Interview: Heart To Gold

Words by Maddy Howell

Having been gradually making a name for themselves in the Minnesota DIY scene for a few years now, the dog-loving, energy-packed emo trio Heart To Gold are still working towards finding their feet. With their debut album exploring subjects such as bullying and mental health, the three-piece are evidently unashamed of the darker points of life, opting to bask in the relief that the worst is probably over. With this all-accepting sense of honesty, a love for punk and the skateboard culture, as well as a willingness to share emotions from across the spectrum, the result is nothing short of the quintessential summer soundtrack. 

We caught up with frontman Grant Whiteoak to talk dogs, the DIY community and the burdens of the "pop-punk" label. 

Burn After Writing: Your debut full-length record, 'COMP', was released in April. How’s the response been so far?

Grant Whiteoak: It’s been awesome! We’ve definitely got some local buzz which is unique. We’ve actually reached a larger amount of people with our album than we maybe expected! It’s cool!

BAW: This full-length follows on from your 2016 EP, 'Still Stuck', what has changed in the way you operate as a band since then?

GW: Well, the EP actually had our friends Michael & Jack on the drum and bass tracks, so it was a different line-up I guess. I think overall between Blake (drums), Sid (bass), and myself our taste had just grown a tad and we wanted to maybe clean things up a bit.

The EP is just “ringing” from front to back, so I think maybe we’ve just filtered things a little bit but added new flare? You know, effect pedals and humor and such! We also just take it a bit more serious now whether that be in the organization or maybe just the schedules we try and follow.

BAW: You worked on both these releases with Erik Paulson of Remo Drive. How has the experience been working alongside him?

GW: That’s the boy. Love Rik. He definitely knows how to do things, and he just kind of gets it for our tunes. We’ve been friends for a few years now, so it just feels like hanging with a homie rather than working with an engineer.

BAW: Like a lot of bands in similar scenes, it’s difficult to pin one specific genre to your sound. Do you ever find it hard to explain your work to others or feel obliged to place labels onto yourselves?

GW: It totally feels hard to explain sometimes, but there's no pressure in placing labels. People can call it what they want! We dug “jazz-punk” when we heard that!

However, we aren’t really into people throwing “pop-punk” at us. We don’t feel like we fit that whole frontman-pointing-fingers type thing. There’s just a lot of that and we think we can be placed elsewhere.

BAW: You’re soon to be heading out on an East Coast tour with Barely Civil. What should people be expecting from your live shows?

GW: Sweat. Mess-ups. Energy. Tears. Stress. Dad jokes. I guess we won’t know until we’re doing it!

BAW: You’re from Minnesota, a state that has given the DIY scene bands such as Tiny Moving Parts and Remo Drive. Who are some local artists who you think are deserving of some more attention right now?

GW: Right off the top, the dawgs in CA$UAL, they should’ve been blown up by now. Like seriously that is hardcore’s future. Fuckin’ JAKED. Also, I honestly wanna say Harper’s Jar? They’re doin’ work and pumpin’ out very organic and raw sounding punk jams. I’ve just always been a fan of the explosive style they bring.

Out of all the awesome bands we know and love though, I think the band that might deserve the most attention would be Victor Shores. @ me about it. They’ve been rocking around the USA for a while (almost a decade) and really are a treat to watch. I’d love to see people put them amongst some of these “pioneering” alt/emo bands because that’s exactly what they are. Love those dudes. And obviously Pierre. Everyone knows that.

BAW: You seem to be heavily driven by your relationships with other bands and creatives within the scene. What is it about the community aspects of DIY that you find so important in building a platform for your music?

GW: Well I feel it’s always been more out of necessity than it is strategy. We just put ourselves in that “area of expertise” by going to shows and keeping an open mind towards music. It hasn’t ever been hard to impress us, so we went to tons of local shows over the years and always loved what we were seeing and feeling.

You make friends who feel the same as you and boom, all of a sudden it’s a network of friends and bands. It was just all we knew, ya know? Or that was all we ever needed to know to feel confident about trying it ourselves. Eventually, it just influenced us enough to make our own jams and we knew the exact friends/crowd/scene we could demonstrate them to. We just sort of were engulfed and taken somewhat seriously amongst the many bands in this vast “DIY” scene.

It’s important to get your rounds in with the DIY mindset, as it can be very fulfilling, amazing, and definitely motivating - but I wouldn’t want to limit ourselves to only rockin’ in the DIY realm forever. Madison Square Garden, ya dig? DIY is weird. Music is weird. I have no idea what I’m trying to say.

BAW: You’ve been running a pretty tight campaign to appear on Little Elephant sessions over on Twitter. Are you any closer to getting a recording sorted?

GW: Absolutely not lol thanks Little Elephant!

BAW: You guys really like dogs, what are your favourite breeds?

GW: English Bulldogs. Nah, seriously though, all dawgs all the time.

BAW: What’s coming up for Heart To Gold in the remainder of 2018?