Underneath This had the pleasure of interviewing some members of Heel, a talented band of musicians. Heel is comprised of guitarist Daniel, singer Margarita, Yuta on bass and Tom on drums. Making energetic alternative rock with inspiring melodies, Heel has just released a new EP, “Stranger Just the Same,” which Pure Grain Audio is calling “The Best Break Up Album of the Year.” To learn more about Heel, please check out heelband.com and the interview that follows.
What was the process of becoming musicians like for you?
Maggie: For me it was never particularly deliberate. I always loved rock music and wanted to sing, then one day when I was 19 I found myself looking for singer wanted ads online. I’d never done anything like it but I saw an ad Dan put up for a vocalist and everything about it seemed right.
Dan: It happened for me over many years. I played music my whole life and the guitar for years but I never thought about doing it full-time. Both my parents were super into education and it just never seemed like an option. I found myself doing a PhD, super depressed and searching for some purpose in life. So I started writing songs and eventually started a band.
How did Heel form?
Dan: I put up an ad on Gumtree and started meeting singers. I always loved female vocalists in rock so that was where I decided to start. I spent about 6 months talking to and playing with about a hundred different singers and then Maggie came along.
Maggie: I came down and played a couple of songs with Dan and a rhythm section he had that didn’t last very long lol. The two of us immediately gelled and started writing songs together that week. Dan already knew Yuta so he came on board soon after and then a couple of drummers down the line we met Tom.
What are some of your musical and non-musical influences?
Maggie: Honestly, my biggest influences are the artists that made me want to start singing. Listening to singers Avril Lavigne and Steven Tyler made me want to do it when I was a kid. Since then, I really don’t feel influenced by anyone. I listen to music, some new, some old, but I never think oh yeah I want to do that thing. I don’t think either of us connect ourselves as artists directly to any particular musicians. We listen to loads of stuff, I’m sure it all has an affect somewhere but then we write from somewhere totally internal.
Dan: Totally agree. Bands like Bon Jovi, Nirvana, The Offspring and Pantera are why I fell in love with music as a kid. But I can’t quantify how influenced I am by them. As an adult I get moved and inspired whenever I hear artists who strike me as really authentic. There are too many to list but any time I hear The Delfonics or David Bowie I immediately want to write something. I think non-musical influences are everywhere. Our families, friends, lovers, haters lol They’re all influences cos essentially that’s what we write about.
How has living in London influenced you creatively?
Maggie: I think it’s great as there is so much out there. I think the more varied experiences you have in life the more you can put into your music. In a huge city like London you meet so many different people in and out of music and I believe they all leave a bit of a mark on who you are. It may be tiny, but every little influence becomes part of your journey and can ad up into something huge.
How do your social and personal identities affect your music?
Dan: Completely! I think this follows on from what I said before. Every song we write is incredibly cathartic and important to us in the most personal way. I think the most important thing we have as songwriters is that we’re not afraid to be vulnerable and put ourselves out there emotionally. We’ve both had to struggle in our lives. Whether it be family stuff, love lives or struggling to find our own identity, it’s all laid out there in the music we make. If we had different social interactions or personal histories I can guarantee our music would sound entirely different.
What were some memorable moments you had during your headline tour of Japan last year?
Maggie: Oh man, there were so many! The one that jumps out is that a woman came to see our second show in Tokyo and loved it so much she flew to Sapporo so she could bring her daughter to our last gig. Plus she brought us five big boxes of fresh Japanese cakes which I had at least half of 😉
Dan: Yeah that was so touching. The fans in general were amazing over there but that really made us see the potential our music has to touch people when they have access to it.
Maggie: Also, what about Otsuki, the manager of the Sapporo venue, putting on the huge afterparty where he cooked all the incredible local dishes. He made this thing with a tree root wrapped in chicken which changed my life! That was a bit special 😀
Dan: I’m glad you guys are getting to see what a dominant role food plays in Maggie’s happiness lol
Maggie: Yeah all this is making me hungry!!!!
Do you have a favorite song to perform live?
Dan: I’d say Perfect is a lot of fun! It’s got a lot of ups and down and the chorus is just great to jump around and head-bang to!
