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Show Them How It's Done: H.E.A.T Out To Put Melodic Rock Back On The Map

Wednesday, 09 April 2014 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Gustaf Sandholm Andersson

At a time when Bon Jovi have become increasingly bland and the rest of the ‘80s brigade are approaching pensionable age, melodic rock badly needs a young band with killer tunes to carry the genre forward. Cue Swedish superstars in the making H.E.A.T.

This rocket-fuelled quintet released their acclaimed self-titled debut album in 2008, with an equally lauded second effort, 'Freedom Rock', following two years later. The wheels nearly came off when vocalist Kenny Leckremo quit shortly after, until Swedish Idol winner Erik Gronwall was recruited to take his place.

'Address The Nation' was a stunning debut for Gronwall a couple of years ago, with the band producing their best album to date aided by a new frontman whose voice, charisma and energy could well take them to the next level.

Fast forward to 2014 and their highly anticipated fourth album - 'Tearing Down The Walls' - is generating rave reviews of its own prior to its April 14 release. Stereoboard caught up with bassist Jimmy Jay to talk about the new record, an unlikely Abba influence and the future of melodic rock.

You must be delighted with the reception for the first single off your new album -  A Shot At Redemption?

Yeah, we're very happy about it. We knew that we loved the song but it's nice to get confirmation that our taste is pretty good.

This is your second record with Erik. Was the creative process different from 'Address The Nation'?

It was the same, except before 'Address...' we all needed to get to know each other as songwriters. That part was already out of the way this time.  We had so much material left over from 'Address...' that we wanted to go through that and see if there was anything useful. Then we wrote songs for 'Tearing Down The Walls' as we usually do and picked out the best ones for recording.

Did touring with Erik and the reaction to him make you more comfortable this time out?

I think so, mainly for him. I've always been 100% confident in Erik and that he's the right guy for the job. I've never been uncomfortable with what the fans would think because I knew they would love him. But I think Erik feels more comfortable and that makes him even better.

The new album feels darker, moodier and rocks harder. Would you agree with that?

Yeah, I do agree with it. During the writing process we weren't thinking 'oh, we should make this album darker', we were just writing what we felt like listening to and were inspired by. Then, when we were choosing the songs we're like 'these are a little bit darker'. But I felt when we started to write that this had more of a deep feeling and a little more substance. It will take a few more spins than 'Address...' did.

Tracks like Point Of No Return, Eye For An Eye and Enemy In Me sound angrier, but in more of a defiant way than an aggressive one.

Yeah – it's not that angry, it's just determined. I think it's a very confident sound and there's more power behind it. You can't lose the rock in melodic rock. You really need to have it.

There are some nice twists on the album that feel like your sound has evolved while still being characteristically H.E.A.T.

Yeah, we're always trying to push boundaries and 'Tearing Down The Walls' refers to that as we're making a genre that's 30 years old, but don't consider ourselves a retro band or any kind of nostalgic experience. We want to be as fresh as anything you hear on the radio, if not more fresh and original.  We're trying to break new boundaries but still hold on to what we love and that's melodic rock.

Do I hear some ABBA in Mannequin Show and even Dream Theater in Emergency?

Yes, that's actually spot on. Jona, who's the main songwriter on Mannequin Show, really had some kind of ABBA vibe in mind when he wrote that. And we've always been suckers for this kind of Dream Theater, Symphony X complexity and wanted to add it, but in a tasteful way. That's not the easiest thing to do, putting really complex things in a melodic rock song.

You've worked with producer Tobias Lindell again – what does he bring to your music?

He brings a very good sound and is very skilled in music and bringing out the simplicity to make it graspable for the listener. That can be everything from the sound of the kick drum to adding or removing choruses or some chords.

Since 'Address The Nation', guitarist Dave Dalone has left and you've decided to continue as a five piece. Why didn't you add a second guitarist and how has that affected your live performance?

We discussed it and were like 'hey, we're not in a hurry, so we can try it in rehearsal, see how it sounds and see if we can give Eric [Rivers] more responsibility on the guitar'. And then we felt like we had more room in our live sound – that everything was a bit more clear in the mix. So we didn't feel we were lacking something. Of course Dave is an amazing guitar player and he has his touch, but Eric is as good as any other guitar player and I don't think one more guitarist is needed for our live sound.

Was there any concern about putting layers of guitar on an album that can't be recreated on stage?

No. We recorded what best fit the song to make the best album we could and we're going to make it work live. But all the old songs on 'Address...', and even our first two albums, had two guitar players and they work well.  So we're confident it's going to sound amazing live.

Now that you're on your fourth album, how do you feel you've developed as a band?

I feel we have become a little bit heavier and have more energy. I think we're discovering that, as we mature, the energy is the reason why we do it.  

Is that helped by Erik, who has energy to burn on stage?

Definitely. He has so much energy that it would be enough for an entire band, but then everyone in the band has shitloads of energy and would look like the energetic one in any other band.

Kenny’s voice was more old school AOR, whereas Erik gives you a something that could help you to cross over to the mainstream.

Well, I hope so. It's nice when people are not really able to label the music.  I consider that a really good thing because that means something is new, fresh and not very traditional. Within our genre at least.

Twenty-five years ago 'Address The Nation' and 'Tearing Down The Walls' would have seen you guys headlining arenas and stadiums. Do you believe melodic rock music can become that big again?

No I don't, because with the internet and easy access to music today people are very aware of their musical choices and there are plenty of different niches, so people look up what they like. Maybe it will become fashion and can be quite big, but I don't think any genre can have the same kind of world dominance as it had.

What is your gameplan in terms of exposing 'Tearing Down The Walls' to as wide an audience as possible?  

We're going to do a lot of touring this year and make sure as many people as possible hear it. We're very active on the social media, so we're giving a lot of opportunities to experience it.

If we were to talk a year from now, what would you hope this album has achieved?

Well, I would hope I was wrong in the comment that no genre can be as big as it was back in the ‘80s. I really hope that a year from now we've come quite a long way with regards the writing of the next album and have been all over the world touring for many people.

Are you looking forward to headlining the Friday night at the last ever Firefest?

We're already looking forward to it. It's going to be amazing, quite emotional as it's the last one.

What's your attitude to America as there's still a love for melodic rock on their niche radio stations?

We're going to headline the Saturday of the Melodic Rock Festival. That's our first US gig and that's going to be quite special. But we're just focused on Europe and there's almost not enough time for that. So I think we're going to have to up that capacities on these venues and go over to the States and show them how it's done.

HEAT Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri May 16 2014 - LONDON Garage
Sat May 17 2014 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Sun May 18 2014 - GLASGOW Cathouse
Mon May 19 2014 - MANCHESTER Academy

Click here to compare & buy HEAT Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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