It’s February and the world has already been enriched by an incredible release by David Bowie, even as we eagerly await Iggy Pop’s new record. What year is this again?
Sure, The Aura’s Saturn Day E.P. just came out, so maybe it only sounds like it’s the ’70s. But somewhere midway through the cabin-fever phase of winter, we jacked into a sonic jolt of ’60’s-sounding confection released since 2013 by the wonderfully named Heaven’s Gateway Drugs, and damn if they have not made that morning commute through igloo tunnels and slush all the merrier.
Here’s the precise route we followed to our new discovery: Uncut steered us toward Heaters, the Grand Rapids-spawned Psychabilly band, and we liked their Holy Water Pool so much that we stuck our mitts deep into the guts o’ Google and began pulling up whatever we could find. Sure enough, Heaters’ve played a few times with a band from Fort Wayne, Indiana going by the instantly alluring moniker of Heaven’s Gateway Drugs, and once we listened to their 2015 single “Copper Hill,” we were ready to sell our possessions and hit the road.
Here’s what they say on their website:
“Heaven’s Gateway Drugs is a counterculture cult rock band hailing from Fort Wayne, Indiana, a rust belt city best known for its abundance of churches and strip clubs. Despite being born in a location that couldn’t be farther from a psychedelic epicenter, Heaven’s Gateway Drugs creates a unique combination of freakbeat, west coast psych, mod, and eastern drone to create a sound that is just at home today as it was in 1968.
This description only addresses part of the total experience that is Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. The group is led by Ben Carr, an enigmatic, psychedelic Pied Piper of sorts who entrances audiences with his movements and urges those in attendance to become one with the band. Remember always, ‘you are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs.'”
With that in mind, we downloaded their first two albums, You Are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs, self-released in 2013, and Apropos, which came out the next year. Days later, when we stumbled out of the rec room here at Tulip Frenzy World HQ, we reached out to the band with some questions, principal among them finding out when their third rec would be released into the wild. Here’s what they told us.
Q. I’ve really enjoyed listening to the “Copper Hill” single, and then to Apropos and You Are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. Is “Copper Hill” a glimpse of what we might expect on a third HGD album, or is it meant to stand on its own?
A. “Copper Hill” was chosen to be the lead single for the upcoming record because we definitely felt it stood on its own while also offering a preview of the rest of the album.
Q. Where do things stand with your third album? Tell us about what you’re going for, and how it expands upon what you’ve done before.
A. The album is finished, we are currently waiting on the artwork, and as soon as we have that everything will be sent to the press. So if all goes well we should have the vinyl in hand in a couple of months. After Apropos was recorded the band went through some line-up changes over the subsequent months. All the songs on this new album were written with the band’s new line-up and while there are some sonic differences, it feels very much like a Heaven’s Gateway Drugs record.
Q. Coming upon the band in sort of reverse order of your releases gives an interesting — maybe confusing! — glimpse into what’s going on, as “Copper Hill” to our ears sounds a little more like a follow up to You Are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs than Apropos. Where does that 2015 song fit in the band’s evolution?
A. That is an interesting observation. Both “Copper Hill” and You Are… were recorded to tape which always imparts some kind of magic in the tone of the recording. Also, the fact that we have some new members means we worked to find our sound as a new unit much like we did on the first record when the band had just formed.
Q. You Are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs has a really great sound, and when I hear it I can imagine you on the river stage at Levitation/Austin Psych Fest as the kids sway in the evening light; with the exception of “Fall Back Down Again,” Apropos seems a little more of a highly crafted pop album. The former album seems like it could have been recorded in LA circa 1968, the latter seems like London six months later. How do you guys think of the evolution between album #1 and #2?
A. That’s a huge compliment, thank you! We made the trip down to Austin for Psych Fest 2 years ago and the River Stage was amazing. Everything was new with the first record. When we first formed the group, no one brought songs to the band with them, we wrote everything together at rehearsals. I think the first album captures us feeling out where we wanted to go with the band. By the time we began working on the songs for the second album we had a better sense of who we were and what we wanted to go for sonically.
Q. Your sound is unique and original. Which actually makes us even more curious about what bands you consider influences — both the bands you guys have loved over time and whose records you love right now. To us you really are in your own category — not psych, not ’60s revivalists, not garage, but elements of all three. We think we hear echoes of bands like BJM and the Warlocks, but then you seem like you’re invoking, I dunno, the Kinks or some other mid-’60s British Invasion band after they had their first hit of weed. So the maybe question is: who plays at your dream festival?
A. All of the bands you listed and most of the bands playing Austin Psych Fest this year. That line-up is insane. (Editors note: Levitation/Austin Psych Fest this year features Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Black Angels, Black Mountain, Courtney Barnett, woods, Super Furry Animals, and more!)
Q. What are your plans for world domination, because clearly as great as Fort Wayne may be, it’s time you were knocking ’em down in LA and NY, too. Touring in 2016? CJM? East Coast? West Coast?
A. Being based out of the midwest we can get to a ton of cities in 3-4 hours so we tend to do lots of weekend warrior runs. Once the record is out there will be some longer jaunts. CMJ would be great and hitting some other places out east while we’re there. We have a ton of friends in Austin so we’d love to get down there for a visit as well.
So there you have it. 2016 will be notable for new PJ Harvey, new Woods, and that Iggy collaboration with Josh Homme sounds amazing. For us, though? We can’t wait for the new album by Heaven’s Gateway Drugs, who have lit up our winter with an amber and pulsating glow.
Here’s the gateway to Heaven’s Gateway Drugs.