Of course, music journalists have already made the obvious comparison between HAERTS lead singer Nini Fabi’s soaring vocals and those of another strong female lead: Stevie Nicks.
She says the similarity isn’t intentional, but she’s flattered. “For me, [Stevie Nicks is] one of the most iconic singers.” The band—who hail from Germany, England, and upstate New York, but are currently New York City-based—released their first EP, the St. Lucia-produced Hemiplegia, on October 7. It’s a three-track disc that includes their biggest hit to date, “Wings.” Give it a listen and you’ll notice that the music is also evocative of Fleetwood Mac, minus the blues sound. That is to say that Fabi and songwriting partner Ben Gebert have penned some deliciously esoteric pop music.
Today, we’re premiering the Lissvik remix of “All the Days,” the first track on the EP. It’s a decidedly more dance-heavy take on the otherwise wistful—but also, thanks to the percussion, prodigious—track. Here, we chatted with them about the new remix, being a New York band, and where they’ll be a year from now.
ALEX ERIKSON: We’re exclusively releasing of the Lissvik remix of “All the Days” here. Take me through the original version of that song, what you think the remix adds to it, and what you think HAERTS fans will get out of it.
NINI FABI: “All the Days” was like the start of the second period of songs that we wrote. It was a song that we did actually pretty quickly. It was at that time more up-tempo and dance-y than all of the other stuff we had done before. It’s like a dream that you almost forgot. The sound has that dreamy quality as well. It’s a song where you can easily have pictures that come to mind. It’s a pretty visual song.
BEN GEBERT: When it comes to remixes, it’s a whole new world for us. To hear someone else’s vision, to let someone else take a stab at [making the track their own].
ERIKSON: Is that weird for you guys?
GEBERT: No, it’s not weird. I actually really like it. We really like his work. He did an amazing remix for HAIM that we all really like.
GARRETT IENNER: It also nice to hear it. If you make a song and it sees the light of day, it takes a life of it’s own. Either through people that are listening to it and being influenced by it or just taking it and making a remix to it. It speaks to the life of a song and how it transforms once it’s out there. I think it’ll be great for a different setting, like in a club, or in a dance setting. It’s great the way the original idea can be transformed to a different context. It can be enjoyed in a place that it wouldn’t have.
ERIKSON: Nini, are you tired of people comparing you to Stevie Nicks?
FABI: You know, I’m not tired of it, actually. I think for me, she is just a singer that can really capture emotion with her voice. I think she is a great vocalist. I never tried to emulate Stevie Nicks. I never consciously listened to Stevie Nicks that much. But I think in general you’ll always be compared—people always make comparisons, especially with voice. I always compare things as well in order to understand things. I think almost being compared to her for me is not a bad thing at all. I could be compared to… What would be a bad comparison? I shouldn’t say. [laughs]
ERIKSON: If Stevie Nicks isn’t an intentional comparison and really not someone who has ever influenced you that much, who are you influenced by? Who do you guys really love?
GEBERT: We all share a very similar taste, and I think we all kind of like the same aesthetic when it comes to music. That’s a hard question to answer. We’re influenced by all sorts of pop music, alternative, classical music. As long as it moves us in some way. That’s kind of what we are looking for in music. To be moved in some kind of way. It doesn’t really matter how that happens or what music that is specifically.
IENNER: It’s always changing, too. What’s captivating us at the moment. It can be a sound, or a lyric, or a hook, or just a whole song in general. It changes on a day-to-day basis. We just look for what moves us.
FABI: I think so too. The one thing that we definitely never intended—I know some people feel very strongly inspired by certain albums—we never look to emulate anything. For us, the most important thing is to convey emotion with our music. That’s really why we do it for ourselves and then why we hopefully can do it for a lot of people. I think because of that we can’t really emulate anything, because it’s always gonna be our story. Of course influences of things we see, things we talk about, music we listen to—they play a big role in who we are as musicians. But I think definitely there’s no exact sound or music that we try to achieve.
ERIKSON: Tell me about your songwriting process.
GEBERT: Nini and me write most of the songs. At least in the past, we wrote most of the material. We’ve been writing music together since we were teenagers, so I would say our process really depends on…it’s always kind of different. We used to write a lot to some guitar and piano. We just have one instrument and really focus on just crafting one song structure. But now we incorporate more synthesizers. Sometimes it just might be a cool hook or sound and that just develops into an idea. Nini writes all of the lyrics. I don’t write any lyrics.
FABI: It was always an interesting dynamic for us, I think; the reason why we’re drawn to write together. When we first started, Ben was definitely further ahead musically, and for me it was more kind of an outlet, I think, for the things that I was thinking about. He was more of the structured writer and I think we kind of shaped each other’s writing. Now we also collaborate on tracks with people. It’s been really interesting because everyone always brings different things to the table. Ben and I would always work individually, but when everyone works together I think there was a certain friction that really created something we thought was worth pursuing.
