For Kelv Swaby and the other members of England’s The Heavy, who play at Velvet Jones on Monday, April 25, the past four years have been, in a word, heavy. “We all went through a ton of shit – [guitarist] Dan [Taylor] and I went through so many personal changes, some of which would have broken many people,” he said. For Swaby, this included a divorce, and the subsequent re-evaluation and re-establishment of relationships. “Between all of that there was some horrible personal shit to deal with… and figuring out the relationship, what it was that you wanted from this, what you didn’t need from it, and what you believed you were gonna get from it.”
It’s these trying and challenging experiences – and the way the band bounced back from them – that shaped the name of their newest album, Hurt & The Merciless. “Whatever shit has been thrown at you, however many amounts of hurt has been thrown at you, the way we deal with it is mercilessly. You’re gonna be alright, you’re gonna be alright, we’re still standing, we’re still standing,” he said. “And we thought Hurt & The Merciless sanded like a pretty badass spaghetti western.”
Badass would be a good word to describe their newest, in which the band belts out blues-y and gloriously gospel-inflected rock songs with some of the biggest choruses and loudest blasts of brass of their career. The band’s sound has always been a distillation of the American culture that filled TV screens and radio airwaves in the band’s youth. “When we were growing up, British culture was steeped with American culture – there were westerns on every weekend, and on American TV shows some of the most incredible music would be playing,” Swaby recalls. Blues-rock, gospel, garage punk, bebop and rock steady – all manner of music can be heard in the explosive power of The Heavy.
The band took some risks with the newest album, Swaby said, both stylistically and in the level of attention paid towards sonic detail. Much of the album was recorded on decades-old vintage recording equipment, giving it a much more “tactile” and “authentic” quality. Swaby also found more flexibility and range in his voice. “I find my voice being able to do thing that I haven’t tried to do before. It was a joy exploring my capability, to see what I’ve been able to achieve,” he said.
Lyrically, the band has a knack for writing anthems of triumph, as in their sports fan favorite, “How Do You Like Me Now?” One of their newest singles, “Turn Up,” is Swaby’s message to his son, an aspiring DJ. He encourages his son to pursue his dreams, but reminds him the need of hard work, self-initiative, and self-honesty. “It’s not gonna be easy and it’s not gonna be a road people pave for you, you have to pave it yourself. You have to turn up, and be the best you that you can,” he said.
Swaby encourages the people of S.B. to turn up for their upcoming show at Velvet Jones, which will also feature openers U.S. Elevator. “We’re looking forward to getting out and unleashing what we do as a band. I think we’ve become better and more coherent,” he asid. “It’s definitely well-worth coming out to see. Whether we play as a five, six, seven, or nine piece you’re gonna get an incredible show.”
The Heavy and U.S. Elevator play Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Monday, April 25 at 8 p.m.