closer to the summers I had when I was younger, like lots of pool sessions. We also got to film a few music videos. We got to go on tour. We got to spend time with our friends. The other singer and I, because we’re both teachers, had the summer off. So it actually felt like the summers I had when I was younger and having fun opposed to working the whole way through over the last five years. And even though the song talks about one summer, it actually is about saying goodbye to all the good memories in your life.
You guys have put out a lot of music prior to this debut full-length. Was there a different approach on ‘Caught in a Summer Swell?’
The ‘HoZac’ release, which was four songs on a 7-inch, those were all recorded really fast and really quick — similar to how everything else we’ve recorded prior to this album went. And we never used to record as a full, full band. We always had guest drummers, guitarists. The core band before this album was just me and Lauren. This album, we had been together as a full band for six months, a year, touring and everything, and then we decided to sit down and work on an album. So it was really working on songs from the ground up altogether, everyone in the band working on it. And everyone who’s currently in the band is on the album, which is the first time that’s happened. And that’s also the first time we’ve spent so much time on recording. We have a song called ‘Summer Bummer,’ and that was recorded over two days in my bedroom. This album really did take from July 2012 to March 2013 — just recording them, re-recording them, trying new things. So it’s the first time we had a group of songs that were recorded altogether and we’re intended to be listened to altogether.