Spotlight Band: Stealing Heather
On their debut album “Your Mistake” Stealing Heather (Joshua Aaron on lead vocals and guitar, Ian Koff on keys/synth, George Bohdan on bass, Jake Perry on lead guitar & David Beck on drums) take fans on a musical journey of true love. Masterfully combining the best elements of music from the 80s and 90s to produce their infectious pop-rock sound, Stealing Heather take us song by song through a modern day love story – bumps included.
Main man Joshua Aaron took some time to fill is in on the band and their new album.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette
Let’s start with the obvious, who’s Heather and why have you stolen her?
Ha! You know, this is usually the first question we get asked in any interview (i.e. What’s with the name?) and the smart-ass answer is that we love to steal girls no matter what their name might be.
The real answer is a bit more serious. “Over the years we’ve watched as our society has taken a turn for the worse. When we were growing up we’d watch the Smurfs or Garfield on Saturday mornings. Today, everything presented to our children deals with violence and negativity. We are only creatures of our environment and the more we keep presenting our children with these images and sounds the more we will be forced to watch the outcome unfold. We are essentially stealing the innocence of our children. The name Heather just seemed to be the essence of a pure, young girl.”
Can you give us a brief history of the band to help get people to know you?
Throughout my tenure with The Rosenbergs (my previous band) I had been writing a bunch of songs and had this sound in my head that I needed to get onto a recording. The first album “6 Minutes to Somewhere” was my initial attempt back in 2006 when I was living in Cleveland, OH. I formed a small band and we played a few shows. The songs appeared on a few TV shows and such but I didn’t push it that hard since I had just come off of 8 amazing years of record-making and touring with The Rosenbergs. Following that I started writing in a more congealed fashion and ended up with the songs on our new album “Your Mistake.” I moved out to LA a little over a year ago, put the band together, and here we are.
Without putting a label on you, how would you describe your sound to music fans?
Hmmmm. No matter what I say here there’s going to be some sort of label attached to it as it’s just human nature to place labels on anything and everything in which we come into contact. I call our music alternative pop/rock. Some call it 80’s influenced modern rock. I think that I just try and write the music that I love and to which I would be listening. I love big drums, cool synths, catchy hooks/melodies, and… for lack of a better term… massive “wall of sound” production. I will say that I always strip a song down to nothing but a voice and an acoustic guitar before moving forward. If it’s still a great song in that limited performance, I know that it’ll be a great song with all the bells and whistles.
You have described your music as pushing boundaries; can you expand upon that and tell us what you mean in your own words?
Reading that back it sounds so pretentious of me to have said that but I think what I meant was that every song is a bit different while retaining the overall “Stealing Heather” sound. Even though the music has commercial appeal, it doesn’t sound like everything else on the radio these days. We sort of combine what I loved about the 80’s and 90’s with today’s alt rock genre while putting our own stamp on each and every tune.
Your album “Your Mistake” has an overall theme to it, can you tell us a little bit about it?
“Your Mistake” is the story of two people who love each other but just can’t seem to make their lives work together. It starts off with the song “Breathe Out” which I imagine to be the drive home at the end of the day, thinking of everything that has transpired, and sort of saying to yourself “take a deep breath and see if you can figure out a way to make this work.” Of course nothing ever goes that easy and the next song “Your Mistake” has the calm, loving verses with the heated and aggressive chorus. Things get progressively worse for our couple and in “Evaporate” the woman walks out, and the man thinks he has lost her forever. The second half of the album is his realization that none of these little problems matter in the grand scheme of things. He is beside himself and thinks he has screwed up so badly that he has lost his one and only chance at true love. Finally the woman comes back and together they look into each other’s eyes, knowing that they belong together. The last line of the final song “We Belong” sums it all up with “this is where I belong.”
What was the inspiration for the story and the songs? Are they based on your experiences or are they more of a work of fiction?
It’s definitely a fictional story but I don’t think you can write or create anything in life without having some of it stem from personal experience. We all go through difficulties throughout our lives and everything you do changes you in various ways.
You’ve been described as “the thinking person’s pop-rock band” – what’s your take on that and how do you balance that with not taking yourselves too seriously?
I think what was meant by that statement is that the lyrics and emotions these songs deal with are geared toward a deeper consciousness. There’s great music out there that is just meant to be fun to listen to, and there is other music that tries to convey a message and connect with people on a more emotional level. I would have to say that my writing trends toward the latter. As far as taking ourselves too seriously, that’s never really a problem. We love to joke around and have a good time.
Is there any one song on the album that you think sums up your sound as a band?
I think they all sound like “Stealing Heather” songs. I can’t really say that one song sums up our sound more than any other. I do think that one of the reasons “Breathe Out” was chosen as the initial single is because it is easy to connect with while showing off all the elements that make up the “Stealing Heather” sound (i.e. big drums, big vocals, big guitars, driving bass, cool synths, etc.).
You not only wrote the album but produced it as well, what kind of freedom did that give you producing everything on your own?
Freedom? Well, I don’t know if I would describe the process as being “free” but it did allow me to take as much time as was necessary in order to figure out the best ways to convey my vision and sound. Producing yourself is one of the hardest things you can do as an artist, especially when you are as anal retentive as I am. This is probably why the album took me four years to complete. Nothing was ever “done” until I was completely happy with every detail. The best thing I can say about the process was that when it was completed, the sound that was in my head was on the album, and therefore I wouldn’t trade one moment of the process.
What do you find to be your biggest challenge as an up and coming band?
Even though I came from a fairly well known band, “Stealing Heather” is like starting over from scratch. Luckily we have a wonderful record label and a great team of PR, Radio, etc. backing us up. I can’t imagine being in a band these days without anyone behind you. Plus, we have some of the most supportive and amazing fans I have ever known.
Listening to some of your songs, there’s a real purity to the music, and that’s something that seems to be a bit lost these days in modern music. Was that an important element to you when recording the album?
I think everyone perceives art in his or her own individual way. If to you this album has purity that is amazing. To someone else it might invoke a very different emotion. I can’t really say that purity was an important element to me when making this album, but I can say that connecting with our audience on a true emotional level is something I always strive for when creating music.
What would you hope that someone would take away from listening to the album for the first time?
I guess I would hope that they take away a true connection to the music and adapt that connection to whatever they are experiencing in their own lives.
I was reading your blog and you seem to be very interested in politics – with all the adversity swarming out there right now what would be your advice to anyone who wants to educate themselves on the different sides of things and just be more involved in general?
I encourage everyone to do his or her homework. Don’t just listen to punditry talking points. Research the facts for yourself, and from both sides of the equation. Then, make up your own mind as to how you feel about a certain issue or candidate.
You recently had your record release party, how was that experience for you?
It was an amazing experience that allowed us to connect with our fans from the stage as well as in person. I love doing smaller shows like that where we can really get personal with our audience.
Remember, life is just a symphony where the conductor sometimes loses his rhythm.