Hearts and Rockets: “Making things like art and music can contribute to your community as a whole in a good way”

Feminist post-punk-synth-pop bratwavers Hearts and Rockets are one of the coolest bands we’ve found in the last few years! This D.I.Y. duo, Kalindy Williams and Kurt Eckhardt, create drum-machine driven grooves that explore the complexity of the human condition and emotional depths. We love their call and response vocals. We love the 808 drum samples. We love that they’re not afraid to voice their opinions and stand up for what they believe. We love that their shows are the most fun! We also love that they’re the nicest people ever!

How did you first come together to create, Hearts and Rockets?

KALINDY WILLIAMS: We had plans to make a band before we moved to Melbourne, and after living here for a year or two we wrote a few songs together and put one of them online called Sirens.

KURT ECKARDT: I had forgotten about that song! After that, we ended up recording 13 songs at home which would become our debut album Dead Beats, though at that point we still hadn’t played anything live.

KW: Initially we told everyone we only wanted to be a house party band, but once we had played our first party, we realised it was really fun so started playing venue shows. Our first gig was at the Old Bar in September 2016 with Jenny McK from Cable Ties at her first solo show, and it was headlined by Piss Factory.

Why is making things important to you?

KE: I have to keep busy, and for a large part of my life that energy was spent on things that weren’t important to me. Making good things keeps me happy, and also serves as a way to cope with anxiety, while still having something to show for it. I also feel like making things like art and music can contribute to your community as a whole in a good way, and if it doesn’t as long as it’s not a negative then it’s OK.

KW: I want to make things I can’t find in the world – if I want a dress I can’t find, I make it, or a photo that doesn’t exist, I take it. It’s the same for songs!

How did you first discover music?

KW: I had an older sister who I thought was ‘cool’, and she listened to ‘cool’ alternative music. Eventually she grew out of it, but I didn’t. As a teenager on the internet I discovered Riot Grrl and it really spoke to me. I felt a connection to it, even though it wasn’t happening anymore I really connected with the Riot Grrl ethics, and music, and making space for and being a woman in the music scene.

KE: Every Saturday my parents would blast records for a few hours downstairs, while my sister played tapes upstairs. I guess I started to love those sounds and still do. I thank my parents for The Eurythmics and Zeppelin, and my sister for The Cramps and Richie Valens, for better or worse. Then my long-lost step-brother, who I’d end up never meeting, started sending me mix tapes when I was about 9. They had stuff like Pixies and Slayer and Dead Kennedys and X-Ray Spex and Husker Du and The Minutemen… those tapes changed my life.

You’ll be releasing a split single soon with Zig Zag; what can you tell us about it?

KW: Zig Zag are a fairly new band, and from their very first show I fell in love with them. I think I even said on the night, “Kurt, we have to work with them on something”. When the opportunity arose for us to be creating a 7”with Psychic Hysteria and Roolette Records, we thought long and hard about who we would want to be on the  other side of a split record forever, and Zig Zag popped into our minds.

KE: Yeah we played that first show! It was a 40th anniversary show of the B-52’s debut album that we were organising, and they formed just so they could play! We knew from then on that we’d get along.

KW: Our song, which we just call Had Enough,  started as a whinge-song about how the human race can be really uncaring towards each other. We wrote it when we were at the supermarket and people were being jerks. That song never really went anywhere, so we took that idea and thought a bit more broadly and made Had Enough.

Also, I wanted to talk about your LP, Power; what inspired it?

KW: Using the power you have to uplift yourself and others around you. This can mean voicing your opinions or emotions, creating spaces for people who have less privilege than you do, calling out terrible behaviour when it happens, and hating on gossip.

What are your fondest memories from recording it?

KW: My fondest memories are two songs that we changed completely while we were recording. Firstly, Lies Lies Lies was originally a song I used to sing around the house at Kurt, coz I’m such a grub, called My Grubby Girlfriend. Panic Dream was going to be sung like a normal song, but I did one take singing like a cheerleader on a whim and we listened back and loved it. The juxtaposition between the cheerleader type yelling, and the anxiety inducing lyrics, made for a better song.

KE: We recorded the whole thing at home, partly because we’re broke but mostly because we can. It’s pretty great to be able to record when you want, in a comfortable space, in your own time. There have been takes we haven’t been able to use because you can hear our dog’s collar jingling, which is way cuter than it is annoying, so they’re my favourite memories. That, and when Kalindy would just nail a guitar part even though she’d only just started playing guitar. She shreds on this album!

Hearts & Rockets have a couple of songs about anxiety “Feelings” and “Panic Dream; is anxiety something that you’ve personally dealt with? I ask as it’s something I’ve lived with in my own life and I feel it’s important to have open honest conversations about important stuff like this. Anxiety can be so debilitating. How do you cope?

KE: We both suffer anxiety. I have weird triggers, and if we’re being honest, I often ‘cope’ by drinking beer, which is something that I need to keep in check. Coping is different one day to the next for me, and the only thing I’ve gotten better at or that might help others to discuss, is coming to the realisation that I am in control of my own life (even though it doesn’t always feel like it). If I am finding it too hard to be somewhere, I leave. If the thought of going somewhere is too much, I stay home. This is coming from someone with a lot of privilege and a good relationship and homelife, so I am hyper-aware of how lucky that makes me, but letting go of the imagined expectations of others has really helped me.

