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'It's the Show of Your Life': Heriot on 'Profound Morality' and Playing Download Festival

Tuesday, 26 April 2022 Written by Matt Mills

Cast your mind back to late February. Everything’s a bit shit, isn’t it? Covid-19 cases are back on the rise, Omicron’s refusing to piss off, and gigs are being cancelled left, right and centre.

Heriot are in a good mood though. Well, half of them are at least. The metalcore up-and-comers’ guitarist and vocalist Debbie Gough and guitarist Erhan Alman are sitting down with Stereoboard straight after playing a pummelling set at London’s Oval Space. 

As we speak backstage, Pupil Slicer are belting out some mathematically dazzling grindcore one room over, before Rolo Tomassi will enthral the capital with a serenade of metal, pop and shoegaze. It’s the last date of a UK tour; the fact that it hasn’t been cancelled midway through seems miraculous given the climate.

“Three of us in the band have already had COVID,” Erhan says, “so we’re in this bubble where we shouldn’t get it – apart from Julian [Gage, Heriot’s drummer].”

“We’ve been wrapping Julian in bubble wrap,” Debbie laughs. “He’s not allowed out.”

Amiable and soft-spoken, the pair are the polar opposite of the music they blasted out not an hour ago. Heriot’s take on metalcore lives in the bleakest and seediest alleys of the genre. There’s none of the pomp and vulnerability that made mainstream-bothering stars out of Bullet for My Valentine or Bring Me the Horizon. 

Instead it’s incessant and industrial. New EP ‘Profound Morality’ only separates its riffs, squeals and ear-splittingly loud drums with dissident industrial noise. Imagine ‘Jane Doe’-era Converge soundtracking a bust-up in an abandoned warehouse and you’d get the picture.

“The era of music that we really love is the late ’90s and early 2000s,” explains Erhan. “Even in the charts, everything was so diverse. People were constantly pushing genres and boundaries, and what they thought music should sound like.”

Debbie adds, “We take inspiration from loads of different types of metal and heavy music. I really like shoegaze and black and thrash metal, and Julian and [bassist Jack] Packer really like nu-metal and industrial music. It all gets mixed up together.”

The lead-up to ‘Profound Morality’ would be any upstart metal band’s wet dream. Already, Heriot have been extensively profiled by Kerrang! and Metal Hammer, with the former calling Debbie a “guitar hero in the making” at just 24 years old.

They’ve inked a deal with Church Road Records, which is run by Justine Jones and Sammy Urwin of hardcore heroes Employed to Serve. Singles from the EP have tens of thousands of Spotify streams each, and an ultra-nasty cover of Machine Head’s Ten Ton Hammer only amplified the buzz. It’s all perfect—until you realise this is technically the band’s second go of it.

Heriot version 1.0 was born in late 2014. It was a power trio composed of Erhan, Jack and Julian: three school chums who’d been in bands together since their early teens. The following January, they released their debut EP, ‘Violence’, but good luck finding it. When they added Debbie to their ranks, they slammed the reset button, removing it from Spotify, Bandcamp and everywhere else. All that remains is a YouTube upload of the title track and it’s… fine. 

It’s an obvious precursor to ‘Profound…’, laden with genre-mandated beatdowns. However, it lacks the idiosyncrasies and restless energy of what was to come. Erhan stops short of saying that Heriot were missing their current it factor as a three-piece, although he admits that the second they saw Debbie in her previous band, Dead Hands, they had to steal her.

“Dead Hands supported us and they brought a Chariot or Dillinger Escape Plan kind of energy,” he remembers. “We became really, really good friends [with Debbie] and then her old band dissolved. We were discussing, ‘Wouldn’t it be good to have another guitarist, but also a good mate?’ She ticked all the boxes.”

It wasn’t just Dead Hands and Heriot that made Debbie a “guitar hero in the making”—words that, when we evoke them, make her shudder in her seat. Her PR, on the other hand, nods happily from the far side of the room. Her day job is as the assistant manager of a guitar shop, surrounding her with six-strings whenever she isn’t on the road.

“I’m really, really boring in that I do nothing other than music,” she smiles. “I don’t get much downtime, as the guys know. I take hours to reply to the group chat.”

“We’ll get an amazing announcement, and then we’ll just have to sit and wait until the end of the day,” Erhan concurs with a laugh. “We’ll hear about it at 12 and sit on it until 5.”

One story that not even Debbie missed was that Heriot will be playing the Dogtooth Stage of Download Festival in 2022. The news was announced on the day of our interview, and the goodwill continues to torrent in, with folks elated that the underground darlings will play the UK’s biggest rock blowout.

“I think, for most people who play in bands, it’s the show of your life,” says Debbie. “I was 12 or 13 when my dad took me. We saw Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister, Avenged Sevenfold…it sounds really cheesy but it feels like I can separate life before that day and life after. Everything clicked and I just wanted to be in a band.”

With a growing horde of metalheads at their back, Heriot’s goals are more impressive nowadays. “I would love for Heriot to be the band that makes other women think they can do it as well,” Debbie answers when asked what she wants the quartet’s legacy to be. “I think there’s a lot of fear for women in bands. I’d love for Heriot to be the band that makes them go, ‘Yeah, I'm gonna do that,’ and not feel any of the pressure that women do have in bands.”

Riff-charged, innovative and out to make the world a fairer place—is there any doubt as to why Heriot are among the most beloved youngsters in metal?

‘Profound Morality’ is out on April 29 via Church Road.

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