Feature HeyRocco2*

Published on January 29th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann

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Indie Trio Heyrocco Hits the Road with ‘Elsewhere’ in Hand

If 2012 was a year of musical development and studio experimentation for rock trio Heyrocco, 2013 might be a more pivotal time for the Charleston-based threesome. With a recently released, self-recorded album on hand and a studio-crafted EP on the horizon, the band is confident and ready for push forward.

Guitarist/singer Nathan Jake Merli, bassist Christopher Cool, and drummer Tanner Cooper spent time in a blues/rock band during their final high school years, but they took a significant detour after forming Heyrocco in 2010, aiming for melodic alternative-rock, indie-pop, and atmospheric styles.

“I like to think that we’re maybe finding a little bit of a sound,” says Merli, Heyrocco’s main songwriting force. “I write the lyrics, but I have a lot of songs that I’ve written singer/songwriter style, and then I’ll take them to the garage, but normally it just doesn’t work very well. Tanner and Chris like to get their hands on things, and I respect that. So I’m going to play the songs that just feel good and are totally honest.”

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In 2011, the band entered James Island recording studio Ocean Industries to track a batch of songs in with local promoter Johnny Diamond (of management company New Tone) at the helm. Sadly, Diamond died in November of that year, halting the production and release of the recordings.

“We kind of felt a big detachment from those songs,” Merli says, looking back on the Ocean Industries sessions. “From there, we recorded 11 songs in Chris’ room [a home studio nicknamed Birthright Studios], mainly for comfort.”

Merli and his bandmates released their home recordings online as an album titled Comfort in April, 2012. “We were really into old Sonic Youth albums, so we were all about the lo-fi,” he says.

From there, Heyrocco worked on demos with local musicians Joel Hamilton (of Mechanical River) and Ryan Zimmerman (of Brave Baby, Elim Bolt), and they eventually landed at downtown facility Hello Telescope with producers Josh Kaler (of Slow Runner) and Jay Clifford (ex-Jump).

“We really hit it off, right off the bat,” Merli says of Kaler. “When Johnny first set us up [in 2011] and suggested a bunch of producers, and we were like, ‘No, we wanna produce it ourselves,’ but we didn’t know what the hell we were talking about. Our recordings ended up very poorly produced, and they didn’t have a lot of ear candy in them. But we were big Slow Runner fans, and we really trusted Josh as a producer, so we were more open, It was a little nerve-racking for us, but I think the new stuff turned out really well.”

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Heyrocco at the Tin Roof (photo by Ballard Lesemann)

The recording sessions with Kaler resulted in a half-dozen tracks, including a quirky, upbeat, clean-sounding song “Elsewhere.” Heyrocco released it as a single online in January to promote an upcoming tour and a forthcoming EP (featuring “Elsewhere”) to be released in the spring.

Merli says that “Elsewhere” demonstrates the “dark, fun pop sound” they’re going for these days. There’s nothing very bluesy about the thumping drum beats, chugging baselines, or off-kilter guitar work.

“Our writing process is actually super collaborative,” Merli says. “We really just start it in the garage from a melody or a chorus and we really break each song down. We get a little white board out, draw arrows, and demo it. We demo it and pick it apart from a rough draft to a final product. It gives it a fresh creative sound. I think ‘Elsewhere’ is the happiest song of the bunch. I’ve been really into the Cure lately, and that dark pop sound is in there. But it’s definitely still pretty rockin;, especially live, But there have to be some pop elements there.”

While the band has spent much of the last few months in studios and rehearsal spaces, they plan to stretch out this winter with a string of live shows. Last week, the trio opened for hometown colleagues Crowfield at the Visulite Theater in Charlotte, N.C., and they headlined their own gig at the Local 506 in Chapel Hill, N.C. After a show at the Royal American this weekend, they embark on a three-week tour around the Southeast and Midwest — the longest road trip of their career so far.

“On the live side of things, we’re trying to play as much as we can and build relationship with bands and clubs,” Merli says. “We want to build things up and hold as many cards as we can. We want to connect with people we trust, people who believe in what we’re doing. We’re booked heavily in February and March, and we’re really giving this thing a go,” Merli says. “We sold our old vehicle and got the old Slow Runner Econoline van, so we’re ready.”

Heyrocco headlines a free show at the Royal American with support from Villa Verde at 9 p.m. on Fri. Feb. 1. Visit heyrocco.tumblr.com for more info.

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Heyrocco’s Winter 2013 Tour Dates:

Feb. 2 — Conundrum Music Hall, Columbia
Feb. 5 — The Basement, Nashville, Tenn.
Feb. 6 — Kazoo’s, Louisville, Ken.
Feb. 7 — The Den Theatre, Chicago, Ill.
Feb. 8 — Tree Bar, Columbus, Ohio
Feb. 9 — The Shea Stadium, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Feb. 11 — Blue Nile, Harrisonburg, Vir.
Feb. 12 — The Nightlight, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Feb. 13 — The Evening Muse, Charlotte, N.C.
Feb. 15 — The Radio Room, Greenville
Feb. 16 — Farm 225, Athens, Ga.
Feb. 22 — The Satellite, Wilmington, N.C.
March 7 — Savannah Stopover Fest, Savannah, Ga.

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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.



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