ERIKSON: Tell me about each of your musical backgrounds and how you got to where you are now musically.
IENNER: I’ve always been playing. I’ve been playing guitar probably since I was like five. It’s just something I always did until I think I realized when I was a teenager that it was something I could do. I was a musician. I really got involved with jazz—like a lot of jazz guitar. And then just with that thought, I went to school and studied music and did composition.
GEBERT: The same for me with piano. I’ve been playing since I was a baby. I grew up in Germany just playing classical music for the most part. I did more improvisation later. There was always music around. I was always listening to my dad’s records. He was a big music lover. Well, still is. Then we went to music school, and it’s just been a part of my life, really.
FABI: For me growing up, I always sang. It was just something that you do. I never thought much of it, I just sang. Music was a big part of growing up in my family. I always did music in different shapes or forms. But I think for me, I kind of had a feeling that music was for me to make sense of my world. I knew that I had to do it before I kind of figured out that I could actually do it. Like Garrett said, you kind of do it for a while and then all of a sudden you say, “This is something that I can actually seriously do.” Even before that you had the feeling that this is the thing that you actually wanted to do and you just constantly do it.
ERIKSON: So there’s the three of you, and then there’s Derek [McWilliams] and Jonathan [Schmidt]. How exactly do they fit in the band?
FABI: Derek and Jon are our drummer and bass player, and also they have been our friends for many years. We played with Derek, Ben and I, ever since we came to the U.S. And we’ve always done projects with Derek. He’s a fantastic bass player. When it came to really pinning down who’s going to be in the band, after we already spent a lot of time in the studio, it was a natural thing to have Derek and Jonny be the bassist and drummer of the band.
ERIKSON: You guys are from all over. How do you think being in New York has influenced you as a band?
IENNER: We know a lot of people here. That really gives us access to creative people or other people who have similar interest as us. That’s really been a big factor in what’s happened. Our rehearsal space and studio is there. One of our engineers Andy Baldwin is there. There’s really a community that we belong to and, just as a consequence, you end up working with people and sharing ideas and that shapes the music. That’s basically how I got involved with Nini and Ben, because we had worked together years before.
FABI: I would say it starts with a certain feeling of a moment I think that everybody has in this community that shapes, for us, a place where we can be ourselves, because that’s what everyone else around us is doing. New York is an inspiring city. Coming from a city like Munich, Munich is a beautiful city. It’s almost a little too perfect sometimes. And I know New York is more and more polished every day, but I still see a little more movement in New York, or a little more electricity. That is really important for us. We all want to be here.
IENNER: I think still the dream of New York is that it’s not dead yet. That’s no way that you’ll be out of possibilities. If you are, then it’s your own fault.
FABI: Also, New York is a place full of distractions. New York is a good test as an artist I think as well to put your mind to something. Because if you can focus here, you can focus anywhere. It’s also good to be in New York and to know for yourself that you’re doing something and just put your mind to it. It can be a really great place.
ERIKSON: I feel like the indie scene here is better than it’s ever been before. That really became apparent in 2008, 2009, when the bands here really started to blow up. Do you guys feel like you’re about to have that moment too?
FABI: [laughs] No, we can’t say that.
GEBERT: Who knows? Things could change anytime. What we’re doing now… I mean, what does success even mean? I consider us to be very successful right now. We’re on the road. We’re living our dream, pretty much. Who knows? We’re just doing the best we can.
FABI: Yeah, I think it’s hard to define. I don’t know if I consider ourselves successful. I don’t know if you can ever consider yourself successful, because I think it’s almost a dangerous thing. It’s a feeling that you’ve arrived somewhere. For me personally, I haven’t arrived, and I think I’ll probably never arrive at a certain place like that. But I think we’re definitely taking the right steps. Were doing the honest steps in our careers, and that’s definitely a gain for us.
ERIKSON: Has there ever been a moment where you guys are kind of like, “Holy shit, I never imagined in a million years I’d be doing this”?
IENNER: Not yet.
GEBERT: At least for me, I feel like we’ve been working at this so hard for such a long time you can always see yourself doing that. At least that’s what I imagine. We do appreciate where we are right now, but it’s kind of like a natural progression. You work so hard for it and then you get there and all of a sudden it doesn’t actually seem like the craziest thing in the world.
IENNER: People always say, “You’re so fortunate to have this opportunity. You’re so lucky.” I feel fortunate, but also at the same time I accept it because I feel like I’m supposed to be doing it.
FABI: There was a moment when “Wings” came out and people liked the song. I think that was a moment of surprise for us. We believed in the song, put it out there and people started connecting with it. Even though we were fully behind the song, there still was a little element of surprise. There was a certain gratification, almost being thankful that people could relate to it. That was a crazy feeling in the beginning.
HAERTS PLAYS SANTOS PARTY HOUSE OCTOBER 17 AND BOWERY BALLROOM OCTOBER 19. HEMIPLEGIA IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, PLEASE VISIT ITS WEBSITE.