PVDlive gets to know
Hello Heather, what an honor to catch up with you! Your music roster is long and impressive, many have gotten to know you through The StereoBirds that ended in 2005 after a 10 year run. Was that your first band?
Hey Chrissy! Thank you. I’m glad we were able to catch up as well! Although I joined The StereoBirds (formerly The MockingBirds) when I was only 15, it was actually my second band. I formed my first band at 13 with my friends Brad Mehlenbacher and Matt Maggiacomo. We called ourselves Percephone’s Fruit, since we didn’t like “The Pomegranates”. Admittedly, we were not as polished as we believed, but we were definitely a legit band with gigs and a practice schedule. Plus, starting so young gave us a jump on our music careers. I found great success with The StereoBirds, while Brad & Matt went on to found the Wizard Rock movement with their bands Draco and the Malfoys and The Whomping Willows. I love me some Harry Potter, but The Hunger Games are my jam, so clearly we all made the right decision.
Heather Rose and The Drama ended in 2009 after a 5 year run and you’re now actively in Heather Rose In Clover which started in 2012. Did you take a break between 2009 and 2012?
The StereoBirds worked as hard as we played and vice versa. We came as close to what “making it” was in the early 2000zies as a band could get. We fought like siblings, hate-loved each other all across America, and made great music while doing it. I don’t regret any of those experiences, but there came a time when I had outgrown it. Not my bandmates or the music, but the role I played. Right or wrong, I’ve always had a “If you’ve got it, own it, flaunt it and be empowered by it” attitude, so I accepted and at times embraced the sexualized aspect of fronting a rock band. However, I was very much over the sexual objectification that came with it. I wanted to be taken seriously as a songwriter and a musician and I didn’t feel I’d be able to achieve that without some kind of break. So I used the bridges I’d built over the years to cross into solo territory. Then, when the time was right, I formed Heather Rose and The Drama and we were unstoppable, until suddenly we weren’t. Not surprisingly, when HRD fell apart, I was devastated and angry. My life soon morphed into a glorified country song, sans dog.
The period of 2009 – 2012 is honestly a blurry mess of bad times resulting in a general loss of faith in people as a whole. The only thing I had control over was my songwriting. So I wrote constantly, even if I kept a bit under the radar of the scene. All that heartache ended up being harnessed into some damn good break up songs. In fact, I wrote Curls, track 11 on Canyons, during that time. When I recorded the vocals, I tried to go back there in my head. I wanted the chest-aching-hurt of that experience to come across, to be embedded in the vocal track. I needed that to be properly captured for anyone who heard the song while they were going through that sort of pain. If you can express true emotion in your delivery, I believe that truth will resonate with the people who need to hear it most.
This project is a trio, can you tell us about the other two members and how you met?
I’d love to! Lisa Middleton is the bassist and backing vocalist of Heather Rose in Clover and Chris Alvarado is our drummer. Lisa and I were dating and she was growing increasingly annoyed at the revolving door of bandmates I was tolerating. I kept lowering my standards until all I was requesting from new members was to show up and play the songs the way they were written initially, adding their own spin to their parts over time. Since there are more flakes amongst musicians than are found in your average cereal aisle, even this approach was failing.
Lisa came to me and asked to audition for the bassist slot. She had never touched a bass. I knew she had played guitar for years, but not in a band setting. We were dating. I really liked her, so I said, “Alight. Sure.” This woman went out and bought a bass, taught herself the songs, and two weeks later she auditioned, blowing everyone else out of the water. So I hired her. Then a few years later I convinced her to marry me.
This may come as a surprise, but our meet-cute with Chris was quite different. Now, Chris suggested that we come up with some real gritty rock n’ roll story of my discovering him while he was busking on a city street, playing buckets for cash. Lisa, the moral compass of the band, suggested the truth. We met through an ad. Lisa and I were looking for a drummer, saw Chris on a local site, thought he was great and sent him a message. A year, yes a full year, later, he responded to our message. (This is why he is not in charge of the band’s email account). He asked if we were still in need of a drummer and yes, we were indeed still in need of a drummer. He came to the audition friendly, rehearsed, and with rolls for days (our songs have a good deal of rolls, so this was necessary criteria). So we planned on making him wait, but pretty much asked him to join on the spot.
Those are both great stories!
You played out solo for a bit and still do rarely, can you describe the different feeling of performing solo vs. with a band?
I think of performing as having a conversation with the audience. During a solo set, the discussion is just a little bit more private. There’s a real “insider” vibe that’s created in more quiet environments where lyrics are clearly audible and a song is stripped down to its bare essentials. On the flip side, managing a band is hard work, but performing solo has never been enough for me. It takes a band to allow for a songs full potential. That bigger sound, what I refer to as the orchestra in my head, is able to be expressed when I’m performing with Heather Rose In Clover.
Heather Rose in Clover is described as ‘high energy indie sound from the alternative rock of the 90s’ seems you drive a lot of inspiration from that era. What is some of your best memories of the music scene in that time?
I think you write what you know and you like what you most identify with. Lisa, Chris and I spent the majority of our childhoods and teen-angst years surrounded by and practically bathing in music. Although we all listen to really diverse genres now, what was most accessible when we were growing up was that “Alternative Rock” sound and the Providence music scene relished in it. There were so many music stores and rock clubs. Tons of all ages, citywide shows where you could walk back and forth between clubs using one wristband. It’s coming back. I’ve always felt the need for it, but that feeling in the music scene is starting to come back.
