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February 2021
Cover Story

INHEAVEN: World on fire

With their debut album finally here, INHEAVEN are ready to watch it all burn.
Published: 9:08 am, September 08, 2017
INHEAVEN: World on fire

With their debut album finally here, INHEAVEN are ready to watch it all burn.

Words: Heather McDaid. Photos: Phil Smithies.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]INHEAVEN are sitting in an abandoned factory. James Taylor and Chloe Little have a hard day of work planned, finding ever-more work to do, even with their self-titled debut recorded and ready to go. Why relax? It's a waiting game, but a productive one.

"Chloe and I are this weird factory," explains James. "I was obsessed with counter-culture. I guess we wanted to create our own Warhol type scenario where we are our own factory; we are our own studio, we are our own designers. We write music, then Chloe and I discuss the visuals right there, and a lot of the songs spark of video ideas. And it goes from there."

The South-London foursome are completed by Jake Lucas and Joe Lazarus, and their DIY ethics are well-lauded by now – no one knows the ideas floating around inside their heads better than themselves, and so they set to work. They do it all. ‘Regeneration', their first hazy blast into the world, was written over a collage of thousands of images Chloe had compiled – it became a catalyst for all to follow.

"We started feeding everything out onto the internet on a weird website that had all this cool stuff," he says. "Back when we were called Blossom, you'd click on the letter O, and a secret video would pop up of one of the songs, click somewhere else, like on the flower that was on the tongue, you'd find another."

That unique approach caught the attention of The Strokes' Julian Casablancas and Cult Records ("Probably my number one day ever," notes James. "That's a big claim," laughs Chloe), and a bunch of self-made videos, zines, touring and around a hundred songs later, it was time for their debut album.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row
[vc_column][vc_single_image image="24087" img_size="full" add_caption="yes" alignment="center
[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Five years is a long time for some people to get to their first full-length album, but for INHEAVEN it felt just right. "We wanted it to be solid from start to finish," explains James. "We already kind of know what we're going to do for the second record, and we already sort of have an idea down and a few songs for the third. We always wanted to release a trilogy of albums."

"I think the reason it's taken so long is that we spent a lot of time touring for two years and getting really good as a band," continues Chloe. Honing their craft in a live setting has built their confidence and capabilities as musicians. "Now just feels the right time to put out our debut record. If we'd have done it before, it would have been too early for us. If we had waited any longer, it would have felt stale. We feel like now is the perfect time for us."

"pull" text="Now is the perfect time for us.

"I think, for bands especially, there are no shortcuts," James notes. "You have to get into a van. When no one's heard of you, you have to get in a van for three years and tour up and down the country until people know who you are what your songs are about. It's not like the pop world where you can release one song and suddenly play Shepherd's Bush Empire - you have to put in the work, you have to put in the hours, and you have to play as many places as possible. Now we have that solid foundation, it feels like the perfect place to start building on this."

INHEAVEN's album feels like one of two halves, the personal and the political. ‘Stupid Things' twinkles and soars declaring, "I don't wanna grow up, I just wanna be with you", where ‘Baby's Alright' stomps to life taking clear focus: "Lonely kids of the USA, fight a war in a foreign state […] Pull the trigger now or face your fate, in a messed up place where hate breeds hate". These two distinct strands thread around one another into an album that combines decades of influences effortlessly. ‘Treats' viciously spits on the state of the world, ‘Velvet' lulls you angelically into other realms. Drift away and relax, channel frustration and anger, INHEAVEN navigate the dichotomy flawlessly.

"I always loved those albums where you listen from start to finish, and it takes you on a journey," says James. "We wanted to have those breaks in the middle with ‘Do You Dream', and we wanted to end it with a more atmospheric, cinematic song like ‘Velvet' where you just fall into the world which we invented. The best albums have diversity on them. The worst is where people just do the same song ten times – I hate that. We wanted to show what we were capable of. We wanted to show all the different angles of how we feel."[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link="
" align="center[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]INHEAVEN cannot be accused of doing the same song ten times over. ‘Bitter Town' jangles to life triumphantly – picture that scene at the end of a movie when they realise they'd been missing the obvious all along and run past everyone else to their happy ending. This is the soundtrack. ‘Drift' is the perfect summer song, ‘Vultures' is INHEAVEN's brand of anarchy bottled.

