Interview by: Robert Cavuoto
On May 17th, The Heavy released their fifth studio CD entitled; Sons. Ten songs that provide a series of sharp shocks that doesn’t let up from the opening defiant attack of “Heavy For You” until the last hurrah of redemptive closer “Burn Bright.” The Heavy brings back vintage R&B with rich retro-soul instrumentals. Their unique style of music can only be defined as funksoulhiphoprandbrockdance!
Hailing from Bath, England, The Heavy was formed over a casual jam session, when two friends; guitarist Daniel Taylor and vocalist Kelvin Swaby started laying down riffs on the acoustic guitar and instrumental beats from a synthesizer.
If you don’t think you have ever heard of The Heavy, think again as their hit song “How Do You Like Me Now” was featured in a Kia Sorento TV commercial during Super Bowl XLIV. They have other songs which can be heard onTV shows like True Blood andThe Vampire Dairies as well as in the movie, The Fighter.
The band consists of Kelvin Swaby [vocals] Daniel Taylor [guitar], Spencer Page [bass], and Chris Ellul [drum]. I caught up with Kelvin to talk about the band’s latest release, Sons, and the importance of never compromise yourself or the integrity of your music.
Robert Cavuoto: Is the band more comfortable as songwriters now compared to when you first started?
Kelvin Swaby: I would definitely say so! When the band came together in the late 90s/early 2000s, we pretty much knew what we wanted to do. I think our first CD, Great Vengeance and Furious Fire, was a fantastic entry; but we definitely studied to get better on the last four records and are at the point where we’re writing better songs.
Robert Cavuoto: When writing, is it a challenge to live up to the expectations of past successes?
Kelvin Swaby: We try not to put pressure on ourselves like that. We want to be a band that releases better material than we did previously. It’s an age thing as well; we are growing older. The things that we have learned over the last year are things we thought we knew 12 years ago. I think we are more accomplished.
Robert Cavuoto: What was the biggest lesson learned from your first CD until now?
Kelvin Swaby: What we have done our entire career is we “live in the fire.” We are writing from experience, and I enjoy “living in the fire.” Never write about things you don’t know. It’s always going to be a lot more emotional and understood by the listeners if it’s something that you know about. Never put pen to paper if you don’t know what you’re writing about. That would be my advice.
Robert Cavuoto: My favorite track on Sons is “Heavy for You.” What insights can you share on its creation?
Kelvin Swaby: I had that beat knocking around for a few years. I always heard the chorus, but it wasn’t until we were touring that it started to develop further. People would write show reviews, and I would never read them [laughing]. One night I decided to go on YouTube to check out some of our tracks and see what was posted. I started reading the comments, and the majority were positive, while others weren’t because everyone is a music critic these days. I remember it staying with me but not necessarily affected by it. Then you read all these stories about terrible people bulling each other on the internet. So “Heavy for You” is a fuck you and I’ll do what I want; provided I’m not hurting anybody and only doing it with every positive bone in my body. I’m bringing that to you, and we are doing what we want to do. So maybe, “That’s too damn heavy for you.”That’s what I wanted to say, to just be yourself and do whatever pleases you; just as long that it is not for negative gain.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the writing chemistry between you and Daniel and how it affects the creation of the songs?
Kelvin Swaby: We used to live 20 minutes away from each other so we would always see each other. He would spend 50% of his time at my house, and I would spend 50% of my time at his house. This was before we were bandmates and just friends. We were both in different bands at the time. We started messing around with a 4-track, an acoustic guitar, and a Yamaha SU10 Synth. I would play these Bo Diddley, or Muddy Waters beats, and he would play acoustic to it. We both thought it was pretty cool what we were coming up with. I like melodies and would have girls to come and sing them. He was the one that told me that I should be singing the songs! Riffs come easy for Daniel and melodies come pretty easy to me. From there, we have to work on the content. I aspire to write like Tom Waite, as he is one of the best storytellers of all time, so we really concentrate on the content. When you ask me how we write; we can easily come up with a ridiculous amount of material that sounds so good, very quickly.
Robert Cavuoto: You have a bunch of songs on movie soundtracks, TV shows, and commercials how did that come about?
Kelvin Swaby: I would say 99% of the time they come to us. The music supervisors seem to dig what we do. It’s fantastic for us. In the music world, it’s very difficult to make a living. We feel blessed and honored that people would want to use our music the way they have been doing for the past few years
Robert Cavuoto: Any songs from Sons being looked at for a soundtrack or commercial?
Kelvin Swaby: I can’t say at the moment. So many members of my family have been telling me that “Heavy for You” has been played at different sporting events in England. It’s been a little crazy as they have been using that song all over the place. If it makes it into a movie or an ad; I’m just not sure.
Robert Cavuoto: Has it been a challenge to get recognition in America?
Kelvin Swaby: I touched upon this earlier, we don’t ever compromise ourselves. I don’t think that is something we have done. Before we broke in America, we were very fortunate that we met some incredible people. This was in the time of My Space before we got signed. We met some people from New York who did promotion and management; they told us that if we ever get signed to call them. We got signed and then called them. The rest is history. We were presented at SXSW in 2008, and we were one of the three best bands of the weekend. The other bands were on big labels, and we were on a small label. Things just grew from there. You have to believe in what you do. I think our music is heavily inspired by America music from the 50s to the 90s. There is a little bit of all of that in what we do. We just put our own twist on it. We are very fortunate in the way America has embraced us.