Wading into the old school soul-friendly waters that have proved welcoming to Gnarls Barkley, Sharon Jones, and Amy Winehouse of late are some of Wino’s countrymen, The Heavy. The funked-out fivesome hail from Bath, England -- heretofore probably best known musically as the home of 80’s synth-pop duos Tears for Fears and Naked Eyes, and the adopted home of Peter Gabriel. But when I met them last month, it could not have been in a more American setting.
We were on the grounds of Austin, Texas music vet Hank Sinatra’s house, in front of which they played a sweltering afternoon set surrounded by sheep and chickens, beer and BBQ. The night before, it was bunnies for the Brits at the heavily attended Playboy “Rock the Rabbit” party, then they spent the early part of the day in true Texas fashion...shooting guns.
“Yeah, we feel acclimatized to Texas now, man. Magnums and M16’s,” said guitarist Dan Taylor. (They're not all that Bush/Cheney: the "shoot" was actually for a web magazine.) “Hey, Playboy parties and guns," Taylor added. "Welcome to Texas.”
Firearms aside, Taylor maintained that the band “feels more at home here in the States than we do in England, actually.” Maybe that’s because as eclectic as The Heavy are -- their new album Great Vengeance and Furious Fire can sound like a different band from track to track -- it’s all rooted in a classic American sound. “It’s all rhythm and blues basically,” singer Kelvin Swaby said. “But our thing is we can throw in some rock and throw in some hip-hop. It’s all about the bottom end, just very bass-heavy kind of music that will always have a sound-system vibe to it -- even if it’s a country song.”
After some banter about the merits of Taylor’s "bottom end" (um, ha), he added, “We’ve always maintained that each song’s got to be different, to keep things interesting. We’d get bored just playing one style.”
Not unlike the philosophy Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse subscribe to.
I’m telling you: The Heavy and Gnarls Barkley. Could make quite a pair, when Gnarls tours behind their new album -- right? Meantime, catch The Heavy when they kick off their own US tour in two weeks, a trek that will include a few more Playboy parties. Just to, you know, keep connected to American culture.