A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed four of the five members of San Francisco’s HEARTWATCH (formerly known as The Tropics), one of the up-and-coming acts in a busy music artist community in the Bay Area. We spoke about the band’s origin a couple of years ago, the direction of their new music, their semi-forced band name change, and much more.
Here is a bonus Q&A with the band.
RIFF: Let’s talk about what inspired The Tropics in the beginning. What inspired that name, and the themes in your early music, and what brought you together in the first place?
Guitarist Eric Silverman: Band names are hard. When we were doing it the first time, me and Claire, when we were making music earlier, it kind of just worked. We didn’t know what to really do. We had a couple of really funny ones, just a couple on a list. We both kind of gravitated toward it. It just stuck. I don’t think there was ever a moment when we were like, “We’re playing music that sounds tropical.”
Bassist Nate Skelton: It was almost the opposite, actually. It was almost like we had to play music that wasn’t tropical, because our name was The Tropics. I didn’t really restrict us too much because we didn’t play a lot of tropical music. We had to make sure themes weren’t cliché, because we were called The Tropics, so we have palm trees.
Guitarist Rowan Peter: Although Claire did buy us all different pins with parrots and all sorts of tropical stuff. That was pretty funny.
Vocalist Claire George: Yes, little gifts. I think we got sick of the name, too, a little bit, because when we would try to design posters or something, people would be like, “Oh, let’s make this a tropical poster.”
Peter: “Let’s put a sunset on that.“
You guys aren’t going to go back and CGI your new name into the old videos?
Silverman: I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t Googled how to do that. I’m okay leaving it. But I definitely Googled it. I just had this moment where I felt like they did that shit to Star Wars, you know? They changed everything and that sucked. Don’t do that.
Who are some of your favorite local contemporaries?
George: Crashing Hotels. Those guys are awesome and really doing cool things and creative.
Silverman: I saw them the other night. They have these robot models on stage. It’s these two women with these crazy wigs and silver spray paint. They kind of do choreographed stuff while they’re playing. It was freaky. It was awesome. They’re trying crazy stuff like that.
Skelton: Fritz Montana.
Silverman: Those dudes are awesome and it’s been really fun hanging out with them, and both of us are on the same level right now. They just played BottleRock and they’re doing all this cool stuff.
Peter: My favorite band in San Francisco is Hot Flash Heat Wave.
George: And Cathedrals.
Skelton: They’ve been great friends to us.
What are your day jobs? What did you used to do?
George: I used to work as a forensic accountant. I used to do anti-bribery, anticorruption due-diligence work. I was working for a big accounting firm. I’m a CPA and I left two years ago. I’m actually just starting a new part-time gig, doing some of that same work. I worked as a florist for a little bit.
Silverman: I’ve been in the ice cream business. That’s as far as I’d like to go into that. I don’t want you guys to know that I’m secretly a magician.
Peter: I’ve worked as a guitar teacher. I’ve worked in restaurants. I worked at a barbeque joint for a while. That was in Portland, right before I moved down here. Food carts are very popular in Portland.
Skelton: I worked in a couple of various aspects of finance. Hopped around the financial industry a little bit.
Silverman: (Drummer) Kern (Sigala) manages a sporting goods store.
Why did you want to record your debut album at Jackpot! Studio in Portland?
George: We wanted to get out of the city, and we wanted to get away from distractions to record this record.
Skelton: Primarily, it was to get everybody focused. We have jobs and girlfriends and lives and bills and stuff. Life has distractions and when you’re away with your band and your producer in a studio, it is hard to be distracted. You live and breathe every minute of every day in that studio.
Peter: It’s highly-augmented. Any band that wants to put out something they’re happy with, leave your hometown and just hang.
Claire, I read that you’re also working on a solo project, or you were?
George: I have a couple of projects that I’m working on. They’re kind of on the back-burner right now, but I left my job and got really interested in music production. I’ve never really played an instrument very well, and so I really got into learning Ableton. I really like to play around in it and it actually helped my songwriting for the band a lot. I’m working on another little project with a producer in New York. It’s just a collaboration. I put out one song, and we’re working on a little E.P. but it’s taking a long time.
This band takes priority?
George: Yeah, for sure. (Joking:) No, actually, I’m leaving. I’d like to take this time to announce that I’m leaving the band. This is last HEARTWATCH show you’ll …
You’re also working with a non-profit organization?
George: Future Youth is a nonprofit record label that works with at-risk youth to fight some of the media messages towards women and substance abuse. They’re working with local youth organizations to get these kids to come in and do songwriting. They’ll get a big producer to come and actual musicians to come record the song with them. I’ve just been helping them with some social media stuff and helping run some of the studio sessions. … The journey that I’ve had in music is this thing that I sort of discovered inside me that I didn’t know was there, and I’m really interested in helping other people find music.
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.