Why did you name the band Heather Rose In Clover?
You reap what you sow. When you name your band Heather Rose and The Drama, you get non-stop drama. I wanted something a bit more positive this time around, so we came across an Irish phrase similar to the Italian saying, “They’ve got it in spades!”. Heather Rose In Clover translates to “Heather Rose In Success or Experiencing Good Things”. That’s a lot better than asking the Universe for drama LOL.
Your songs are personal but full of energy, songs like ‘Go Back to Ohio’ , ‘My City, My Skyline’ , ‘Satellites’ and ‘Thunder My Brother’ all share a real part of you. How would you describe your song writing?
Often songs come to me fully formed, with all their parts. I visualize the melody and the lyrics simultaneously. Sort of like synesthesia, but with shapes, not colors. I’m just lucky Lisa and Chris are as patient as they are gifted musicians. They’re able to decipher questions like, “Can you make your bass sound like a cello? Like a big round cello?” or “What if your cymbal was a sharp ocean wave?” Sigh. They are both saints.
It comes down to trust. My lyrics are personal, even when I’m not writing autobiographically, I pull references from my experience. That being said, I need to trust in the people I’m presenting such personal stuff to, in order to feel safe and be open-minded about the end result. We don’t always agree, but we trust each other. Chris rarely says “no”, so when he does, I know he means it and I take his objection seriously. Lisa likes to sit with an idea for a minute and digest the full concept of a song before finalizing her bass line. I’m a bit more rapid fire, which is a very different approach. The bottom line is that we all care about what serves the song and the end result has each of our stamps on it. We keep each other in check and by doing so, I believe our songs sound like “Us” regardless of their particular style or BPM.
You’re album release show is on March 30th at Askew Providence. That is a sacred show for any musician and those who open up is carefully chosen. Can you tell us about the bands you chose to play with you?
I couldn’t agree more. Choosing the right lineup for the Canyons Release Party was so important to us. We are so fortunate to be on a bill of fun, talented musicians who compliment our style and most importantly are friends who actually care about us and our music!
Breachway kicks the night off at 8:30pm sharp. This is Noah Barreto’s first project since his former band Public Alley were crowned WBRU Rock Hunt Champs in 2015. His songwriting is mesmerizing with really intriguing, clever lyrics. We cannot wait for this debut set!
Ant Savino is no stranger to PVDlive, but I’m not sure if you’ve heard the alter-ego to his gorgeously melodic singer-songwriter albums. Half Hearted Hero shall henceforth be known as DREAM JOB and March 30th is the first time they’ll be performing under this new name! We’ve been listening to their new tracks on repeat for weeks. They write the kind of catchy, tight, polished, rock songs that beg to be played loud and often.
You know that ice breaker question, “If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have one book, what would it be?” Weakened Friends. I would throw my book in the ocean and choose Weakened Friends instead. Final. Answer.
Sonia Sturino, Annie Hoffman and Cam Jones make up Weakened Friends out of Portland, Maine. Their energy, their massive sound, their social conscience, the way their interpretation of rock can un-glum the glummest of days are what got them signed to Don Giovanni Records and made them a no-brainer for huge festivals like Boston Calling and SXSW!
And to close out the live music portion of the night, we’ll hit the stage at 10:30pm! After us? A chance to hang out, hug it out, buy our new album, buy other merch, eat, drink and be merry all while listening to Canyons in full, as it’s pumped through the house sound system!
You’ve been in the game for some time with impressive awards, amazing shows and a stacked resume of experience, what is some advice you would give to musicians who are just getting the ball rollin?
Is it weird to list “stacked resume of experience” on my actual resume? I would like to do that, haha
Okay, my advice to up-and-coming musicians is as follows:
- One, Support fellow musicians even if you play different genres. If you can’t make it to their show, maybe post something nice about that band to help them out. When presented with the option to be kind… be kind. Paying It Forward is a truly beautiful concept.
- Two, Never play “pay-to-play” shows and do not support the venues or promoters who try to convince you otherwise.
- And Most importantly; music is like fashion. Trends come in cycles. Find your sound, fine-tune your sound, then keep playing YOUR sound regardless of what other bands are doing. If you write solid songs, stay true to your vision, and treat people with respect, you will be ready and deserving of the attention you’re sure to receive when tastes shift and your music catches on.
Besides that this show has NO COVER and is ALL AGES what are some things people should expect at this show and why they should not miss it?!
The awesome line up as I described before as each act is an extremely good example of why this show should not be missed! AND!
You’ll be able to purchase actual physical copies of our CD in this, the Digital Age. We’ll also be selling limited edition show posters designed by tattoo artist Thomas Harris and screen printed by RI’s own Riverzedge Arts along with Heather Rose In Clover band t-shirts! In addition to all of the above, coming to the Canyons Album Release Party at Askew on Saturday, March 30th is an enjoyable way to embrace something positive, like the support of local music and artists. If none of that moves you, come for the tater tots. They also should not be missed.
Interview by Chrissy Stewart
cover photo credit : David Lee Black
photo 2 b&w : Adam Parshall
photo 3 color : David Lee Black
photo 4 color: Adam Parshall