KW: When I was younger, one of the things that made anxiety and depression easier was knowing that other people out there are going through similar things. And I feel like making songs like Panic Dream and Feelings, maybe we can be that for other people. I have had frank conversations with people about anxiety and depression since those songs came out, and it’s good to talk about your feelings!

You’ve said that the song “Dance Off” is a call to arms for non-men to start taking up space at the front of gigs; what motivated you to write this song?

KW: Just going to gigs my whole life! Making a safe space for friends and fans to enjoy our music is really important to us. SO many times in my life going to gigs, if I even got to the front of a packed out venue i’m either squished or groped, and people shouldn’t have to go through shit experiences just to see their favourite band. There should and can be space for everyone.

KE: Yeah guys we can do better. Don’t be that guy. #tallboystotheback.

Can you give us a little insight into the song “Haunting”?

KE: That song is actually about the (not real) haunting of me by my Dad’s ghost. He died a few years ago, and it’s really more about feeling like he’s still with me, everywhere I turn. It sounds weird and creepy, but to be honest I find it really comforting. That said, it’s also a funny song, and we like spooky stuff, so I don’t think I’ve ever told that story before!

I really love the song “Hot Tea” which is about gossip. You’ve previously commented that “If people spent half the amount of time and energy that they spend gossiping creating something positive, the world (and Melbourne) would be a much better place to live” … know them feels. What helps you stay positive?

KW: I stay positive by going to shows, seeing friends, making art and seeing bands, and only playing in nice venues with nice people, walking our dog every day, and riding a bike everywhere is super fun.

KE: Staying away from drama. Everything is political, it doesn’t mean you need to involve yourself in the politics of everything. Live your life in a way that benefits your community, directly and indirectly, and support those around you. Pick your battles.

What’s one of the coolest positive things you’ve seen, heard or experienced lately?

KW: Recently we discovered a bunch of animals we never knew existed, and it’s brought us so much joy! That there can still be animals that I’ve never heard of in my life that can be so weird and cool and cute and ugly. Like the Chinese Water Deer – have you seen this thing? It has fangs?! Why? It’s so cute. So let’s look at it and be happy.

KE: Those animals and dogs. Just all dogs bring me joy. I also feel like working with more people in our community on this release has really made me happy and made me feel the love. Working with Carsten and Kahlia from Roolette Records, and all the members of Zig Zag who are all so great and inspirational, has humbled me a bit and made me realise how lucky we are to be a part of a bigger thing than our band.

Hearts and Rockets have a strong visual component, your film clips and album art. I especially love Power’s still life photo cover. How did you arrive at this concept?

KW: I make weird art allllll the time. I’m a photographer and illustrator, and it all feeds into each other. I made a series of photos for this album that you can see on our bandcamp, one cover for each song. I wanted to portray something really soft and colourful to show that there can be power in being gentle.

KE: I watched Kalindy go from this vague idea, to such a strong concept. I have zero to do with the visual element of the band and am constantly in awe of it all. I agree with you that it is a huge part of the band. We have so many video clips! One more to come very soon. I feel like the visuals of the band inform decisions more than being informed by them.

Live you perform with a drum machine; is that out of necessity as a guitar/bass two-piece or do you simply prefer that sound?

KW: The reason we have a drum machine is coz it sounds cool, not because we don’t have a drummer.

KE: We just love using those sampled sounds! It suits the music we make, and was a conscious decision from the start. This new single is actually the first release to feature some live drums at the end, performed by Matt Chow who mixed and mastered the release. All our other drums are 808 and 909 samples, some through filters or re-recorded. We feel like getting through that barrier with people who only like or are used to a traditional rock set up with live drums is difficult, but not one that we worry ourselves with. Plus, it makes travelling easy.

You’re self-described as a feminist bratwave punk band; why is it important to be a feminist?

KW: Because the world still sucks for some! There is still inequality, and there shouldn’t be, that’s why you should be a feminist. That’s why everyone should be a feminist.

KE: And while we’ve always identified as feminists, we actually started making a point of it on our Facebook page and other places to deter dude-bro bands from asking us to play with them. We kept getting asked to play these all male punk line ups with bands that were clearly not centring the ideals that we think are important… Like, if us being feminists scares you off then GOOD we don’t wanna play with you. It worked a treat.

What’s something else that’s important to Hearts and Rockets?

KW: Being brats! Existing. Making stuff we’re proud of.

KE: And being active in our community and participating in a positive way. With the state of the world, it’s really all we have.

In the spirit of your album title; where do you find your power?

KW: In myself, I’m powerful! and the people I surround myself with.

KE: Yesss, this. and in seeing  people I love and admire do the things they love. That inspires me so much. Hearing that Zig Zag song for the first time.

Please check out: Hearts and Rockets. H&R bandcamp. H&R Facebook. H&R insta. Their record label, Psychic Hysteria. Kalindy’s photography and art.