Pop and Bothered
Originally published in Alternative Press. May 1995
Kurt Heasley grew up less of a son than a houseguest. "You want your guests to have a good time, right? My parents took the attitude, 'Here's Kurt. He's going to be with us for the next eighteen years. Let's give him something to do,'" Heasley says. So Heasley, who believes everyone's defining characteristics are established very early in life, started a band and moved to Washington D.C. on the cusp of the Slumberland/Simple Machines/Teenbeat label revolution.
"By the time I ws fourteen, it was pretty clear that there wasm't anything I was cut out for," says Heasley. "Everything bothered me. I didn't want to do anything. People either loved that I was so funny and hyper or I bothered them entirely."
That hasn't changed much, either. Over the last four years and three albums, about 20 people have drifted through the rotating Lilys line-up. Heasley has moved from Lancaster to D.C. to Philadelphia to Denver. He likes to work with friends, but not everyone remains friendly after working with him.
"People hate me for bizarre reasons," he laughs. "I'm very sarcastic. I touch people a lot. Not everyone like that. You want to say 'What's wrong with you? Weren't you breast-fed as a child? Don't you like to be hugged?'"
Heasley hears millions of melodies in his head, but records infrequently out of fear of not getting it right. His new album, Eccsame The Photon Band, is essentially just himslef, Harold Evans of Poole, and some contributions from friends in the studio. The album is Heasley's favorite release since the first Slumberland single, "February 14th."
"The new album was hardcore channeling," says Heasley. "I said 'Harold, you know what I am going to do.' He said, 'Damn straight.' He took riffs straight from my head." Gone is the wall of guitar that blanketed 1992's In The Presence of Nothing and the harmonic pop sheen of 1993's A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns EP. Both are replaced by a growing awareness of all kinds of music.
"You can use so much music," he says. "You just have to know how to orchestrate. I've learned everything can't be the biggest sound, but you have 20 million tracks to do whatever you want. So we'd bring in this really cool sound for two seconds, knowing it would drive people crazy just to hear it once."
Before this, Heasley says, he had been too concerned about trying to fit in with the D.C. cool kids, who distored his vision. "I was the fat kid who was in, but not in," says Heasley, who still winces at not being invited to Slumberland parties where Velocity Girl played.
Heasley also wanted to be in the Monkees, but ended up in My Bloody Valentine
"Looking back, In The Presense of Nothing was a really expensive hash party," he laughs. "People thought American bands couldn't sound like MBV. I thought I could pull Isn't Anything out of my ass. That record really respects an entire sound. For every MBV riff, there's an X riff that's better. For every X riff, there's a Monkees riff that a team of writers made sure was the best. That's what I hear when I listen to Isn't Anything."
And there's another transformation on the horizon...
"I want to learn how to sing for real and be a crooner," he says. "If all I know how is sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll pertain to peoples lives, then I'll write a million songs about that. I want to do songs that are classy. It's not about wearing tuxedos, but doing what you do well. If not, just stay in bed."--David Daley
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