Creation Theories

17 October 2012 | 8:30 am | Steve Bell

"There’s no way in a million years that if you’d have said to me three years ago that I would end up playing with those two people that I would have ever believed you, because it is a bizarre idea. But somehow it worked."

Bands that carry even the slightest semblance of being 'manufactured' by record labels are usually the antithesis of cool, but new Sydney outfit Good Heavens prove categorically that there are exceptions to even the most ingrained of musical prejudices.

Sarah Kelly, who'd been frontwoman and chief songwriter for acclaimed indie outfit theredsunband until they called it a day in 2009, had been writing steadily and seeking some different people to work with on a new project. When her record label Rice Is Nice suggested former Wolfmother drummer Myles Heskett as an option behind the kit it seemed an incongruous pairing but Kelly gave it a shot. Not long after – with the addition of bassist/keyboardist Chris Ross reuniting the original Wolfmother rhythm section, the team that had walked from their old band in 2008 citing “irreconcilable differences” – brand new outfit, Good Heavens, was born.

Fittingly, the trio dropped their debut long-player, Strange Dreams, with one live show to their name and now they're getting to know each other – the traditional band formation story turned on its head.

“Yeah I am, I'm really happy with everything,” Kelly gushes of the somewhat strange turn of events which culminated in her new band. “I'm happy with the record, and Chris and Myles are really lovely people. We just got back from a tour where we drove from Sydney to Adelaide and back, and it was really interesting doing that four days of travel to see how it would go – it was really relaxed, and they're such laidback people. It's going really good – it is an odd situation, but it seems to have worked.

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“I don't think I should pick band members, I'm not very good at it – I always seem to pick loonies. I was just having a chat to Jules [Wilson – Rice Is Nice] about my predicament, wondering what I was going to do about it – all of the drummers I know are alcoholics. She was, like, 'You should try Myles, he's the nicest guy in the world', which I think might actually be true! We met in the rehearsal room – we didn't even know each other beforehand, Jules had sent him the demos and he liked it so we met at Troy Horse [rehearsal rooms] and just started playing pretty much immediately. Then I wanted to add someone who could play both bass and keys, and Myles suggested Chris, and here we are.”

The eventual union is one which from a distance seems rather incongruous, despite how well it's worked – did Kelly have any reservations about teaming with such a famous pairing? “I think at the time because I was so obsessed with the idea of making the record it didn't even occur to me to think about who they were or what their past was,” she laughs. “And because they came to the band separately it wasn't like getting two-thirds of Wolfmother and trying to make my songs work – it didn't happen that way. But there's no way in a million years that if you'd have said to me three years ago that I would end up playing with those two people that I would have ever believed you, because it is a bizarre idea. But somehow it worked.

“And I think it's translated pretty well – I think I write for drums and I write for a band anyway, and a lot of the songs do get fairly heavy. So they didn't change a lot in terms of structure and whatever. Myles liked the demos and Myles was playing Chris the things that we were working on – because they've remained very close friends – and Chris apparently liked the songs as well. It was kind of a slow process though, because I don't think they were thinking that they'd end up being in a band with me as a permanent thing. But we worked on the songs for so long and they started sounding really good… Making the actual album, the studio time was really, really fun. It was kind of brief – we just did four days – but it was really fun, and sort of easy. Everything just came together and everybody got along, it was really good experience.”

And, perhaps unsurprisingly for such accomplished musicians, Heskett and Ross soon left their mark on the songs which Kelly had brought to the table. “Oh, absolutely,” Kelly concedes. “I guess I would tell them what I was thinking, but I was very open to their suggestions and them doing whatever they want. Because I feel basically that with musicians like those guys, who have a very strong sound, you can't really tell them what to do – you either like what they do or you don't work with them. And as we went along, the more songs we worked on together, the more we found our place in the band, and things started to happen a lot quicker.”

It's not like theredsunband were a completely ethereal concern – they had more than their fair share of upbeat and rock moments – but Kelly admits to enjoying having this beefier rhythm section behind her, and is hopeful that Good Heavens proves to be an ongoing concern. “Yes, yes I love it,” she marvels. “I did want to make a really, really heavy record, but I do remember when I got the first mixes back and I was, like, 'Fuck, it's so heavy!' Live it's really good, because we tend to start off soft and then when those two drop in it's massive. It's quite a different experience for me, but it's nice.

“And we're writing together already, so I think it will keep going. We're really enjoying it at the moment, and it's kind of exciting actually – the type of songs that we're writing are quite different to what I'd write on my own, and we're definitely planning another record. With theredsunband I would write the song and pretty much decide everything, all of the structure and the sound, on my own. But with these guys I'll come up with an idea – a chord progression and a couple of words – and I'll take it to them, and then we'll just play it until things happen to it, like a proper sort of jam. Which is how they write and used to write with Wolfmother – it's more of a collaboration.

“I really like it, and I think the types of songs which come out of the process are better, because they're less personal in a way and not so confronting. It's more about the sound and the flow of the music, it's very different. I write some of the lyrics before I take it to the band and then a lot during the process – we write all in the same room at the same time, and it's cool because you never really know what you're gonna get.”

Good Heavens will be playing the following shows:

Friday 19 October - GOMA, Brisbane QLD
Friday 26 October - The Tote, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 3 November - Brighton Up Bar, Sydney NSW