Mister Heavenly has quite the indie rock pedigree; it was founded by Honus Honus (Ryan Kattner) of Man Man, Nick Thorburn of The Unicorns, and drummer Joe Plummer of Cold War Kids and Modest Mouse. The band got its start when Plummer’s Modest Mouse and Kattner’s Man Man toured together for about two years.
“We played a million shows together,” he recalled. “At one point we were both on break, and he and Nick were living in New York and working on some music. I came up for a week with some recording equipment and we put some songs together for the first record. Six years later here we are.”
While its first album, 2011’s Out of Love, was a doo wop-inspired homage the trio called “doom wop,” its latest more closely hews to indie rock. Those who caught Mister Heavenly’s debut San Francisco show will notice that original bassist Michael Cera—yes, that one—is no longer in the group. His place is now taken by Brett Morris, host of the hilarious podcast “Earwolf.” Trading in a comedic actor for a comedic talker hasn’t slowed Mister Heavenly one but. Last year’s sophomore album, Boxing the Moonlight, is different without turning the band’s fans away.
RIFF caught up with Plummer while he was on his “day job” with Cold War Kids in Washington, D.C. to chat about Mister Heavenly playing at Noise Pop and his other projects.
RIFF: How would you describe Mister Heavenly’s new sound?
Joe Plummer: Boxing the Moonlight; it feels to me like classic songwriting, really. [There is] kind of a classic rock, drug-induced feeling to it. We were listening to a lot of ’90s hip-hop, some krautrock and some ’70s smooth stuff. It wound up being a collection of that. It’s not like the last record, which was a little bit of a reference to doo-wop.
There’s a definite shift between the albums. What was the reaction like from fans?
I think people seemed to like this one better. It’s a little more, well—I was about to say it’s a little more danceable but it’s not necessarily [true]. But people were dancing to some of the newer songs more than the last record. We have a couple dance numbers, if you will, on the last one. So I’d say it’s more of an outside joke rather than an inside joke; a little more open.
What were you guys doing between records?
We were trying to get the second record together for about three years. Those guys live in L.A. now and I still live up in the Northwest, so I was going down and we were working on songs and recording them, throwing some away, not really focused. … Then all of the sudden they were like, let’s do this. So we put the hammer down and got it all battened down. In the interim of that, I was playing in The Shins and Cold War Kids, Ryan was doing Man Man stuff, and Nick was doing his other band, Islands, or solo stuff, and probably working on short films, which is another thing Nick does.
So you guys were making music in your available time, whenever you had a chance to get together.
That’s kinda how it was going but we had this great anxiety once we got together and realized that we need[ed] to harness the magic that we were creating, if you will. And that is a joke. We were working and there’s a song called “Magic Is Gone.” At one point we were working on that song and it felt really good, then we were working on the next thing and we were like, “The magic is gone. We’re done.” That’s why we called the song that. It’s probably my favorite song on the record.
How many bands or projects are you involved in at the moment?
Mister Heavenly and Cold War Kids primarily. I’m gonna play some shows with Sonny Smith, from Sonny and the Sunsets. He lives in S.F. I think that’s it on the books right now. I played on the record with The Shins last year but I didn’t tour.
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