Ziyad Asrar: How’d you guys meet? How did you start “the Hecks”?
Andrew Mosiman: Zach and I met 8 or 9 years ago. We worked at the same grocery store. I wasn’t really playing music, and he didn’t play music at all. Before we even went to a Chicago show, we independently wanted to be “road dogs”. Like, “We’ll be a two piece band, and we’ll travel all the time, and we’ll make enough money to get by.” We didn’t realize that there are thousands of bands going on tour. We pretty immediately scrapped that. We were a two piece band for four years; then we met Dave at Jason Ballas’ birthday party. Zach and I wanted to do some recording, and Dave was an engineer and had a studio and was working on a series of singles that he was going to put up on the internet. We started working on a record together as a two piece and somewhere in that process, all three of us were working on it and Dave was playing guitar. Half way through tracking we said, “You’re in the band now.” It just made sense, and we’ve never turned back.
As a guitar player, you do some really interesting things with tunings that may be seen as a bit unorthodox. What’s inspiring about using an instrument in a way that you’re theoretically not supposed to.
Andrew: You get to encounter things. When you manipulate and tune the guitars that way, you have to be led by the instrument. You can’t just play anything you want to on it. Those tunings are very, very limiting. If you want to put a note in somewhere but can’t physically reach it, you have to come up with something different. In that way, it’s kind of fun - you have to use your ingenuity. It’s an interesting way to go about writing and playing. It’s like when you’re a kid and you get a little chord book, and it’s a bunch of shapes and patterns and you’re trying things and you’re just like “bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, GOOD! WHAT WAS THAT?” I think everybody does that to a certain extent, but with these instruments it’s exclusively what you’re doing.
Dave Vettraino: When we’re working in these tunings, I don’t think about what notes I’m playing. That’s how we write - by trying stuff until it sounds good and then figuring out what’s going on after the fact. It’s like when you’re first learning guitar, except sometimes the alternate tunings make stuff sound good.
Is there a similar approach to percussion and rhythm as well?
Zach Hebert: I started playing drums with the band. As Andrew was discovering how to play this fucked up guitar, I was discovering how to play drums. That’s informed the way I play. I didn’t really develop the same habits as someone who started playing drums when they were 10. It’s cool to start as an adult and apply what you are learning immediately to the needs of a specific project. There’s more instinct involved.
Dave, you recorded the self-titled record. It’s really great. Super consistent and vibey throughout. Can you tell us a little bit about how you get those sounds?
Dave: All of the Hecks recordings are done more or less start to finish on the tape machine. You have a track limitations and you can’t save alternate takes so you really need the right performance. Our mixing environment is pretty weird ambiguous phrase just drifts out simple in terms of analog options so you have to get the sound 90% of the way there on the way in to the tape. There aren’t 10 inserts of plugins to use to manipulate it later. We have two out- board compressors, a couple EQs and a really tiny mixer. It’s important to get the song sonically there while we’re tracking, which can make for a bit longer process.
**Andrew, you use a lot of imagery in your lyrics. Any insight there? What inspires you when you’re crafting these stories that ultimately wind up in a song? **
Andrew: The lyrics are ever changing, until they’re tracked. I’ll often just paint a little scene and try to stay honest to it while sketching a bunch of stuff out and then refining it over time. Sometimes when you have an idea of what you want to say, but if you’re not clearly stating it in a sentence, there’s a chance the meaning of it is going to get lost. That’s kind of be the fun part though, when a weird ambiguous phrase just drifts out there and people fill in the blanks on their own.
Chicago is a great place to be an artist and make music. What are your favorite parts of being a working musician in Chicago as opposed to other cities?
Andrew: Everyone seems like they work so much harder here. In Tennessee, someone would come over to hang out at your house and be there for three days. When I moved here, it seemed like people were always scuttling off because they had some work to get done. I really appreciated that. It’s changed the way that I do things and informs the way we work on this project, which is probably the thing I work on the hardest. I think Chicago is great for that, you really see people giving a shit, which is inspiring.