Feminist Bratwave Punks Hearts and Rockets’ new video ‘Square Eyes’: “We moved entire rooms in our house to create the sets”

Original photo: Kalindy Williams. Handmade collage art by B.

We love Naarm-based feminist bratwave punk band Hearts and Rockets. We first chatted with the inspiring duo when we started Gimmie. Today we’re premiering their super fun clip ‘Square Eyes’ which is the first single off their forthcoming EP TV is Boring, their love letter to TV—one of their favourite things. We chat about making the clip, EP, 80s horror flicks, The X-Files, TV shows, and other creative projects in the works. We wanna have a TV Party tonight! with Hearts and Rockets.

Hearts and Rockets were one of the first bands that we interviewed for Gimmie. We’re excited to have you check-in with us again; what’s life been like lately for you?

KURT ECKARDT: Life is SO weird! Life is always weird, but lockdown #6 hit us in Melbourne in a strange new way. I’m so grateful to have a creative outlet that can be completely self-contained and can be done at home, and so so grateful for our doggo Bonez. She and I have had some pretty heartfelt moments lately, thankfully she’s a very good listener.

KALINDY WILLIAMS: We are really so thrilled to be chatting with you again! Thank you so much for your support. You always feature our favourite bands and artists, we really love all that you do.

Thank you! The love is mutual. You have a new EP TV Is Boring coming out on cassette in November and it’s a collection of songs about TV; what was the initial spark that gave you the idea to write to this theme?

KW: We were writing songs for our next album, and we had so many ideas! While we were writing melodies for them, we found a couple with kind of ‘working’ lyrics that referenced TV, mostly in the chorus. From this we kind of discovered a running theme. We realised that four main songs that we were close to finishing all went really well together and had a loose theme of television, so we decided to separate them out and create a fun EP!

KE: We also both love TV and movies, and we’ve had a few songs on previous releases about both so it’s kind of a continuation of that. It was tempting just to make the whole album about TV to be honest, but that’s pushing it, plus we have other things to sing about – some of which are a little more important.

How long has the EP been in the making for?

KW: We had a show planned for July this year, which was then rescheduled ‘til October, and now is in limbo, where we were going to play a set of entirely new songs that we were working on for our album. It was set to be at The Tramway Hotel which is a lovely small and super intimate venue, and we were really looking forward to kind of trying some things out live to see how they sounded. When lockdown #5 hit and it was postponed, we decided to make sure we didn’t waste that energy and momentum and got to recording a few of the tracks.

KE: Yeah, we pulled those TV tracks out and knuckled down and finished them off, then took our time recording them at home. So, I guess we started the EP officially in August, and had it recorded by the end of that month. In concept only for the past few months, but I think one or two of these song ideas were kicking around for a while leading up to that decision.

Art by Kalindy Williams.

I know that you both have fond recollections of staying up late and watching Rage and bad movies; what are some of your favourite bad movies?

KW: We both watch lots of horror movies, mostly 80s horror as well as silly comedies. A few great ones that we have watched recently are Dudes (punks on a roadtrip), Times Square (punk girls making punk music against the status quo), Hell Night (frat party murder house), Once Bitten (silly slightly problematic 80s vampire romance/comedy/horror with Jim Carrey), Earth Girls Are Easy (80s does 50s does 80s alien movie), Aerobi-cide & Death Spa (both ridiculous 80s workout-themed horror movies), Sorority Babes in the Slime Ball Bowl-o-Rama (single location – a bowling alley – horror movie) and anything by John Waters. He’s the king of bad taste, and I think everything he does is iconic.

KE: This is so hard, because while they’re bad, they’re so so good! My faves are The Stuff (actually the best movie ever made), Chopping Mall (security robots go bezerk), Body Melt (this country’s greatest schlock), and Happy Birthday To Me (the first horror movie that I ever watched). Plus Stay Tuned, which is a favourite of ours and was an inspiration for the video clip for ‘Square Eyes’.

Is there anything of note you’ve been watching lately? What sucks you into watching it?

KW: Sexy Beasts. I assumed it was a role play of people being aliens and squirrels. And when I watched it and realised the absurdity of it being a reality show, I couldn’t stop watching it.

And I’m always rewatching Doctor Who. Space travel, time travel, queer undertones… what more could you want?! And in this last lockdown, Buffy has been on rotation.

KE: I’m obsessed with The Golden Girls. It was one of my favourites growing up and when I thought back to that throughout my life I thought it was so weird. Like, ALF – I get why I liked that – but a 7-year-old obsessively watching Golden Girls? I’ve rewatched the whole series recently and I still love it. While it’s not 100% PC, I think it was pretty ahead of its time. I can’t help but need to know how each episode is resolved, no matter how obvious it may seem.

You’re both also avid X-Files fans (us too!); what’s your favourite episode?

