The Robot Heart are one of those bands who are able to shock their audience into submission. By that I mean they seem to have perfected such an ethereal intensity that one can do nothing but listen. Like fallen angels, harmonies reveal lyrics that are the product of tortured musings, delicately accompanied by acoustic guitars, piano, clattering drums and subtle electronic gadgetry. Guy Garvey has rightfully described them as a ‘very special band’ and they have previously supported the likes of Gomez, Tunng and Ed Harcourt; they are now about to embark on a supporting tour with Athlete…
Describe how the band came about?
I had to get away from where I was brought up so I ended up travelling for a few years and doing odd jobs and playing in bands in Jerusalem, Copenhagen, Dublin and London before finally getting to Brighton. I had a few scraps of songs and an idea of a sound, and after being handed a flyer for an open mic in a church, I wandered in and was struck by Astra Forward’s voice –she was singing a capella – and it blew me away. I managed to get her to come and sing with me and it clicked straight away.
The first time I heard Bob singing was through the plumbing of a student house where I was crashing. He was singing a Sparklehorse song that I knew really well and I thought ‘he is one of us’, a righteous brother. The 3 of us played as a kind of acoustic trio backed by a drum machine/sampler .We ploughed on for a long while playing all the little bars and clubs in Brighton. Next was drums – but we knew we had to be careful not to lose the vibe we’d painstakingly cobbled together. We tried out about 18 drummers before we met Dan Ladd. He’d previously retired from music at the age of 26 and moved to Brighton from Grimsby, he’d been to see us a few times and had recorded our songs really roughly on his phone. When he sat down to play he played the perfect beat – he also sang really well and played other instruments. And thus our little family was born.
What/ who inspires you?
The holy trinity of 97 –Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating In Space, Homogenic and Ok Computer but the album that whispered to me for years before I actually wrote a song was And She Closed Her Eyes by Stina Nordenstam – she had the keys on that album. I love films too – Festen, the first Dogma film, is big influence – it is epic and dark and full of the truth. Wings of Desire is in there too, and this shouldn’t become a LOVE IN but the first time I heard Astra and Bob’s vocals blend I thought … ‘Hang on a Minute…’
You have just released an album produced by Rik Simpson (The Cure, PJ Harvey, Portishead, Coldplay). Tell us a bit about that experience…
We played a gig at the Slaughtered Lamb in Farringdon – the PA sounded like we were playing through a cow and I came off stage feeling a bit beaten up (I often felt like that after the first gigs). Rik came up to us and said he heard something in us and that he had access to a studio. We turned up and it was Coldplay’s palace of sonic delights – that’s my name for it- an amazing studio called The Bakery in London with the most exciting equipment and gadgetry. The live space itself had been designed by Brian Eno and the fellow who produces Arcade Fire, we all set up in a circle surrounded by about 30 microphones and recorded it pretty much live. Rik is such a gentle and lovely bloke that we felt relaxed after the first day – he’d been there for about 2 years working on Coldplay so the space was an extension of his being; he sits surrounded by a semi circle of monitors and conjures his magic. I didn’t sleep at night during those 10 days because I was so excited to get in the next morning and play with my new toys.
What has been the highlight so far?
Gig wise – We just toured the UK supporting Ben from Gomez (big grizzly voice – lovely chap) and each gig for us was amazing but the last show of the tour was at Bush Hall, a ballroom in London which sold out, with 500 people attending. We were nervous before going on stage because the crowd’s chattering sounded like it would drown anyone out but when we came on stage they were pin drop silent throughout each song. We sold many CDs and made many friends… it was the perfect night.
Also, I have to say listening to the album once we’d finished it on my headphones walking along the beach and thinking ‘I wouldn’t change a thing’… I felt like I was in a dream for a while there.
What is next in the pipeline for The Robot Heart?
Well we are really excited to be doing our second tour of the year supporting Athlete, who are playing acoustically, so it’s all really vibey venues around the UK which is great because we get to play Union Chapel in London and St Georges church in Brighton, where I have seen some of my favourite shows. After that we are playing a couple of festivals and doing a couple of our own shows up north. Then we are going to have a very creative period of ‘demo-ing’ (there about 20 potential new songs in the pipeline).
It would be good to release something in Spring next year… an EP or something…
It looks like the record is coming out through Rough Trade in Germany later this year and there are a couple of German agents who want to get us doing some touring over there too which is exciting..
Who will you be looking out for in 2011/12?
Bjork’s new album. This time she has made the instruments she’s recorded it on – bits that I have heard are great. Also Bon Iver live – 2 drummers, loads of singers and a brass section – that’s got to be good ( his new record is ace).
There is a great small documentary festival coming to London in August run by a mate called ‘Circles’…
The Robot Heart are supporting Athlete throughout July, their next gig is in Brighton at St Georges Church, July 14th
Their self titled debut album is out now.