Text & Interview: Andy Fenwick
Photo: Linda Lomelino
Summer Heart’s new single “101” begins with an echo-y “hah!” and a delightful, marimba-like keyboard chunk, reminiscent of Ryuchi Sakamoto’s “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” as if to say “I can do this, too,” especially directed to those who saw Summer Heart’s previous work as impressionism, albeit pleasing, rather than the sharply drawn pop that “101” ascends toward over its full 3:31. Plus, you can dance to it. As the titular track to Summer Heart’s forthcoming LP, “101” signals a leap to a new sort of basics.
Yet, Summer Heart’s (OK: it’s mostly just New york-by-way-of-Swedens David Alexander) box o’ sonic tricks have always included a diversity-software tool. To wit: “Tonight’s the Night,” off 2016’s Colours EP, was as close to un-electronic sounding as possible, an acoustic rhythm guitar buoyed by an easy, two-chord electric guitar, washes of ambient keys almost a second thought beneath, more string-like than anything. “Beat of Your Heart” could be covered by Royal Headache without anyone blinking an eye.
Alexander’s forthcoming music seems to leave distancing electronic treatments and the reverie-inducing pastiche of say, Washed Out, behind. Another new single, “Hotel Beds,” is as direct a slice of pop as Summer Heart has attempted, a radio-friendly bouncer like the grabbiest work of Blood Orange, with a repeated, two chord keyboard synth offset by falsetto vocals and a chunky guitar lead out of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s bag of tricks, possibly even harking back to the sort of pristine lick favored by eighties pop magicians like 10cc or the underrated Naked Eyes.
Hear it from Summer Heart:
What was different in the recording techniques for “101” as opposed to previous Eps and tracks?
The two main differences were that I had a clear idea what I wanted 101 to be and that I recorded parts of it together with, another person, my friend Joakim Buddee. We talked a lot about what I wanted to achieve and we really did think through all decisions we made.
What’s “101” about?
It’s written like a love story, but it’s pretty much about “falling out” with the one thing you love the most, which for me is music, and then slowly getting back and finding joy in it again you know. That’s also why I wanted this song to be the first single from the new LP. It’s like a new beginning.
What did you like most about NYC?
I have always romanticized New York City and to finally be a part of it was huge for me. I love the feeling that there is always something going on around you, all hours of the day. Even though I do not necessarily want to take part, I love that it’s right there if I want it. It’s an inspiring feeling.
Did you see any live music in NYC that surprised you? Did anything filter into your music that was new?
I tried to stay away from the typical indie music venues where you only see bands you compare yourself to and instead go looking for something interesting and different. I ended up going to spoken-word performances, open mic nights and random bars that had some jazz night or similar. Sometimes it was rather sleepy but other nights it felt like I had walked straight into a scene in a David Lynch movie.
It's written like a love story, but it's pretty much about "falling out" with the one thing you love the most, which for me is music, and then slowly getting back and finding joy in it again
Did you discover any new instruments in the time between the new record and the previous?
I experimented with loads of different instruments when writing and recording these songs. Although, the whole LP ended up being pretty much done on two synths; a Nord Lead 4 and an Elektron Analog Four. I have this old Wem Copicat tape echo that is used a lot as well. There are also lots of random kitchen percussion going on. For example, tapping on different glasses, rice package shakers and stuff like that.
Long time since the full length About a Feeling. You recorded singles and EPS, but why no LP release until now?
About a Feeling was among the very first things I ever did. I had no clue what I was doing back then. I just recorded some songs without much thought to be honest. That record did quite well which I think was partly because it was so playful and raw and partly because the timing was right. You can kind of hear how much fun I had making it! And yeah, I’ve released some singles and EPs after that, but I actually also wrote and recorded two full length albums that I decided not to release because I ended up hating them. When I look back at it today I realize I was trying too hard to make something similar to About a Feeling. All this lead to me not enjoying making music anymore and for a while I considered not continuing with Summer Heart. 101 (the album is also called 101) is my way back.
Do you have more songs finished? What’s the plan with any songs that weren’t released?
I’ve got so many finished songs. I have the two albums that never got released for example. They will probably never see the light of day. Then I have this album (101) that is coming out August 25th. And I have yet another new album that is being mixed right now, will be released in the future! So yeah, lots of songs.
What will the setup be for playing the new songs live?
Actually, I have no idea, and that scares me right now. I do have upcoming tour dates so I need to get the live set sorted pretty soon.
Is the new album only you? Any guest musicians?
There are no guest musicians in that sense, but I have collaborated a lot on the production with my friend Joakim Buddee, as I mentioned earlier. I hope to be able to collaborate with other artists on future releases but I felt I had to finish this LP on my own.