Local San Francisco band, HEARTWATCH, is gearing up to perform a fun-filled, energetic show headlining at The Independent for the Noise Pop Music Festival February 24 along with Rin Tin Tiger, Banta, and Future Shapes. Their self-titled album will be released following the show on February 26. After the Noise Pop Music Festival, HEARTWATCH will join The Flavr Blue on a west coast tour through Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland and more.
After a breakout performance at Outside Lands Music Festival, HEARTWATCH has been recording their new self-titled album in Portland with producer/engineer Damien Lewis, who has worked with Kimbra, Marina and the Diamonds, Jill Scott and more, and getting ready for BottleRock music festival in Napa in May.
I got to sit down with the entire band in the Mission District in San Francisco to interview them about their upcoming shows and reflect on past accomplishments, changes in the band and designing their own burger.
EXAMINER: Why did you pick the name HEARTWATCH as your band name and why the change from the previous name The Tropics?
CLAIRE GEORGE (vocals): (HEARTWATCH) was a song we never released, one of the earlier songs we worked on and when we had to change our band name we wanted to do something that still felt like us and felt like the beginning of when we started together and we chose that because it felt like it had the same sentiment as our music and it was something that we shared history with.There was another artist who had a similar name and was causing confusion so we had to work through it and it was right before Outside Lands so we decided to, you know, we thought about sticking with our name because we had it for a couple of years and we were about to play some bigger shows and we were like let’s pick a new name that was good to us and go from there. It’s been relatively seamless.
ERIC SILVERMAN (guitar, keys): It feels like it was a long time ago and it really wasn’t. We pulled the trigger on everything in May/April and now it kind of feels better than the old name ever did. And it feels like the whole process which is really stressful and it feels like we’ve done something right because it feels like a while ago and it feels good.
EXAMINER: How was it recording the new album in Portland with Damien Lewis?
KERN SIGALA (drums): Damien in incredible, we absolutely loved the direction he takes, we all stayed together too in Portland during the whole course of the recordings so we could focus more cohesively without any distractions. That was I think really a positive experience for us.
CG: He comes from more of a pop background. We worked with him on our first record and he did some mixing. We really got along with him. It was really nice to work with him, our new record is a lot more pop and that was an intentional decision. It took us in that direction more and a good push because he really has a solid background in that.
EXAMINER: What were your inspirations for your upcoming album?
CG: I think about we finished our first record we learned a lot from that and we were excited to jump back into songwriting. We learned a lot about our own personal songwriting style. I think we were super excited to get back into the writing mode and a lot of it, this is the first band I’ve ever been in, I left my job for a while and I had a lot of time to reflect on what I wanted in my life, so the actual writing of the lyrics came out from some of that, becoming a real band and that’s why we’re self-titling it too. It is an expression of who we are as a band. For me, a lot of change was going on at the time and we wanted to reflect that and the experience of playing live, the joy of really getting the crowd going, and feeling part of a community I think came out in the new record a little bit too. We wanted to put our live energy into the actual songs.
EXAMINER: How was it performing at Outside Lands last year?
ES: It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. The stage was big, there was a ton of people. It was so loud when you’re playing a big festival. Everything you do, you feel it snap across the speakers. You give a lot of energy and since you are at a festival everyone gives it right back, everyone was having a great time. We had a ton of fans there. My mom got on somebody’s shoulders. We were playing a song on the new record and I looked out and my mom was on top of this guy’s shoulders waving her hands. That was a really good moment, I was a little worried about it
NATE SKELTON (bass): I’ve been playing music for most of my life, it was this really nice moment, my whole family was there, even my extended family, my cousins. Being on that stage, I’ve been to Outside Lands a bunch of times before, it was like a payoff for my life’s work up to this point. I want to keep doing that forever.
ES: it was the pinnacle for most of us
NS: 10 out of 10
CG: we also played Phono del Sol, and I was so nervous for that, I had never played outside before that, and I was so glad that we had that because I would have been way more nervous at Outside Lands. I could kind of relax and really enjoy it.
ROWAN PETER (guitar, vocals): I think the most interesting thing about Outside lands is we got to see behind the scenes. Meeting international bands, that was pretty cool.
EXAMINER: What do you think about the changing music scene here in San Francisco?
CG: I’ve seen a lot of bands move and that’s been a big discussion in almost every interview we do. There’s still a great scene here and there are a lot of bands here sticking it out and I think the community is really strong, actually. I was talking to Mike from Geographer the other day about it and I think there is an effort from people that are still here who really focus on trying to build the community and kind of get rid of that notion that you can’t be an artist in San Francisco. It can be really hard obviously because the price increase in housing and everything. There’s sort of a nurturing community and we’re trying to build that and it feels really good to be a part of .
ES: It’s not like people don’t go to shows.
CG: I have friends to who live in cities where there’s a ton of music, but here people can afford to go to shows. It has its advantages and disadvantages. I don’t think the community is dead by any means, it’s very much alive and people are supportive of it.
EXAMINER: What should your fans and the audience expect for your upcoming music festival performances at Noise Pop and BottleRock?
CG: Get ready for a lot of energy! A lot of dancing. I think that’s where we tend to shine, we love being up on stage and playing together. I think it speaks a lot that we’ve been able to do Outsidelands last year and Bottlerock this year it’s a really good feeling to do that live and we’re kind of a San Francisco band at this point and to be able to branch out to those bigger shows. It’s inspiring to us, I’m winded and sweating by the end of it. We’ve stepped it up when we got this gigs, so get ready for more of that.
ES: The Independent is a great place, we’ve seen hundreds of shows there, we got to play Noise Pop last year there, so to be able to headline it, release the record play this room we really like it’s gonna be a really great nice with awesome bands, some are friends, a band is coming up from LA, Rin Tin Tiger, we’ve been friends a while now. The whole night is going to be good music, everyone is going to have a good time, a lot of energy
CG: Because we are a local band, we’re working on branching out and we played most of our shows in the city and we feel really connected to the city and our fan base is here, we wanted to do some fun stuff in the community so I’m working with with a local chef, WesBurger, who has a burger pop up right across from The Independent, I love hamburgers, let it be known! We’re working on a HEARTWATCH burger and afterwards we’re going to do an after party at San Franpsycho which is down the street and do some record signings, hang out, play some music, we might even DJ.
EXAMINER: Did you create the burger yourselves?
CG: I can’t release the details, it was a very big decision for us, we had a list of lots of things to be on it and I don’t want to step on the toes of the chef, so we’re finalizing this week, we’re excited.
ES: It’s cool to be able to have this new record we recorded almost a year ago and a lot of the songs that are on it, we really tried out for the first time at Noisepop last year and we had just written two of them and played them for the first time then so it feels like full circle. It should be a big party.
Buy tickets to Noisepop Music Festival and save money on their new album release when you buy tickets.
Buy BottleRock music festival tickets