HEIRS Interview

by Anna Denejkina

Brent Stegeman of HEIRS “I feel that I may have aimed too high…”

Written for Voltage Media

Originally published on August 1, 2011

Since their formation, Melbourne-based instrumental post-metal outfit HEIRS has released two studio albums, their latest, the 2010 record entitled Fowl, highlighting a change in the band’s music, a leap forward in composition that is technically complex, and yet holds to a simplicity in its execution.

This October will see the Australian outfit tour nationally as main support to French black metal/shoegaze duo Alcest, but before this, the five-piece is set on releasing a new album, their third studio offering this September.

We recently caught up with guitarist and programmer Brent Stegeman to discuss the forthcoming and as yet untitled new album – a work that for Brent may have been aimed too high, creating a concern that Heirs will not be able to pull it off, nevertheless, “if it does work, it’s going to be fucking awesome!” – as well as their upcoming tour and if the band is spinning another new direction with their latest effort.

Tonight saw your last rehearsal in preparation for the recording of your new 7”, how did everything go? Do you find that the band lays down more of the skeleton with regard to each of the songs – to give yourselves more room when recording – or do you have 100% of each piece completed before tracking in the studio?

Brent Stegeman: We try to have everything as prepared as possible before we head in to the studio. This way we can get down all of the things we feel ‘belong’ in the song as quickly as possible. We often refer back to rehearsal demos, and different electronic reference recordings we make before we start rehearsing, to ensure that any melodic elements aren’t overlooked. Then we have time to layer more ‘experimental’ sounds, and try different sounds and approaches for the main riffs. It took a bit longer to get everything right on this recording, as we are used to working on an entire album at once, as opposed to the 3 songs we put down this time.

How would you describe this record? Would it be safe to say that the band has taken a new direction with its sound, or found itself experimenting, much like with the change from your debut to the latest offering ‘Fowl’?

Brent Stegeman: On each release, we try to expand on something that we touched upon on the previous record, which is guess is a natural progression for any band. Subconsciously assessing what you have done previously and finding something you want to explore further. While Fowl looked toward 80’s industrial and gothic sounds and organic ‘bestial’ themes, this record has a futurist feel – speed, technology, youth and violence.

And how different is the upcoming album to your sophomore release?

Brent Stegeman: I think we have settled in to our own sound with this new material and it is more about what Heirs is, as opposed to the search for what Heirs should be.

Does the new record hold a conceptual motif/meaning to it?

Brent StegemanWe are shooting the artwork for the single next week, and as with all of our records, there is a strong concept that ties the music, titles and artwork together. However, we have set the bar pretty high for this one, so I don’t want to say anything until I have put it all together and know that it works. To be completely honest with you, I feel that I may have aimed too high and been too direct with what I have conceived, and I’m somewhat concerned that we won’t be able to pull it off. But if it does work, it’s going to be fucking awesome!

You’ve just announced a national tour in support of the forthcoming CD – what can your fans expect this time around? And to those who have yet to see you live, how would you describe a ‘typical’ Heirs show?

Brent Stegeman: It’s definitely a different show that we have prepared for the forthcoming tour, compared to our Australian tour for ‘Fowl’. Sound-wise, it’s more akin to what we were doing in Europe last year – the loudest amps available with the best tonal response. Completely overwhelming. I wouldn’t be expecting a ‘typical’ Heirsshow… we have packaged together the best things from our admittedly unpredictable live performances from the last 3 years to create something new and fresh.

Will you up the ante in terms of live performance this time around?

Brent Stegeman: We have produced all of the visual elements prior to commencing rehearsals, so we will be touring something this time that is a ‘full’ experience, where everything works together as a cohesive whole. I’m really proud of what we’ve done visually, and when coupled with the lighting installations we have designed for the stage and the backline we used on our European tour, which we have brought back to Australia, it’s going to be fucking intense!

How did Alcest come about in joining the tour?

Brent Stegeman: We were approached by them to book their tour through our Spanish booking agent, Artur from Wombat Booking.  We have a very strong mutual trust, he knew we were professional and would put on a great tour, and he is also someone who we have a lot of respect for from working with him on our Spanish shows.

I recently came across your LP ‘Alchera’ in Rocking Horse Records in Brisbane – what is your opinion on the forthcoming and inevitable closure of such a hub of the Alternative Australian music culture? [Note: at time of press Rocking Horse announced that they will continue to be open for the ‘forseeable future‘.]

Brent Stegeman: The culture of buying music is changing so rapidly every day, and the unfortunate reality of it is, is that the consumer is shifting over to a terrible format of listening to music ie compressed mp3s.  The whole ideal of owning a well-made stereo and purchasing product that is of utmost audial quality is almost dead, and replaced with compression and bass boost, making everything sound overblown and way too “cinematic”.

We produce vinyl because it is simply the best format, and we produce CDs and MP3s because of their accessibility. To touch upon the actual point of this question… I don’t feel informed enough to make a judgement on why these businesses are closing down, it could be a million different reasons, besides the industry suffering from free downloading.

Have you had first hand experiences with the struggles some bands find within the music industry climate?

Brent Stegeman: Of course. You cannot possibly be involved within this industry, and not be suffering in some way.

However, technology has actually made Heirs exist… we were signed through Myspace, we have booked our tours through the existence of the internet, and 1000’s more people have heard us as opposed to how we would have been known a decade before this. We use recording programs to produce our albums, and we do really well with MP3 sales… so we are completely fine with this shift. It would be quite hard for bands who used to sell a lot of CDs and now sales have declined… but I blame the CD format for this… it is one of the worst products ever invented.

Please feel free to say anything to our readers and your fans!

Brent Stegeman: Thanks for the interview and the time taken to send us informed and researched questions, it means a lot to us when this happens. We hope to see you all on the Alcest tour, thanks again!