"It's quite an honest representation of us over the years of which it was written," says Chloe. "The political angle was just impossible to ignore, things we have been discussing and feeling. If you're angry, you write a song about it, if you're in love you write a song about it. Politics is no different."

"You have to have some depth in a record," James adds. "Some of our favourite albums have those big uplifting angry moments. It's just important to have light and shade like yin and yang. I've never really thought in genres," he continues, on his favourites in music. "I think in movements. My favourite movements were 1960s counterculture, 1970s punk, 1990s grunge probably 1980s indie and DIY culture, Britpop. I definitely look at music in that fashion."

Names are never named on INHEAVEN's debut, but the feeling is clear and moulds itself to the world around us, and various people. Take ‘World on Fire', it's a political punch declaring, "We'll build a wall and kill them all, ‘til he's the last man standing tall, stupid is as stupid does, a man who lies you cannot trust […] Power over honesty." The video, however, focuses on the era of Salem Witch Trials. It works on both counts; their work applies itself to many situations.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row[vc_column][vc_single_image image="24080" img_size="full" add_caption="yes" alignment="center[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The world unfolding around us affects everyone, but often people can be very wary on publicly addressing political attitudes in particular. "When you have someone pushing their views on other people there's a social obligation to be vocal about things that you think are wrong in the world," begins Chloe. "Especially bands. There's a history of revolutionary music and musicians speaking out against the powers that be. It's important to do it, and most people don't want to - especially mainstream media, pop artists and all that. Having said that, 2017 has seen a lot more people be more vocal, don't you think?"

"Yeah," agrees James. "We are very inspired by the 1960s counterculture period, the rock'n'roll movement that came through. We always wanted to mirror what was going on in our society, and we wanted to mean something to people. I think that you owe it to everyone that came before you to carry that flame and to push forward. It's so exciting and fucked up at the moment - you see so many kids politically motivated and engaged to say things, so many young people, it's really inspiring for us as a band.

"We really want to evoke that feel, and it comes through particularly in our live shows. We see the reaction the kids have to the more politically charged stuff like ‘Treats', ‘Baby's Alright' and ‘Regeneration' – they blow up and go absolutely crazy. They come up to us after shows and talk to us about politics, and it's a really amazing thing."

"If you can be smart with your lyrics rather than be like ‘Down with Thatcher, this is what I believe'," explains Chloe, "when you are more ambiguous, then people come up to you and say ‘Is that song about Trump? Is that song about this person?' You can make your own interpretations."

"We never say the word Trump [in our music] for example - that would be lame," notes James. "There is no way of escaping politics at the moment, and I think that bands should be reflecting on it. If they're not, then that can create a form of escapism. For INHEAVEN, we would prefer to tackle it head on."

"pull" text="It's so exciting and fucked up at the moment.

It can be interesting to see the reaction to politics being involved in music – "keep your politics out of my music!" is a common cry in various forms, "just make music" another. But music is inherently political – many genres were forged around politics and protest. Punk is defiance; Riot Grrrl was pivotal in bringing a feminist consciousness into an already political movement. To see music as separate from the world around us is to ignore the importance of what musical protest and anger have afforded for decades before us – not everything has to be a distraction, art forms can also be a mirror, a challenge, a refusal to sit quietly by and watch people burn the world.

