HEART AVAIL (from l-r): Greg Hanson (guitar), Mick Barnes (bass), Aleisha Simpson (vocals), Seamus Gleason (drums)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Heart Avail are a four-piece from the northwestern American state of Washington.
The talented band have lovingly crafted a sound that combines emotional hard rock, catchy guitar riffs and the Amy Lee-style vocal delivery of Aleisha Simpson.
Their recently released self-titled EP, with a lyrical theme of the loss of loved ones which is frank and relatable to anybody going through the same situation, has had universal praise from critics and fans alike.
About to embark on an end-of-year mini-tour, as well as busy working on their debut full-length album, due out next March, I spoke to Aleisha about all things Heart Avail.
How did the band get together initially?
I met Greg through MySpace in 2008. We both had our own style of music we were doing, we highly respected each others talents and decided to see if we could collaborate.
From day one, me and Greg just clicked and our musical style meshed so well together that we gave up all of our other projects and began working exclusively as a team.
In 2013, we were approached about doing a show at Spokane’s Knitting Factory.
I gathered my favourite members of bands I had previously worked with and Heart Avail was formed.
After going through various members, we added Mick on bass in 2015 and added Seamus on drums in August 2016.
How did the name Heart Avail come about?
When the band initially started, we were known as Aleisha and Greg since we were the composers and writers.
But after a few shows, we decided it sounded too folk and that we needed a more rock name. After debating many names, Greg threw out the name of one of his songs which happened to be called Heart Avail.
Heart Avail is about helping others, so Heart Help, aka Heart Avail seemed like a perfect fit.
To somebody who is discovering your sound for the first time, how would you describe it to them?
Symphonic rock or female fronted metal.
What are your musical influences?
Nightwish, Within Temptation, Evanesence.
What is the band’s approach to songwriting?
Greg composes all of the musical parts and then sends the song to me. I then listen to the song, sometimes for days on end until the song’s story comes to the surface.
Once I have my vocal melody and words, I then send the words to Greg and we record the song in his basement. Sometimes, this means changing parts of the music but it seems to work really well for us.
With the addition of Mick and Seamus, we began to let them add to their parts when we record.
You recently released a self-titled EP. How was the recording process, from initial ideas through to completion?
Well, most of it I described in my last answer, but I will say that these first few songs were composed and inspired by the loss of loved ones, and they acted as a sort of therapy session to get over it.
During that time, we went through some other challenges that also helped spark inspiration. The five songs’ honesty took much longer to put together than we had planned due to these losses, but we feel like every song was full of the emotion we felt and that the fans would appreciate really feeling the music.
How has the reaction been to the EP so far?
We have been blown away with how well our EP is being received, and we have had so many good reviews that it’s stunning.
When you present your music to the world, you are essentially laying your heart out for everyone to judge and see, and doing that isn’t always easy.
People are brutal in this business, so we have been so grateful for the wonderful people who have taken us on and promoted us.
How is it for the band playing live?
We love being on stage! We try to put just as much emotion and talent live as we do on the record, and we firmly believe you should be just as good or better live.
Currently, we aren’t doing the symphonic stuff on stage, but with the addition of our new drummer, we have every intention of adding the symphonic back into our live performances.
Do you think Donald Trump’s election as U.S. President will have any impact on the American music scene?
This is just my own personal view and not that of the rest of the band, but I personally am scared of how music will go. Trump is so irrational and unpredictable I am very afraid our freedom of speech, or music if you will, will be taken away.
I don’t think the American people really realize what they have done to us and what our future with him as president will be. He lashes out like a child and retaliates on anyone who speaks up against him, and those in the arts industry tend to be the biggest anti-Trump supporters.
I wish I could say I was hopeful that things won’t change, but we just made America a living version of idiocracy, so it’s hard to keep positive right now.
What have you got planned for the near future?
Oh so much! Over the next week, we are doing a mini tour of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming for New Year’s Eve, I will be attending the Sundance Film Festival for the second year and attending some pretty cool parties with some good press happening.
In February, we will be in Hollywood to attend some of the Grammy parties and playing the Whiskey A Go Go on February 11th with the Greg Kihn band.
We are also working with Landmark Events and our label, Milagro Records, to get a Canadian tour going, then intend on touring the entire U.S.
We will also be releasing our first full-length album in March, so we are really excited for 2017.
What is the band’s long-term aim?
Fame, fortune, a large house and nice car (laughs). Totally kidding, kind of, but really, we would love to do a European tour and spend 365 days a year out touring.
As a whole, the band is unified in wanting music as our career and we believe we are on the right track to achieve this goal.
We would also love to play with some of our musical heroes like Evanescence, Nightwish, Hail Sagan, and Within Temptation.
HEART AVAIL’S RECENTLY RELEASED SELF-TITLED EP IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND THEIR DEBUT FULL-LENGTH ALBUM WILL BE RELEASED IN MARCH 2017.
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