ABOVE: HOORAY FOR EARTH. IMAGE COURTESY OF EREZ AVISSAR
"I get antsy. I get bored sitting around here. So sometimes, things need to be made."
Noel Heroux is sitting in his car on street cleaning day when we call him to talk about what's going on with Hooray For Earth. Keeping both eyes on the lookout—one on the clock to see if he's free to leave the confines of the car; one on the sidewalk in case a meter maid pulls a sneak attack—we start checking off the boxes of a typical conversation one would have with a successful indie artist who hasn't made a record in a while. Influences, creative process, making it big in the UK—we hit all of these topics as Heroux excitedly details the creation of the latest Hooray For Earth record, which the band finished recording last week. Peppered throughout his thoughts are a handful of random, giggly statements about their surreal video gems ("The ‘Sails' video had Madeline Zima from Californication in it, but more importantly, she was in The Nanny, which I used to watch religiously") and his unusual ideas about satisfaction and success. Despite the funny anecdotes, it was very clear that Hooray For Earth is itching to play some songs for you that they haven't even named yet.
HILARY HUGHES: What've you guys been up to lately? It's been a bit since you dropped the Never/Figure single this summer, and I noticed you posted a new video for "Pulling Back" a few days ago.
NOEL HEROUX: That was just killing some time. I've been antsy to do another record. The first record came out, and then we did our thing here, and then it came out in Europe and everywhere later. We spent more time going over there and doing all of that. The whole idea of doing a second album just kind of got bumped back. It was surprisingly different, the way we did things here and in Europe, but it was good on both accounts. Now, it just makes me excited to do it at the same time next time.
HUGHES: Surprisingly different? How so?
HEROUX: I was getting the record ready, and I just thought, "I want to do something that'll upset the apple cart here." So, we put the record out, and it went well—we were on the indie scene and touring with indie bands and doing the whole thing. It was a really good year. But then when it came out in Europe and the UK, all of a sudden one of the tracks was spinning every day on Radio 1. Our track was next to Jay-Z and shit on the radio over there, so everyone was like, "Oh, here's a new pop band!" I don't think a lot of people really got an idea of what we were actually doing based on one song. We got a different sort of attention than we did at home, but a good percentage of the UK kind of missed out on what we actually were in that True Loves was something I made in my apartment, and not, like, a Jay-Z style thing.
HUGHES: I'm a big fan of how the videos for "Never/Figure" and "True Loves" came out, and even "Pulling Back," too, though that whole house-engulfed-in-flames thing was a bit eerie. Can you take me through the process behind creating your music videos?
HEROUX: We hired directors that we liked and let them run with it, and in every case they really came through in the end. "Never/Figure" was made up of two separately released tracks, and that video was directed by a friend of mine, Milton Ladd. I'd say the idea we had in the beginning was a little different than the video that came out; it was just the two of us and another friend of ours on another camera. It took awhile to put together because it was mainly just Milton in between day jobs trying to piece things together. That's funny that you mentioned "Pulling Back," because I just posted that three days ago. That's a track from the album, and it's just something that came up, a found footage-type thing that was an edit that worked out.
HUGHES: How has your writing style changed between records?
HEROUX: It hasn't, really. If I feel like I want to sit down and record something if I have time on my hands, I'll just do it. Most things come when I'm stuck driving and I can't get to a recorder or anything. Or I'm lying in bed at three in the morning, and I'm like, "Ugh, do I really want to get up and record shit right now?" I do everything in my head. I don't ever find myself sitting down with a guitar with the intention of writing a song. It's whenever something pops and I just record it and turn it into something audible.
HUGHES: What are you working on at the moment? Are you currently writing, or is there something brewing for a bigger release down the line?
HEROUX: Actually, we have a record that we finished last week. We decided we were going to do a record, and over the summer I was just like, "Okay! I'm going to write and record some songs." I got all the demos ready and got everything mapped out to be exactly what I wanted, and I got together with the other guys in the band and told them what the songs were. We played them together before recording, which was the opposite of what happened with True Loves—back then, I just kind of made that whole record and was like, "Hey guys! Figure out how to play it." This time, I had them involved before we recorded, so it was nice. Chris [Principe] and Joe [Ciampini] are actually playing on the record, and we got to play, the three of us, recording in a room in the studio. Hooray For Earth is kind of my one-man project, but at the same time, it's always been a band. Chris and I have been playing together since we were high school. He's just always been there, and he deals with my bullshit. He's happy to support what I'm doing. It's nice that we felt like a band going into the studio this time. We just finished, so now we're figuring out how it's going to come out.
HUGHES: Between True Loves, Never/Figure and the new songs, what's been the most drastic change you've seen in your music?
HEROUX: This new album is more along the line of what I've always wanted to do. No corner-cutting. No messing around. True Loves was just me sitting there, and I did it really quickly. I always know when I'm done and when I'm happy with things, but at the same time, sometimes I just get sick of what I'm doing and I'll settle or I'll decide not to make a decision here and there. It's rare, but when I hear some of that stuff back I'm like, "Agh, fuck you, man! You should've faded that shit out!" [laughs] I wasn't being careful. I kind of just let myself go on this new record and did exactly what I wanted without worrying about the outcome. I came into it and I had my statement that I wanted to make.
HUGHES: Are you still drawing inspiration from the same places?
HEROUX: What makes me want to do what I want to do, that comes from the same place. There's definitely music I like that I listen to a lot, but I don't think it has a whole lot to do with what I'm doing. I've never liked the idea of emulating or referencing. If there's anything to take from different types of music you like, it's a frame of mind, or maybe a way somebody carries a career. A recent example: Jessica [Zambri] and I just went to see Louis CK last weekend. I would say Louis CK is as much of a positive figure to think about when you're putting yourself out there in any sort of art or anything, whether it's comedy or music or whatever. He's kind of just says, "Okay, here's my thing, and fuck it. Whatever." He probably doesn't do a whole lot of shit that he doesn't wanna do. From what I see, he comes across as somebody who just likes to make his choices and roll with it, whether it's the best thing for a career or not. It's what's right by him, and I think if you just make sure you stick to your guns at all times, that can't be a bad thing.
HUGHES: At the end of the day we're all our own worst critics, right?
HEROUX: I imagine that back in the '80s, somebody was in the studio and they were like, "This shit's amazing! We're gonna be so huge! We're gonna be so rich!" Our running joke in the studio is "This shit's amazing! We're gonna be so satisfied!" I wanted to make the thing that was perfect for me. Of course I really hope people love it, but I don't know what everybody's going to think. I know I'll at least be able to sleep on it. I already feel better now that we've finished, that it's done. Because last time around, I was full of question marks—I was happy with how it happened but I was flailing all over the place. I don't feel that now. I can just sit down and eat a bowl of soup and be happy about it. And drink an entire bottle of port.
HOORAY FOR EARTH PLAYS THE KNITTING FACTORY IN BROOKLYN TONIGHT, JANUARY 31. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, VISIT ITS WEBSITE.