Maggie: There’s also a song we haven’t recorded yet called ‘Keep Running Back To Me’ which the crowd always goes nuts for. That’s a riot!
Which of your songs are most meaningful to you and why?
Maggie: Probably ‘We’ll Fall Back in Love’. We sat down to write and both had a line or two we wrote separately, we started talking and realised we were both writing about the same thing.
Dan: It’s about not wanting all the love in a relationship but not the pain that comes with. We’ve both felt misunderstood and abandoned in the past and this song is about not wanting to do that to someone else. We were totally on the same wavelength when we wrote it. It really felt like we were releasing the song more than developing it.
Maggie: The song has a lot of our personal struggle tied up in it so often when I sing it I’m fighting back tears. Performing it in the studio again and again was really intense.
I enjoyed the video you recently released for the song “Stranger.” The fast pace of the video is very fitting. What was the process of writing the song and making the video?
Dan: I was telling Maggie about a breakup I’d had where a long-term girlfriend told me she couldn’t deal with being an outsider in our relationship anymore.
Maggie: Yeah, I feel like I’ve been intentionally distant too in relationships. We both started exploring that defense mechanism in the lyrics.
Dan: The song is about frustration and anger but it’s has a vulnerability and sweetness about it. I started chugging some jazz chords in the bass and flicking the upeer part with my finger and it seemed to give the duality we were looking for. We also wanted the sections to all have a bit of an unresloved feel as there are no comfortable happy endings to a this kind of love.
Maggie: The video came through conversations the two of us had with our director Mikee Goodman. We sent him the lyrics and he took a week or so to digest them and let inspiration happen. Then we sat down and talked through his interpretation and developed the ideas behind it.
Dan: He decided to shoot half the shots with us moving slowed down and then sped them up in post. It gave it that amazing frantic feel that we think suits the song brilliantly.
Maggie: We shot everything over 4 days. Mainly around Rye, on the south coast, and various areas just west of London. It was intense but Mikee’s a genius to work with so it was an amazing process to be part of.
How would you describe your upcoming EP, Stranger Just the Same? How does it differ from your self-titled debut release?
Maggie: I think we’re stronger musicians and better songwriters than ever. I think we know ourselves better than ever too, so I would say this EP has all the energy and fearlessness of the first, but the message of each tune is a bit more defined. I think it makes for a stronger emotional experience.
Dan: I think we developed a lot during the recording process the first time around. We’re still super proud of that EP but it was the first time we’d ever been in any kind of recording studio, so the learning curve was pretty steep. This time around it was just about trying to hold on to what we felt when we wrote the songs and letting that translate to the recordings.
Which music have you been listening to recently?
Dan: I’ve been listening to ‘Mary Star of the Sea’ by Zwan a lot. Billy Corgan is one of my favourite songwriters and guitar players and I threw it on a couple of weeks ago and remembered how deeply I love that album. Also, I’ve been listening to the first Katy Perry album. I think there’s some incredible songwriting and vocal performances on that album. I fully love it!
Maggie: I’ve been on a Linkin Park trip the past couple of weeks. I love them and I’ve listened to all their stuff start to finish a couple of times over!
Are there any songs you would like to cover in the future?
Maggie: ‘Dream On’ by Aerosmith would be a great song for us. We only cover songs if we feel we can do something new with them and I think that song has infinite possibilities for us!
What are some of your interests outside of music?
Dan: Honesty, everything we do is about the band. We’re as DIY as a modern band can be so we have no time at all for anything else lol
Maggie: If I had the time and money I would probably buy a lot more shoes. Like A LOT! But when I can I paint and draw. I love both but rarely do them. I try to watch speed skating as I used to do it myself. I was damn quick on the ice a few years back 😉
Dan: I love boxing with a passion but I stopped doing anything like that as I’m too scared I’ll break my hands lol It’s easily done and I care too much about playing guitar to risk it. I watch all the big fights from all over the world though.
What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
Dan: Be persistent and be honest! Write the best and realist music you can and do everything in your power to get it heard.
Maggie: Commit to it fully. It has to be everything to you or it will probably end up being nothing.
-Strike and Sem