Concert preview: Michigan psych-rock trio Heaters enters the way-back machine
Michigan psych-rock trio Heaters has an obsession with time.
“Time is this mysterious thing,” said singer/guitarist Andrew Tamlyn, 23, in an early March phone interview. “And it’s something that you can’t beat.”
Not that the band isn’t trying. Since forming in the summer of 2013, the trio has kept up a hectic pace, turning out recordings at a speed that suggests a deeply engrained belief that our days here on earth are tragically limited. Heaters already has a trio of EPs to its name, and it recently wrapped up recording for a new 7-inch (Mean Green, out in late April on Brooklyn’s Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records), as well as the band’s still-untitled full-length debut, which it hopes to release in August.
“We all live together [in Ann Arbor], and it’s easy for us to jam and record whenever we want. So it was like, ‘Let's see how much we can do!’” said Tamlyn, who joins bandmates Nolan Krebs (Tamyln and Krebs share vocal duties and alternate between bass and guitar) and Joshua Korf (drums) for a concert at Spacebar on Wednesday, March 25. “We find our best stuff comes out when we're not really thinking about it. It's really about whatever feels good.”
This loose-limbed feel carries over into jangly tunes like the hazy “Chili Cheese” and “Levitate Thigh,” a surf-tinged garage-psych burner that comes on like a lost gem off The Nuggets box set. Little about the band’s music is crisp — songs tend to sound as if they were pulled from the bottom of the laundry pile and worn as-is rather then pressed to a fine crease — and everything from the guitars to the shared vocals are saturated in heavy doses of reverb.
Tamlyn said his initial discomfort in the role of frontman informed this gnarly musical direction in the band’s earliest days.
“I don't like the attention, and I'm kind of a shy kid, so [when we added the reverb] it felt like I had some protection, and I was kind of hidden underneath,” said the musician, who was born in the conservative suburban town of Midland, Michigan to a medical assistant mother and a father who worked as a power plant operator. “Then we just loved how it sounded, so we kept [the reverb on the music] even after I got more confident.”
Nowadays, this layer of grime is a defining element of the band’s aesthetic — a way to separate Heaters from contemporaries who prefer to buff tracks to a military boot shine.
“It feels like a lot of music these days is coming from iPads or weird electronic devices playing prerecorded stuff, where people are just kind of doing a karaoke thing over it,” Tamlyn said. “I'm not trying to talk down on that, but I think I just missed the raw, guitar, bass and drum type of sound. We like that jangly, 1960s rock, like the Kinks or 13th Floor Elevators. Music wasn't so produced then, and everything sounded so raw and real. We're trying to hone in on that [style] and see where it goes.”
Growing up, Tamlyn, who started playing guitar at 13, had a fondness for heavy metal and other more extreme sounds that, in his own words, “could make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.” Toward the end of high school, however, he started gravitating toward comparatively reserved sounds — “That was probably when I started smoking weed,” he said, and laughed — eventually stumbling upon acts like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees, psych-leaning bands still heavily entwined in Heaters’ DNA.
The musicians gleaned further inspiration from Ann Arbor’s booming psych scene, and Tamlyn said the crew owes a heavy debt to fellow locals like Haunted Leather, Chit Chat and the Omecs.
“Grand Rapids is a pretty diverse music scene, and there's lots of weird stuff going on where everyone is just kind of mixing it up,” said Tamlyn, who relocated to the town due to its active music culture and its relative proximity to larger touring markets like Chicago. “I guess we're all trying to keep that sunny, jangly vibe alive here because Michigan is pretty depressing most of the year. Playing warm tunes keeps us happy.”
Emily Jonker photos
9 p.m. Wednesday, March 25
2590 N. High St., Old North
ALSO PLAYING: The Mystery Lights, Comrade Question