Beaches and best friends: The Heirlooms kick off summer early + ‘Ma-Me-O Beach’ album premiere

Monday 07th, March 2016 / 02:08
By Willow Grier is proud to premiere Ma-Me-O Beach, the second album from Calgary troupe The Heirlooms. The album expounds upon their previous live-off-the-floor release, adding a permanent bass player to their lineup and capitalizing on their evolving and fresh psych-pop creativity. Lyricist/vocalist Kat Westermann has incorporated a newly explored new depth and spiritual philosophy to bring about some of the band’s most mature and insightful work. Listen to Ma-Me-O Beach below and scroll down to read writer Willow Grier’s chat with the band.

CALGARY — Immediately upon meeting with The Heirlooms, it’s easy to tell how much they value their internal connection. From the way they do their best to include every band member in every outing and endeavour, to how they prompt other members for their opinions during the interview, to their emphasis on the importance of getting their thank you’s out (for the record: Will Moralda, Evan Freeman, Tyler Jenkins, Ivory Hours, and Mayor Naheed Nenshi for his support of the arts). And of course, the way that they speak fondly about their bandmates’ contributions to the album. Guitarist Matthew Spreen even cites his favourite new song of theirs to be one that he “had absolutely nothing to do with,” solely because it showcases the feel of the album, and his bandmates’ talents so well. The air of synchronicity is strong. And according to The Heirlooms, it was a strangely perfect sequence of events that brought them together in the first place.

The Heirlooms got their start with a chance meeting at a birthday party between vocalist Kat Westermann and Spreen, and evolved to include guitarist Bobby Henderson after a live Fleetwood Mac cover that Westermann contributed vocals for. After the song, Henderson recalls marvelling to himself, “I need to play music with this girl.” Soon the trio would collect drummer Kyle Edwards after he walked into Westermann’s work with a visible drumstick tattoo, conveniently as they were deep within their search for a drummer. Things seemed to be progressing naturally to be sure. The foursome recorded their first album in five short hours, in a live off the floor setting, where the band prefers to do most of their work. The album showed tremendous promise, received great reviews and seemed to be the perfect tool to break into the Calgary music scene. Mere days after its release, Heirlooms members who were not already located in the city would uproot and relocate to follow a hopefully building momentum.

After promoting their debut, the band desired to deepen and progress their sound. Jordan Potekal of Marwood recordings, who the band had recorded with, “literally learned bass for the band,” as they excitedly relay. Finally, with a full lineup, The Heirlooms set out to make an album that further encapsulated their growing psychedelic pop-rock style, but perhaps more calculated.

The Heirlooms release their sophomore album to the theme of “love, light, and UFOs.” Photo illustration: Issakidis Photography, edited by Kat Westermann

The Heirlooms release their sophomore album to the theme of “love, light, and UFOs.”
Photo illustration: Issakidis Photography, edited by Kat Westermann

“With the first album we needed to break into the scene, but with this one we wanted to be more strategic, and think about how we do things the best,” explains Westermann. Taking three days this time around, the band packed up and headed to Henderson’s family cabin at Ma-Me-O Beach, which is where the album got its name. The chronicling of the haphazard, adventurous, yet strangely fruitful weekend will be released on the band’s Facebook page in anticipation for their album. Despite battling a tight schedule, playing a show hours away in the same weekend, illness, the limitations of a pop-up studio setup and more, the album came together beautiful. “I don’t know how it worked out, but it worked out,” Henderson exclaims.

From the opening refrain of “Introduction,” the first track of Ma-Me-O Beach, it is clear this band knows how to create atmosphere. With crunchy, blues-rock guitar, muted keys and sultry, silken vocals that quietly work their way into the mix halfway through, the track is a pleasing way to ease listeners in. Followed then by the sprightly and flirty “Touch You,” the band shows early on the range they have, transitioning between a cinematic and emotional bluesy soundscape and a punchy, pop-hook-laden sunny escape. Westermann’s insightful lyricism begins to shine at the forefront on “Somebody’s Song.” Westermann explains what inspired her writing, saying, “I think everyone feels that they want to find their life purpose and be someone, whoever that is. It’s that longing feeling to succeed in your own way, but not to bypass or take advantage of those around you. And being that something/someone to those that matter to you, that’s the most important.”

Photo: Issakidis Photography

Photo: Issakidis Photography

The album continues on its varied, hypnotic path with the chaotic and spooky “Meltdown,” the chilled, tripping, and bluesy “Interlude,” and the lullaby-like, piano rooted “Hold On.” The album then seems to reach an even grander high with its conclusion, “Blendin.” Though not as overtly gripping as some other tracks, it is a seamless combination of instrumentation, character, and fervor, and includes one of the best vocal efforts of the album. The track was actually a revival of an unfinished song “that completely sucked,” as Westermann describes it, but with new life breathed into it from all members of the close collective, became something extraordinary.

On the whole, The Heirlooms appear to have stumbled upon, or rather manifested, an ideal creative coalition. Both within their own band, and within the collective of musicians they are now aligned with (Windigo, The Ashley Hundred, and the rest of Calgary’s Fossil Records), they are poised to make the most of their evolving sound, and friendship-fuelled propulsion. “It’s so awesome the kind of support we’ve been getting,” Edwards beams. “When we first started, they were the bands we were looking up to,” adds Spreen regarding their fine Fossil friends. Now nestled within the heart of up-and-coming Calgarian powerhouses alike, The Heirlooms are finding the space they need to grow and glow. Westermann contributes concluding words for those looking to find their place in the artistic world: “To everyone struggling as an artist, keep at it. Love yourself, love your art and someone is gonna pick up on those vibes.”

Catch The Heirlooms’ album release party with Evan Freeman and Ivory Hours at the Palomino Smokehouse & Bar in Calgary on March 11th.

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