Photography: Bo Cross bocrossphoto.com
Stylist: Tama Michelle
Heavy Glow (psychedelic/rock/blues) is releasing a new album June 3rd. The band has filmed a music video featuring Mayra Leal of the Robert Rodriguez movie “Machete.”
Heavy Glow frontman/creative sparkplug Jared Mullins was steeped in soulful rock, born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio — a vibrant artistic influence and a rolling stone’s throw from the Midwest’s rock-and-soul capitol, Detroit, Michigan. Direct contact and distant proximity profoundly effected the guitarist/vocalist/songwriter as he compiled his musical toolbox, and that impact ripples through Heavy Glow’s new release, the guitars-and-soul-to-11 swaggerfest of Pearls & Swine and Everything Fine.
“This record is more Motown to me,” says Jared. “Some of those songs are a couple years old, like ‘Fat Cat.’ But that track didn’t make sense on the previous record. I think of the first album as ‘heavy’ and this second album as ‘glow,’ ” Jared notes.
Pearls & Swine and Everything Fine is potent proof of Heavy Glow’s deep influences. The process that shaped the first two EPs and evolved with their full length debut achieves blistering fruition on Pearls & Swine and Everything Fine as Jared, bassist Joe Brooks and a battery of drummers forge dramatic new sounds from the familiar elements they’ve consistently utilized on a brutally personal, painfully honest and viscerally raw set of songs.
Heavy Glow constructs Pearls & Swine on a foundation of fuzz-fueled hard rock, appointed with psychedelically-tinted blues and beautifully textured washes of Motown/Memphis soul. Simultaneously, a punkish verve cattle prods the retro rock vibe squarely into right now.
In a departure, Jared wrote everything on Pearls & Swine. This possibly accounts for the more prominent soul music vibe. Still, no one will mistake this album for a Hitsville’s archive nugget, unless there’s a lost Motown chapter where Berry Gordy signed Blue Cheer.
“The first album was collaborative,” recalls Jared. “It was written in rehearsals over several months, and there was a lot of back and forth because we as a band produced it. With this album, the songs came from things I was going through and I brought all the songs to the table.”
In another shift, Heavy Glow teamed with infinitely talented producers Michael Patterson (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Beck, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, P. Diddy, Notorious B.I.G., Duran Duran) and Nic Jodoin (BRMC, The Morlocks, Nightmare Air). Patterson and Jodoin’s concentrated methodology resulted in an album that is black hole heavy and as cohesive as the ’89 Detroit Pistons.
“Michael’s a mixing genius,” says Jared. “I felt because he was from Memphis, he would get that soul aspect, with Stax and everything else there. Nic did most of the actual recording in the room with us. Michael did a really good job with the bass guitar. Apart from our close friendship over the years, Joe’s a fantastic bass player and extremely soulful. So I’m really happy that came out on this new record.”
Pearls & Swine and Everything Fine (with brilliant cover design by renowned artist Darren Grealish, whose work includes gig posters for Queens of the Stone Age and the Melvins and graces the walls of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) features Joe’s exquisite bass runs while Jared plugs his guitar into rock’s heavy history with nods to Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore and Tony Iommi. At the same time, melodic pop subtlety underpins the album’s heaviest chord stomp moments; witness the swinging soul delicacy of “Fat Cat.” It’s all welded together by Jared’s totally now perspective, his innate ability to focus his love of rock/soul/psychedelia through a contemporary lens to create Heavy Glow’s modern classicism, placing the band into the sonic realm shared by QOTSA and Foo Fighters.
Just as importantly, Jared’s lyrical acumen addresses issues like the false fronts people hide behind, the passion and vulnerability of love (unrequited and otherwise) and the pitfalls in navigating life and its tumultuous relationships. Listen to the one-two soul/pop heart punch of “Mine All Mine” and the relentless blues/soul swagger of “Headhunter” for supporting testimony; coincidentally, those tracks comprised Heavy Glow’s 7″ teaser from last summer. If “Headhunter” sounds familiar, you’re likely a fan of CBS TV’s summer smash “Under the Dome,” which incorporated the song into the show’s music-savvy soundtrack. And “Got My Eye on You,” which Jared characterizes as a “happy little march to hell,” will be similarly exposed in the upcoming indie film “Guten Tag, Ramon.”
Where influences are concerned, Jared acknowledges his debt to the original blues architects, the rock, soul and punk of the ’60s/’70s, every generation’s melodic pop traditions and the adrenalized jolt of his contemporary peer group, particularly the afore mentioned QOTSA, Foo Fighters but also Buffalo Killers, early Black Keys, the Sword, the Raconteurs, fellow Clevelanders Mr. Gnome and Peach Kings. Describing the sound of Pearls & Swine typifies his respect for the past and anticipation of the future.
“I think we drew on the same influences in a different way,” he says. “The music vocabulary is the same but we’re using different words. We never want to make the same album over again. The next album will probably have a different shade, but it’s always going to be heavy, melodic and subtle. We’re not trading guitars for synthesizers.”
When musicians discuss satisfaction in their work, that conversation can span technical proficiency, emotional connection and successful stage-to-studio translation. Jared offers an interesting spin on the end result of Pearls & Swine.
“I’m happy that I wasn’t afraid to say whatever I felt,” he notes. “For me, lyrically, I think it’s the best album I’ve done. And I was extremely happy with the vocals. As far as the process, Nic and Mike pulled something out that I didn’t even know was there. I’m happy with the title. There’s so much conviction in the album. Every choice we made was because we believed in it 100%. I bled my heart out in those songs. There are no other bands in the hard rock/stoner/psychedelic/proto-metal world putting out records with as much soul and emphasis on the groove.”