KW: Mine is Zero Sum! It’s in season four and starts off with a woman being swarmed by bees in a toilet cubicle. I watched it when I was way too young, but it’s the first one I think of when I think of The X-Files. I also really like the one with Jack Black set in an arcade where that guy gets the power to control electricity – it’s got some amazing visuals in it.

KE: My fave would have to be Squeeze. It’s the first monster of the week episode, and I remember watching it when it first aired and thinking it was so cool. I also love that the monster, Tooms, reappears later in the series. He’s the perfect X-Files character. A notable mention has to go to Flukeman though, my second favourite monster from The X-Files.

My friend Tom and I were so obsessed with The X-Files when it first came out, but I wasn’t allowed to watch it. Thankfully, he was, so I conveniently stayed at his house once a week at least.

Tell us about the title of the EP?

KW: TV Is Boring came from just watching too much TV in lockdown, and realising how many TV shows follow the same formula and get boring so quickly. I like TV, but sometimes you’ve just had enough.

What did you love most about the process of making TV Is Boring?

KW: I found writing the songs and practicing them the best part, because when we found out that we couldn’t play live we just set our own reachable goal and our own reachable deadline and came at it with the attitude of not rushing and not pushing ourselves. So, it was so fun to be able to try new things, speed up and slow down songs, and because we had no time limit it made it fun and took the stress out of it.

KE: Yes totally! The beauty of self-releasing music! There’s almost always a deadline, and that’s great to make sure you get what you need to get done done, but the two of us just playing fun songs for fun and for ourselves made this such an enjoyable experience. My highlight of this year was spending time on these songs – adding more and stripping back, spending time just playing around and having fun with them. We’d hoped to be able to do that in a live scenario, but we were so lucky to be able to do that throughout the recording process.

We love how Hearts and Rockets are very D.I.Y. in all aspects of what you do. What was the best part about producing your musicyourself?

KW: Being able to record in our tiny spare room is one of the biggest benefits. If you are trying to record a guitar part and it just isn’t working that day, you can just try again tomorrow. It’s a huge benefit for us, because we don’t have to book in a studio or have those time constraints.

If we had the money to do it that way, we would! But we’re broke, plus the DIY bedroom set up works well for the type of music we make.

KE: While being DIY is a necessity for us at this point, it’s also silly not to think of it as an aesthetic decision. We could borrow stuff or call-in favours or get a grant to do something more ‘pro’, but instead we shove a SM-57 microphone in front of our amps and turn it up really loud.

While we totally respect the craft of studio engineering, we’d also say that if you’re reading this and you can’t afford to pay someone to record your stuff – just do it yourself. The best thing an old band of mine did was record using headphones as microphones. We broke a pair of over-ear headphones, gaffer taped one side to the guitar amp and one to the bass amp and ran them as inputs through a mixer. It was awesome and all it cost us was a pair of shitty headphones, a borrowed mixer, and a free audio app on a laptop.

You do what you can with what you have. If you have a lot, go for it. If you don’t, don’t let that restrict your output. The music is all that matters.

Photo: Kalindy Williams.

Which track from the new EP are you most excited to perform when shows can happen again?

KW: The opener, ‘On/Off’. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always thought of this song as a cowboy song. I think it will be fun to play because it will be hard to play. I have to play this slidey rhythmic guitar part and sing at the same time. But I love failing on stage. Also, yee-haw.

KE: For me it’s ‘TV is Boring’. It’s just so long. In the past, if a song has approached three minutes long, I’ve insisted on cutting entire verses and choruses out. Some I’ve let go, but not easily. But as soon as Kalindy and I wrote the basic bones of ‘TV Is Boring’, we both knew it had to be a long song. Then she went wild with the synth at the end – it ended up being 13 minutes long! I genuinely can’t wait for people who expect two-minute bangers from us to hear this song. It might be my favourite Hearts and Rockets song ever. Kalindy is just so boss in the recording, it’s amazing.

We’re premiering the clip for the lead single ‘Square Eyes’. The video features lots of fun scenes like a TV news reader/“weather girl” combo, a 50s sitcom witch show, a vampire movie, a zombie apocalypse, a cowgirl flick, an adventure film, a workout video (which is a little nod to a previous single ‘Workout’). What’s your favourite scene? Can you tell us a little about creating it?

KW: We spent a total of I think 5 days filming different scenes for it over about 3 weeks. We moved entire rooms in our house to create the sets with just stuff we already owned. I’m a huge vintage collector – clothing, trinkets, homewares – I love all things vintage, so it was fun to plan out and put together props and clothing for the clip.

I think my favourite scene is the witchy / sitcom one. I really love camp special effects from the 50s/ 60s/70s (like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie), and it was pretty fun to try and recreate some of them for ‘Square Eyes’. We also spent so long making food props for that scene and you only really see them for about 3 seconds. They were really delicious though.

