Interview with Dead Heart Bloom

New York City’s Dead Heart Bloom recently released a series of three compelling EPs that show off the band’s many talents across divergent musical genres. Fall In features well-crafted guitar rock with frothy synth chords, reverberating bass lines and a touch of dark atmospherics. Oh Mercy explores the harder side of indie-rock with deep, distorted bass lines, angular chord changes, turbulent distortion and razor-sharp guitar leads, while In Chains is steeped in a more pensive, trippy and desolate Americana sound. All are performed in sharp style with catchy melodies and a clever charm that make engaging listens worth many repeated plays.

DOA’s Matt the Raven was lucky enough to catch up with Dead Heart Bloom’s frontman Boris Skalsky who was kind enough to provide some insight into the EP trilogy and the band’s music.

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DOA: How and why was Dead Heart Bloom chosen as the band’s name?

Boris Skalsky: “Dead Heart Bloom” suggests a renewal to me, or a rebirth.  There is something hopeful about the name yet still acknowledging a darkness.

DOA: Can you describe a little bit about the creative process of your songwriting? Is it based on jamming with the band or writing from scratch with melodies in your head or a combination of those or something else entirely?

BS: Usually, songs are sketched out before bringing them to the band (or before the recording process begins).  Occasionally, we jam ideas out together.  And recently, guitarist Paul Wood and I have been improvising and writing from scratch during formal writing sessions.

DOA: How are lyrics incorporated? Do you write lyrics to fit the music afterwards or do you write lyrics outside of music and fit them in later?

BS: For me, melody almost always comes first and lyrics later.  Sometimes a line or two will suggest themselves immediately and then stick.

DOA: As a music reviewer, I try to include references to other bands in my reviews, do you like comparisons to other bands or does that sort of thing bother you?

BS: I don’t mind comparisons, although sometimes reviewers tend to just compare and then not really ‘review’ (or describe) Dead Heart Bloom music.

DOA: What music, musicians or bands do you think have influenced your music and songwriting?

BS: Probably the Beatles have influenced me most. 

DOA: What current bands do you like and what music/bands are you currently listening to?

BS: The last Elbow record was good.  And I enjoyed the Okkervil River records.

DOA: What influenced your decision to release a series of EPs with such divergent musical genres?

BS: We weren’t trying to write in divergent genres, it just happened that way.  So the challenge was how to release the music so that it still made musical sense.  An EP series seemed a creative way to do this.  To separate the songs by “feel”, but still tie them together conceptually.

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DOA: Are you going to pick a genre/style that suits you best and build upon that for your next full album or are you going to continue to explore divergent musical streams and release more EPs?

BS: Although currently writing for it, we haven’t decided what shape the next release will take, but the intent is to incorporate the different styles into one cohesive record.  We also still like the idea of a series, so the next release(s) might go that route.  But, some of our favorite bands and recordings are those that explore different genres, so this is an element of Dead Heart Bloom we want to keep. 

DOA: Your promotional photo shows 4 band members, yet the credits for all 3 EPs imply that DHB is a duo with many special guests. Is DHB a duo or has the lineup been solidified as a quartet?

BS: Originally, Dead Heart Bloom was a solo project.  Then, at the time of the first EP (‘Fall In’) the band became a duo of me and Paul Wood with additional session players.  Gradually, as the EPs were recorded, the band solidified into the four piece of me, Paul Wood (guitars), Nathan Goheen (bass), and John Hadfield (drums). We kept the credits as a duo for consistency’s sake.  The band is now a four piece, but I still like the idea of a ‘collective’ with other musicians contributing as the music requires.

dhb-3dhb-41DOA: It seems great pains were taken to release 3 musically divergent EPs with a common theme, from the titles and artwork to the recording and production work, so why weren’t the lyrics included in the liner notes? Was this a conscious decision or a space limitation/cost thing?

BS: It was partly a space limitation, because the packaging for each EP was relatively simple.  We did include the lyric sheet with the digital download.  On the other hand, I like it when bands do not include lyric sheets and keep the listener guessing a bit as to the content of the words.  I like that mystery.

DOA: Why did you start KEI records to release your own material? Did you have trouble shopping your demos around and get rejected or did you do it for purposes of complete artistic control?

BS: We are self-released.  KEI is a nominal “record label”.  We never really shopped around the records, we just wanted to get the music out right away and did everything ourselves.

DOA: Does KEI stand for anything in particular?

BS: It came from a friend who is working on a documentary and using the KEI moniker to stand for ‘Keep Everyone Informed.’

DOA: I noticed you offer all of your music as free downloads on your website and you have only one upcoming live show listed there. How are you able to keep Dead Heart Bloom and KEI records in the black or do you?

BS: The main focus is creating our best music possible.  And, for now, the best way to get that music heard on a larger scale is to offer it for free.  People still buy the CDs and digital downloads even though we offer the music for free.  Listeners also support the band in other ways, by coming to the shows, or buying tee shirts, or telling a friend about us.

DOA: Does your upcoming live show include plans to play all the divergent styles heard on your albums and EPs?

BS: Yes.

DOA: Is any new material going to be performed at your upcoming live show(s)?

BS: We’re going to concentrate on the EPs and prior material at the upcoming live shows.   We’ll debut new material over the summer.

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dhb-6DOA: Have advances in technology changed the way you write and/or record your music?

BS: Pro Tools is a nice scratch pad to get ideas down quickly.  And I’d like to get more into electronic beats and synthesized/processed sounds.  But for these last records, we stuck primarily to 2-inch tape machines, so really they had more to do with past technologies than modern ones.

DOA: Have advances in technology changed the way you market and sell your music?

BS: With the internet, it’s easier to reach people and get the music heard.  For instance, we recently did a video shoot in Washington, D.C. and through the internet many more people will see the video and hear the song than would have before.  But it seems, because it is easier, there are more bands doing it.  So, in the end, not much has changed: you still have to try and write the best material you can and hope that it moves people.

DOA: What is up next for DHB in the immediate future?

BS: Dead Heart Bloom will be releasing new music before the end of the year.  I will also be releasing a solo acoustic record under my own name.

DOA: What are your hobbies/interests outside of DHB?

BS: Writing prose.  Classical music.

http://www.deadheartbloom.com/mp3/04_Our_Last_Martyr.mp3

 http://www.deadheartbloom.com/mp3/01_Flash_In_A_Bottle.mp3

 http://www.deadheartbloom.com/mp3/03_I’m_Going_To_Go_Meet_Jesus.mp3

Dead Heart Bloom: www.deadheartbloom.com

KEI Records: www.keirecords.com