There must be something in the water in the area that surrounds Manchester, England, for that city and suburbs of it have given us great music for nearly 40 years. For the seaside town of Morecambe, they are about to be put on the map due to a little band that is about to do big things. The Heartbreaks are bringing posh looks and catchy hooks back to rock and roll. Many critics back in their country have already compared them to The Smiths and Orange Juice, but The Heartbreaks, though inspired by those legends, bring something new to the table. While their songs are not as melodramatic as the songs Morrissey wrote, they have a similar sound, but also know how to crank up the tempo and have fun. Inspired by their small town and the sea, this Britpop meets surf rock band is about to make big waves in the music world on both sides of the Atlantic. Having the opportunity to be the first American music journalist to interview the band, I spoke to drummer Joseph Kondras, who discusses the band's hometown, surf rock, their clothes and living up to a Manchester legacy. Take a look.
How did the band come together?
JK: Matthew, Ryan and myself ambled through our adolescence together at school, playing in various bands, growing increasingly annoyed at the fact that we seemed to be the only people we knew who dressed the same way and loved motown. Then we stumbled upon young Deakin, he had tattoos of swallows on his arms, penny loafers on his feet and a knowledge of Postcard Records far greater than our own. We were star-crossed lovers. The rest, as they say, is...
You formed in Lancashire then moved to Manchester, why the change? Has the change in cities influenced your work?
JK: The town were we come from is called Morecambe; it is an old seaside resort; there's a sadness and charm to it that we cherish and has influenced us more than words can say. It's a small town and there are no really decent venues for young bands to play, only Irish pubs... We gained a reputation as being rather good in these pubs around Morecambe but in the grand scheme of things, that means very little. Manchester was the nearest big city, and it was there for the taking; we seized the moment.
Manchester has always been deep-rooted in a rich musical history from Joy Division, Stone Roses, Smiths, Manic Street Preachers, Oasis and so on. Do you feel an obligation to live up to the musical legacy of that city?
JK: I don't know about living up to their legacy... Bands such as The Smiths and The Roses created timeless music that will live forever but so did The Supremes and Orange Juice; the fact The Smiths and The Roses came from Manchester does not affect our obligation to create something timeless too.
Many critics have compared your music to the music of The Smiths. How do you respond to this? Are The Smiths a big influence on you?
JK: It's frustrating as I feel we have a lot more to offer than simply "sounding like The Smiths." They are without doubt an influence but no more so than Elvis Costello and The Attractions or Orange Juice or Blondie or Northern Soul. We are a very young band and I think we will shake this Smiths tag. We're constantly developing and listening to different music. The next thing we put out will sound nothing like The Smiths; saying that, I didn't think the last one did really.
You formed in 2009 and in just a little over a year there has been a massive buzz about your band from Manchester Evening News to Uproar to NME magazine. How do you respond to such high attention?
JK: We don't really pay too much attention to it. We just continue to write and play and are appreciative that people are taking notice. I think the attention we've receive thus far is fully deserved. For some time now the press have been giving far too much time to insincere, bland, synthetic rubbish. We feel like we are needed right now. There is a void waiting to be filled and it seems the press have picked up on the possibility that maybe we are the band to fill it.
Major labels have been snooping around you since the NME article. Any ones you are interested in? In this day and age of music, is it worth it for a young band such as yourselves to sign to a major?
JK: I don't know really; I like the idea of being on an indie. It's quite a romantic notion. We put "I Didn't Think It Would Hurt To Think Of You" out on an indie label called Fierce Panda, and they are a great label who are in it for completely the right reasons. As far as major labels are concerned I'm not too sure. I've met different people from various majors and they've all been rather nice I suppose... One or two didn't seem to know very much about music though, which was slightly distressing. We've all been on the dole or working odd jobs cash in hand for the past year, we're skint as a flint; I'll probably get evicted soon so obviously the prospect of receiving an advance from a major label is a rather exciting one. However if it meant we had to compromise anything creatively, I wouldn't be interested. I'm fine with dining on powdered beetroot soup from the Polski Schlep just for now.
Is there a debut album in the works? If so, when can we expect it?
JK: It is in the works in the respect that we are continually writing songs with a view to put them on the album. We're not going to wait forever to see what happens with labels, we'll do it ourselves if we have to. It'll be out some time next year, God willing...
The style of your music is indie mixed with motown mixed with romantic rock. What are your main influences and why?
JK: In terms of sounds I'd say all of Phil Spector's work, The Shangri La's, northern soul, early 60s pop like Del Shannon and Billy Fury, Postcard Records, Billy Bragg, Blondie, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Buzzcocks... The list is endless. We take in all sorts of music; all I've listened to is The Pogues for the past three weeks. Lyrically our songs tend to stem from an actual happening within my life, they're not plucked from mid air. They're from the heart... Guilt and jealousy generally make for great songs.
There are so many young bands coming from the UK now and thanks to the internet they have been gaining global attention. Acts like yourself, Chapel Club, Strange Death of Liberal England, Two Door Cinema Club and so on. Do you think that British indie is surpassing what is coming from North America? Do you feel that this is the next British invasion
JK: No, not really. A British invasion would mean a string of bands coming over and really making an impact. I can't see any of the mentioned bands doing that. Purely because I can't connect with any of them. That's just me though... I find it strange that for the past year or so all the new albums I have bought and really got in to have not been from these shores: Best Coast, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Vivian Girls, The Raveonettes, they've all produced albums that have really excited us as a band where as nothing from England has done so for quite some time.
What is also to be admired aside from your sound is your style. There is a certain look to the band that is very British. It's mod and dapper. Is appearance important to correspond to your music?
JK: Yes, I think it's very important. It's who we are. It's one of the things that makes us all Heartbreaks. We look like what we sound like if that makes sense? It's natural, it's not contrived like The Drums. It is mod; it is dapper; it's also rockabilly; it's fey football hooliganism; it's northern soul; it's skinhead whilst I guess it's still slightly twee. We'd all dress this way even if we weren't in The Heartbreaks. Look is extremely important to us. We did a shoot for NME a couple of weeks ago with a few other bands from the Manchester "scene." We were the only boys there who really looked the part, the rest of them looked like scruffy little herberts. All my heroes looked the part; Weller, Terry Hall, Morrissey, Edwyn Collins, Pete Doherty. They all looked like rock stars. They didn't wear caftans and grubby pumps.
It has been said that the seaside has influenced your music. How so and why?
JK: Like the clothes, it's another thing that binds us all together, that makes us eternally Heartbreaks. We're small-town hearts. We love Morecambe; it's beautiful, it's hilarious, and it's heartbreaking. There is an unbeatable sadness to old English seaside towns; it's there in our music. People say it's a dead-end town; my views vary on the place depending on what mood I'm in. It's not an especially hard place to grow up, more frustrating, especially being who we are. There were few people in Morecambe with the same passions as us; we felt isolated but from that isolation came The Heartbreaks.
When can we expect The Heartbreaks in the US?
JK: As soon as we possibly can. I like to think we'll get over the pond sometime in the next year. Who knows? As I have already stated we try not to concern ourselves too much with anything other than the songs. There's more pressing matters to come in the near future before we think about America but it would be lovely...
I ask this to every foreign act I speak with: do you think it's a big deal for a band from overseas to make it in the US?
JK: Of course it is. It's a huge country, to make it there would require a great deal of playing, a great deal of work. It'd be quite an achievement. It's not particularly high on my agenda, I just want this band to fulfill its potential and really mean something to people. For people to hold us in their hearts, and if the kids in America are willing to do that, well, that'd do me nicely.
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