HEADS. new album PUSH is out now via Glitterhouse Records.
On May 29th, Berlin based noise rock quartet HEADS. dropped their third album. Titled PUSH and released via Germany’s Glitterhouse Records, the record is a controlled and taut journey through ten tracks of angular and raw soldered music. Featuring contributions from members of Swans, METZ, and Cult of Luna, the album combines the vicious heft of noise rock with a more textured and exploratory sound that is richly rewarding on every listen.
Wanting to know more about this singular album, we spoke to Ed Fraser, guitarist and vocalist of HEADS., about each track on the record.
We’ve been calling PUSH our Berlin album, as we wrote, rehearsed and recorded everything in Berlin – which was a completely new process for us. In the past we wrote most of our music remotely from Berlin and Hamburg and Melbourne, Copenhagen, London – all over the place, and we always recorded somewhere else – partly to get away from all these famous Berlin distractions and to be able to focus fully on recording. On our last record, Collider, I lived in Jan Kerscher’s Ghost City studio near Nuremberg for 3 weeks and didn’t leave. I ate, slept and breathed that album, and it was very immersive, but I also became a bit of a ghost myself.
We have a philosophy in this band of always recording at a different studio with a different engineer, as each album has its own life and existence, and the studio should too. This time we really wanted to work with Christoph Bartelt of Kadavar at their studio in Berlin, and he had all this touring to do on their new record with only a couple weeks off in the middle, so we had a really limited window to record with him. So Chris, Nic and I just got down to work and wrote the 10 songs on PUSH in 8 weeks – together as a band spending all these days downstairs in our Berliner basement studio writing music, very different to our usual style. And then we just went directly into recording it, like we finished rehearsing it on Sunday night and on Monday morning we moved into Kadavar’s studio and hit the record button. We tracked the music live and you can really hear that on the album, it breathes like that.
PUSH has a sort of desolate feeling at times, and that feeling really suits Berlin. This is definitely not a very easy album to listen to, and Berlin is a wonderful place, but it’s definitely not a very easy place. From start until end PUSH is about distance and adaptation. These songs will tell you a story – the album is a narration on empty places, toxic things. Leipzig-based designer Fabian Bremer created the artwork, he put all the lyrics on the cover and it’s such a great touch. Our regular partner in crime Magnus Lindberg of Cult Of Luna mixed and mastered the album in Stockholm and he has our sound more accurate than ever this time. Dennis Juengel recorded the vocals with me in Berlin. Local Berliner guests like Kristof Hahn from Swans came in and tracked with us, and Berlin artist Basti Grim documented everything, one of his photos taken during the PUSH recording sessions is on the sleeve, just to make sure it’s cemented on there as our Berlin album.
‘Empty Towns’ is a call forward to the last song on the album. We set the scene and then I’m calling into the future and letting you know what’s going to happen throughout the record. Everything that goes on between here and there is connected. The heavy bass loop that is the foundation of the song was created by Chris, and Kristof Hahn from Swans plays lap steel guitar on the track. Kristof understood what we were doing with this song immediately, he compliments it perfectly.
This is a song of toxic things. Bad things on wide-open sun-scorched Australian streets when the storm blows in and washes everything out. Australia gets so hot that it’s oppressive. It destroys people. In the North they call it “going troppo”, the heat and sweat and humidity of the tropics make people lose their minds. Weather Beaten came together quickly with the three of us in the rehearsal room, it just clicked from the start. Nic and Chris’ drums and bass respectively are very powerful here, I could play this song all day. Alex Edkins of METZ also created an amazing video for this song, he also really just totally got it from the start.
3Push You Out To Sea
‘Push You Out To Sea’ is about the circumstances that allow you to choose to do bad things. You fully understand the consequences of your actions and still you choose to do the wrong thing, not necessarily because you want to, but because you can. Because you want to see what happens, or you want to know how it feels. It’s fairly nihilistic in that sense. Mathias Feit of Radare and Rosa Mercedes of Kino Motel both played some amazing guest guitars on this song. From a personal standpoint, the guitar ‘solo’ in the middle is one of my favourite things to play on the album.
Chris and Nic often have these really driving drum and bass parts that leave room for me to move around on top with my voice and guitar. We played with the space on ‘Loyalty’, and towards the end we gradually remove all the parts in the song until there’s nothing left, one note at a time. Mathias Feit also plays additional guitars on his second song in a row here, he’s a very supportive and complimentary player. Basti Grim was in the studio taking photos while we were tracking, and as he is also a drummer we asked him to add an extra snare over the long outro and get himself another credit on the record.
We use lots of different tunings in HEADS., I used about five different tunings for my guitars on this album for example. For ‘Rusty Sling’ I use an open C# thing and Chris tunes his bass way down to something real deep, G or A or something similar. You can definitely feel that in the mix, that bass is massive. I like how on this one you can really feel that it’s tracked live to tape here too. ‘Rusty Sling’ is about making the right changes when you can, and not hesitating when something is important.
6Nobody Moves And Everybody Talks
Probably the fastest song we’ve ever written, ‘Nobody Moves and Everybody Talks’ is our version of punk. The narrative continues here – sleepy little towns often get big stories, and even when the town is emptying out and most people have given up the stories will keep going. When stories are really good they tend to have longer lifespans than we do. Played live this song is a real belter, it rips.
7It Was Important
Chris had this great bass riff and we decided for the first time to write a song with no guitar on it, but I did still sneak a synth on there haha. I played this on an old Roland SH101 that I bought from a guy in Berlin while I was building this huge vinyl library inside his apartment. He apparently has the largest LP collection in Germany, it’s fucking thousands and thousands of records. I built those shelves as strong as I could but this guy has so many records he’s probably gonna fall through the floor one day. Anyway, apart from records he also bought the SH101 new in 1982 and has literally never played it once, not one single note. So I bought this brand-new 37-year-old synth from him and we put it on the album. Some people have also told me that these sound like stream of consciousness lyrics, but they aren’t – they’re actually very carefully constructed to convey a specific idea.
8A Swarming Tide
The introduction and the sister song to ‘Paradise’, ‘A Swarming Tide’ is just me and my guitar. Christoph Bartelt and I recorded the guitar together late one night after a long session with the band. I needed the guitar to feel loose while still being mostly in time, but not too rigid. Christoph figured that the best way to record it would be to avoid using a click track, and instead that he should smack a bongo to keep time for me. So it was me with my guitar and two amps and all these pedals and things, and then Christoph, who is also a really amazing drummer, just sitting there gently tapping away on a bongo trying to keep me in time. At first I thought it was hilarious but it actually worked, the guy is a genius.
When we asked Kristof Hahn if he would play some lap steel on PUSH we weren’t sure if he’d be into it, but two days later there he was in the studio playing these amazing slide guitars for us. I remember being impressed at how his guitars really sound beautiful all on their own. The end of ‘Paradise’ takes its time to open up, and then we just let Kristof totally have the floor and he went for it. I remember the band being really moved by the ending of the song too, we were all feeling it. This song underwent the most transformation of anything on the record, and we rehearsed it and worked it over and over until it took shape.
10As Your Street Gets Deserted
This is a call back to the first song on the album, ‘Empty Towns’. There are numerous lyrical references between the two songs, and these lyrics all relate to the songs on PUSH and the overarching theme of the record. We used Chris’ bass loop from Empty Towns again, but this time instead of Kristof we now have Markus E. Lipka from Eisenvater on guest guitar, creating a loop that builds in intensity until it concludes. The idea here is that we close the pattern. The album and the story has reached it’s conclusion.
Support HEADS. Buy their stuff.