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.