"I hate it when people say stick to the music," sighs James. "Music is meant to reflect society. It's not meant to always be shiny and nice and escapist. Some of the best music of the last century were politically charged songs, even if you didn't know that they were. I love the fact that Bruce Springsteen's ‘Born in the USA' was so anti-America, but it became an American anthem. I've always loved that about music - when people interpret it so heavily the wrong way."[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row[vc_column][vc_single_image image="24086" img_size="full" add_caption="yes" alignment="center[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The ability to be ambiguous in their words but crystal clear on their targets allows INHEAVEN to capture feelings that let you apply your own life, feelings and experiences. It feels a fairly standard question to ask if any songs stand out to them for the story behind them – often it can be a news story that sparked a furious songwriting session, a realisation in life that was worked out through lyrics. For INHEAVEN, it's a journey that involves "that weird place in Wales" and resulted in ‘Treats'.

"We went to the edge of this little Welsh town on a cliff with a really dark looking sea around it, one of the cheapest we could find on Airbnb," he says. ("40 quid a day!" remembers Chloe.) "The farm was still being built, and they had this weird little cabin that you could rent out. We wanted to create the perfect song to mosh to. ‘Treats' has these little moments in it where it just jumps away for a second, where Chloe's singing and the music just builds and builds. It was literally made for mosh pits. So, there was this pagan circle that we found on-site-"

"It was like this old pagan stone circle," laughs Chloe. James continues, "I had the music and Chloe wrote some great lyrics for the verse. We couldn't get the chorus. I kept trying to write over it, but everything sounded like some lame rock chorus. The riff's so heavy, we thought it would be too masculine to have a male voice, so Chloe went and stood in the middle of the stone circle for like ten minutes, and when she came back, she just hummed the melody over the top of the chorus. Oh my god! Amazing! If it wasn't for the pagan circle that song might have been lost in time."

The cliff-side solitude was a very exciting time for them – they wrote a number of favourites including ‘Vultures' and ‘World on Fire'. "The lyrics were very post-apocalyptic with no people around," says Chloe. "We were imagining the end of the world - imagine living there with no one around."[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width="stretch_row[vc_column][vc_single_image image="24078" img_size="full" add_caption="yes" alignment="center[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Their post-apocalyptic visions are striking, but the more you listen, the more unveils itself. It's something they will build on in other areas as time goes on. "The best records make sense over a long period," says James. "We have always tried to make things that you can look back on, and they make sense. You can see the bands that have sat around a table and discussed all the artwork. You can also tell from a mile off when it looks like stock logos and stock graphics and stock music videos. There's the hot directors of that moment and seem to be doing all the bands of that moment; they blur together. From doing it ourselves, we have found the best way to separate ourselves."

"I'm proud our artwork and our videos don't look like anyone else," notes Chloe. "You can contract the shiny and the sheen of the modern music videos, but it's better to embrace your own strengths. That's what we've done."

The artwork, the videos, everything that goes along with the music isn't an afterthought – it's all equally important, various pieces of the same puzzle. "We just want people to fall into our world and understand us," James notes. "The artwork – [open mouths, tongues out, consuming the same thing] - represents the constant consuming of new music that happens today, how music gets devalued constantly. By keeping each single artwork the same, we wanted to represent that monotonous cycle of churning out new music and streaming; the fact people get bored of stuff in like two weeks now.

"We wanted to create our very own version of The Factory, the pop art Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Diptych. It's the same image, but it changes slightly through different perspectives and colours – that's what our artwork represents."

The consumption of art has changed, but while they're critical of music's devaluation, it's also the perfect era in which they think INHEAVEN could have grown from. It's an age where you can listen to all the music that's come before you in the click of a button, where influences that reside decades apart can collide and create together in ways rarely seen before. It's another one of the many serendipitous happenings that makes right now INHEAVEN's perfect moment, and one they're going for with all they've got.

It's been five years, countless tours, over one hundred songs and, of course, one pagan circle in the making. How have they found the experience of bringing their debut to life in just three words? "Euphoric, exciting, delicious," beams James; Chloe adds simply, "Dream come true."

Their self-made factory's latest work is their finest yet, but it's only one piece of their ever-growing puzzle.


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