KE: I liked making cucumber sandwiches and eating them. Why do they actually taste good? They absolutely shouldn’t, and kind of don’t, but I couldn’t stop eating them. We also used a vegan ‘duck’ in the spread, and we toyed with the idea of getting a real roast chook, but somehow the vegan duck from our freezer was completely fitting. It looks so gross.

I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun making anything in my life, every scene was so much fun to shoot.

There’s also clips of “Ramones” and “Siouxsie Sioux” in the clip; how did you first discover those artists and what do you appreciate about them?

KW: Ramones was the first punk band I discovered and Siouxsie Sioux was the first goth femme person in music I was ever aware of and she is an icon. She’s so effortlessly cool and she and the Banshees had such a unique sound that I was craving when I was a teenager. I think I’ve just always wanted to be her.

KE: I think Kalindy and my first common ground when meeting was Ramones. I will never tire of that first album. I had a step-brother, Dean, who I never got to meet. He lived in Toronto, but for much of my formative years he’d send me mix tapes. My favourite was called ‘Smells Like DEAN’S Spirit’. In the late 80s and early 90s he’d send me tapes with bands that I’d never heard of – I was like 7, 8 years old when he started – and it was bands like Ramones, Siouxsie, TSOL, Angry Samoans, Slayer, Pixies, The Stupids… like really cool punk stuff that I don’t think I would have heard otherwise, at least not at the time.

Blitzkrieg Bop started one of these tapes and I swear he put it there like a gateway to the rest of the tape… but it got me hooked, and I’ve loved Ramones ever since. Siouxsie and the Banshees were on that same compilation, it was ‘Love In A Void’, and I was so obsessed with it. One of the first records that I ever bought was their Peel Sessions EP and I treasure it to this day – their live to air version of ‘Love In A Void’ rules

You’ve been together for around four or so years now. What has been your proudest moment during this time?

KW: My teenage self would be so proud of us being on Rage! And every time we play a gig and people yell our lyrics back at us, that makes me so happy that we have made a connection with so many people through our music.

KE: OMG yes Rage, I still can’t believe we’ve had a few of our clips played on Rage. And yeah same. The first time we ever played our song Drama Club live, we had just written it and hadn’t learnt the lyrics yet, and Billiam from Disco Junk was there and held up our notebook for Kalindy so that she could sing it. There’s only one live moment that beats that, and it’s when we played it a few months later and BIlly was there again, in the front row, singing along.

Music-wise what bands, albums or songs have you been enjoying of late?

KW: Our label mates Zig Zag have just released their single ‘I Care About You’, and it’s so catchy, I am constantly singing it around the house, their joy and energy is infectious and they really do care about you! I love it!

KE: Wow, where to start?! I’m loving all of the Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice singles that have been coming out, they’re such a good band. Other newish releases that I can’t get enough of are K5’s album, Eat-Man’s record, Sweeping Promises’ Hunger For A Way Out and I haven’t been able to move past Blake Scott’s album from last year. Oh and Gordon Koang! Such pure and positive music, it’s impossible not to enjoy a Gordon Koang track.

You’re currently working on album number three, which is due out mid-2022; what can you tell us about it at this point?

KW: We still have a lot of work to do on it but at the moment we already have one really good song about a being a clown and at least one song about bugs – so I’m pretty excited about that.

KE: Album number three is so exciting to think about. I have genuinely liked each of our releases more than the last, and I can’t ask for more than that. Our goal is to constantly change what we’re doing, challenge ourselves, and keep making the music that we want to hear. This EP and our next album is all of that for me. Also, geez Kalindy just writes so many good songs… We could make a thousand OK albums, but we want to make a few really good ones.

What else have each of you been working on?

KW: I started a daily art project in lockdown in May 2020, it was going to be a 100-day project where I would make an art postcard everyday with whatever I already owned (lockdowns meant art supplies were scarce). But lockdowns kept going so I just kept making them. There are collages, illustrations, cut paper pieces, paintings, embroidery and anything else you can think of, they have been some of the best and some of the worst pieces of art I have made (hahaha) and I think some of them will be really good record covers or band posters. We actually used two of them for the covers of our last record and one for a poster last year. I’m currently at about 530-ish different postcards, which is wild!!!! And right now, I’m preparing for an online art show in mid-November to showcase the first 500 art postcards on my website http://www.orbitarcade.com.au.

I’m also planning to make a new photo zine in the next couple of months and work on some new music videos!

KE: I spend lots of my time preparing for a radio show that I co-host with Maddy Mac on PBS FM. We play music from so-called Australia and our closest neighbours, and I spend loads of my time in front of a computer screen listening to new music! I’m also tinkering away on some new solo music, but I don’t have any plans to share it just yet. Lots of my work revolves around live music events, too, so once lockdown lifts, I will have so many fun projects to announce!

Hearts and Rockets’ new EP TV Is Boring -is out on cassette November 26, 2021. Pre-order HERE at Psychic Hysteria. Please check out heartsandrockets.com + psychichysteria.com + Kalindy’s art.

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.