Like all good creation myths home, in this case Cleveland, clearly established the parameters of Heavy Glow’s sound and philosophy. “Every time I’m here, I do my dreaming,” says Jared. “When you’re growing up in Cleveland, you don’t see the sun for months, and everything is black and white and dismal. You dream in colors and wonder what it’s like elsewhere. I grew up on a farm with blue collar, manual labor work, and I did it because that’s what you do, but it always helped to have a song in my head. That and being close to Detroit, and here we had the power trios – the Glass Harp, the James Gang, all those guys – and proximity to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where you could be introduced to the history of rock.
“I went to see Robert Lockwood Jr. in downtown Cleveland when I was 14 or 15. Robert Johnson taught him how to play guitar. I got up close to watch him play Delta blues on his 12 string. It was amazing. My music influence comes from Cleveland. The weather’s shitty, nobody wants to go outside and girls don’t even shave their legs in the winter because nobody’s going to see them.”
Leaving Cleveland’s brutal winters and oppressive summers, Jared relocated to San Diego’s hospitable climate for college. A drummer since age 10, Jared planned to abandon music and attend graduate school for a history doctorate. But upon realizing life without music was unthinkable, Jared posted Craigslist ads in search of bandmates, leading him to Joe Brooks, a native of nearby Chula Vista.
There was an immediate connection between Joe as bassist and Jared as drummer/vocalist, with the pair sharing similar musical DNA; Joe learned from old James Brown records, and counts the Who’s John Entwistle and Primus’ Les Claypool as seminal influences, but is equally awed by contemporaries like Beck’s Justin Meldal-Johnsen and Foo Fighters’ Nate Mendel. And Joe’s philosophies dovetailed with Jared’s musical views – they both approach music from a spiritual perspective, considering it a church of sorts – and they formed a perfectly synchronized rhythm section, brothers from a musical mother.
Jared shifted roles when their guitarist couldn’t play parts crucial to the songs, opening the drum chair to a succession of talented but fleeting beatkeepers; studio and touring drumming is currently divided between Mike Amster and Andrew Merkle.
Things began moving for the band when Jared connected with renowned guitarist Stevie Salas, who offered to produce the band’s debut EP. Salas’ resume is name-droppingly packed with top-of-the-heap talent – including Mick Jagger, Justin Timberlake, Rod Stewart, Bootsy Collins and Guns ‘n Roses – and Jared quickly recognized the value of working with and learning from Salas.
“Stevie heard some poorly recorded demos, but he was really impressed with the guitar playing and the tones I was using,” says Jared. “I met with him in San Diego and we were talking about guitars, he gave me one of his albums and told me he wanted to take us to L.A. and record at Matt Sorum’s studio, where Velvet Revolver’s albums were done. For him to handpick us and record and produce us on his own, it was inspirational to me. He became our mentor after that.”
After completing the EP sessions, the band needed a new name to emphasize their rejuvenation. Jared had written a song called “Heavy Glow,” which made the EP, and Salas found the track’s imagery intriguing.
“The record sounded great, people from Guns ‘n Roses were checking it out, I was playing Slash’s guitar and Stevie and I went to hang out and record with Justin Timberlake. Problem was, we still had no band name,” says Jared with a laugh. “And then Stevie suggested Heavy Glow, one of our song titles. He said ‘that’s a great band name right there.’
Salas’ input on Heavy Glow came at a crucial moment in the band’s development. They were trying to translate their love of music into music of their own with scant ideas about achieving that seemingly distant goal. Salas illuminated the path and set them on their way.
“We wanted to do music full time, and he showed us how,” says Jared. “We owe a lot to Stevie. For him to sit there with a 24-year-old and say, ‘You’re a great guitar player, let’s take you up to L.A.,’ that was big. I will always appreciate him doing that for me. That was my inspiration to keep going.”
The material recorded with Salas earned positive press here and abroad, scoring television exposure when FOX tapped “Grinning in the Dark” for their cop comedy, “The Good Guys.” The EP buzz led to a StockXChange Music Group contract but the Australian label imploded almost immediately, leaving Heavy Glow to self-release 2010’s “The Filth and the Fury.” England’s Classic Rock Magazine selected “Hot Mess” for their July CD sampler and the EP received a Best Rock Album of the Year nomination at the San Diego Music Awards.
Heavy Glow’s acclaimed 2011 full length debut, Midnight Moan, was darker and more expansive and exhibited Jared’s potent influences. The album conclusively proved a band can mature and grow without losing the passionate spark that ignited them in the first place. Which returns us inevitably to the visceral magnificence of Pearls & Swine and Everything Fine. If Pearls & Swineintimates a paradigm shift for Heavy Glow, Jared offers an appropriate assessment of the potential for the band going forward.
“Every time I’m done with an album, I feel closer to getting it all out,” says Jared. “When we chose the name Heavy Glow, I wanted it to incorporate different shades of rock, like older bands that had that yin/yang – Iron Butterfly, Led Zeppelin – encompassing a lot of different things. I don’t understand why you can’t be heavy and melodic at the same time. Why can’t you have a raucous, guitar-driven sound that leaves a hook in your head?”
The short answer is that you can. Look no further than the brilliant density
of Heavy Glow.
~Brian Baker (Cincinnati City Beat/Magnet Magazine)
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