Back in 2012, HAERTS sat down for dinner with their producer Jean-Philip Grobler. The Brooklyn band had been holed up in the studio for nearly a year and Grobler — better known as St. Lucia — wanted them to finally release a song so that they could put their hard work on display. The band decided to take a vote and by the end of the meal, they had chosen their song “Wings” as their debut single.
“We were thinking we’re keeping the good songs for later and we’re putting ‘Wings’ out because it kind of shows the project, shows the sound,” lead singer Nini Fani told Radio.com. “But I think it took on a new life once we did that.”
Almost instantly after posting that song to Soundcloud, blogs like Gorilla vs. Bear, Earmilk and Pigeons and Planes were touting them as a band to watch. Needless to say, it was a pretty productive meal.
But HEARTS are a band who are always thinking about the long term. So instead of capitalizing on a little blog fame, the band — comprised of Fabi, keyboardist Ben Gebert, guitarist Garrett Ienner, bassist Derek McWilliams and drummer Jonathan Schmidt — decided to return to the studio and work on what would become their debut EP, Hemiplegia.
The band released their 4-song EP — an unmistakably ’80s brand of electro-pop — in September to help tide fans over ’til their full-length debut drops, hopefully, early next year via Columbia. It is, admittedly, taking the band longer to record the album than originally anticipated. “We’ve spent two and a half years in the studio and spent our whole lives writing songs on the album,” Fani explained. “Some songs were written five years ago, and then other songs were written two weeks ago. It’s an extended process.”
What you quickly learn with HAERTS — who started out as a strictly in-studio band — is that most things with them tend to be a process. That includes their inception.
Gebert and Fabi have been friends since they were 15, when they both lived in Munich, Germany. While still in their teens they started performing together as the folk duo, Nini & Ben, eventually releasing an album, 2009’s The Reasons We Try. But by the following year, they were ready to try something new and realized to make the intricate pop they had in mind they needed to expand.
“We were looking for a third member as committed to the project as us,” Fabi said, “who shared the love of the music.”
The two eventually found a kindred spirit in Jenner, a fellow musician and longtime friend of theirs, but not someone they initially considered as a collaborator. “It’s just so scary to start working with friends because you really like them and you never know if musically it will work out, ” Fabi said. “But I think both sides really needed it and it just really needed to happen.”
One reason why people feel such affection for HAERTS’ limited discography is that they write songs for the lovelorn. If you’re going through a break-up, you could certainly do worse than their synthy ballad, “All For You.” The groovy bassline of “All The Days,” on the other hand, can help motivate you to leave the house with its sullen, but optimistic cry of “Now you’re gone/A love gone wrong/But I’ll make it.” And with its breathy swoons of “People never smile to say goodbye/Leaving means there’s nothing left to try,” “Wings” perfectly encapsulates that broken feeling you get when you realize the one you loved has gone away.
Fabi, whose voice is a mix of Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush, says that she writes about her own pain and heartbreak. She doesn’t know any other way.
“I just don’t think it exists,” she said in regard to fictional lyrics. “Even if you write a story about someone else, it’s still your personal experience. It has to be something that stimulated you…that made you start feeling something. No matter what, for me, it’s going to be personal.”