[MUSIC: Interview] Good Heavens
“Good Heavens came together as musicians before we knew each other as human beings,” lead singer Sarah Kelly tells me. The Sydney three-piece is made up of some of the city’s most talented artists: Sarah – formerly of Sydney’s theredsunband – as singer and guitarist, and a pair of ex-Wolfmothers: drummer Myles Heskett and keyboard/bassist Chris Ross.
When I caught up with Sarah, the band had just finished filming the clip for a track off Good Heavens’ debut album, Strange Dreams. ‘You Lose’ was shot by labelmate SPOD (aka Brent Griffin) in the middle of the night, in a three-storey mansion set amongst rolling hills somewhere just outside of Yass. The shoot involved 5am finishes, smoke machines in the attic, and a beautiful lace dress Sarah found at a second hand store on Crown Street; she’s understandably excited to see the end result, describing the mansion as “a piece of Australian pastoral history”.
Good Heavens came into being after the folding of popular Sydney trio theredsunband in 2009, when Sarah Kelly’s good friend Julia Wilson, who runs indie label Rice Is Nice, started pestering her to keep writing music. Sarah decided to direct her energies towards making demos, and by 2011 she was in need of some musos. At this point, Julia suggested Myles – he was reportedly “the nicest man in the world”, and probably not a bad musician considering his aforementioned acid rock credentials. Sarah and Myles gelled really well in rehearsals, and a little later down the track recognised the need for a bass player, which is where Chris Ross stepped in. Sarah says the trio “just worked really well” – both musically and as friends. “We originally liked the name Heavens, but there was already a band called Heavens,” Sarah explains, “[so we] just stuck a ‘Good’ in front!”
One year after coming together, Good Heavens released the single ‘It’s Not Easy Being Mean’, which was followed shortly by the group’s debut album Strange Dreams: ten tracks that equally reflect the three members’ particular fascinations with psychedelia. Strange Dreams is the perfect marriage of forces, with Sarah’s ethereal vocals in brilliant contrast to the garish distortion of the rhythm section surrounding her. There’s also an investigative quality to the album; you’re able to sense that the artists are in the process of figuring each other out musically. “I wrote the majority of the album’s songs prior to the band’s formation, and then we just kind of arranged them together in the rehearsal room,” Sarah explains. One exception, however, was the song for the video clip shot in Yass. “‘You Lose’ was more of a collaborative effort,” she says. It began with a few of Sarah’s ideas – a chord progression and some lyrics – before the three created the final song together; Sarah hopes Good Heavens’ songwriting will come from a more shared process like this in the future.
The themes in Good Heavens’ album range from extraordinary dreams to suicide. When I asked Sarah if any strange dreams had affected her while she was writing, she told me about her favourite recurring dream, which inspired the song ‘Are You Sick?’. In the dream Sarah is a leaf, floating across the ocean – she likes dreams where she becomes disembodied, or becomes a different person. “It was a really interesting feeling where I was a rotting leaf,” she says, “sort of decaying.” Dreams certainly make for good inspiration – especially the strange ones.
What: Strange Dreams is out now through Rice Is Nice
Where: Brighton Up Bar
When: Saturday November 3