That’s a big name for a small band but Auckland’s Heavy have been doing a great job of living up to it in the last year, culminating recently in the release of an album they’ve named ‘Lock In’. James Manning caught up with the club land duo of Reem Nabhani and Liam Dargaville not long after they had completed a four-date tour to promote the album.
After a string of EP and single releases, Auckland party purveyors Heavy have recently unveiled their debut album, ‘Lock In’. At the time of interview, the pair have just returned from their album release tour, Ponsonby’s Golden Dawn having hosted the final show. Beatmaker Liam Dargaville and wordsmith Reem Nabhani beam while recalling the homecoming.
“It’s pretty incredible to have your lyrics shouted back at you, to the point where you’re choking on your own words. It was overwhelming. This whole thing’s been overwhelming,” Reem admits.
Both now in their mid-20s, the pair began performing as Heavy in early 2014, after being offered a slot at Chronophonium. Reem had written in the past and Liam had been playing with beatmaking.
“Luckily, the folk who run Chronophonium are friends of ours and they took our word that our set wasn’t gonna suck,” laughs Liam, swigging from his beer.
They had only a few weeks to write material to fill a 2am set.
“People who are up at that time are going to charge to whatever you throw at them,” he smirks.
Festival antics and supplements aside, the performance left a lasting impression on Reem.
“Even at the state we were in at 2am though, it felt very surreal. It feels good, and that’s what keeps you going.”
From then came the Speak and Superbad singles and the ‘Tasty’ EP, a range of house parties and shows in Auckland and Wellington, a spot on the Laneway bill and now ‘Lock In’. Clocking in at just under 25 minutes, it’s a collection of hazy, cut up-bass beats over dusky sound beds, with fragmented scenes and memories both rhymed and spoken on top. Highlights include gnawing bass banger Double Stout, the big-beat and blaze-pride of Kush Mansion, and the frantic, ode to old-school Sega systems called Game-Over.
“Initially it was gonna be like us delving back on those tracks like Superbad, re-recording and releasing them, just because they never went on the EP,” explains Liam.
A combination of wanting to move on from their old material and their admitted short attention spans urged the duo to start from scratch, leaving everything else behind.
“I feel like our EP was like an experiment. I mean, it’s always going to be an experiment, but this is us standing up and getting on our own two feet,” adds Reem.
Written and recorded solely by themselves it was again compiled quickly and acts as a mash of ideas collected while playing live. Those who have seen Heavy perform will understand just how important the live show is to them, and they light up when talking about it.
“I love playing at house parties and playing really sweaty environments. I just love to bro-out with all the people and go really hard”, Reem beams .
Learning how to capture this hype and energy from the live show was an integral part of the recording process. Songwriting duties are shared equally between the two, as Liam explains.
“I write a beat, she picks all the good spots and then I rap on the leftovers.”
Recognising the tongue-in-cheek tone Reem retorts: “Yeah, sometimes I’m like, ‘Hey, can you add more bass, or make it more crazy?’ I just love bass.”
Lyrics cover a variety of ideas and each verse can vary, from a past experience to something that happened yesterday, or something someone said. Fluidity was a big thing according to Liam. He wanted the album to feel continuous, adding further to the smoky haze underpinning the record. No samples were used, making the release very much their own.
“It sounds like I was using ripped and slowed down samples, but it’s just me singing melodies, and then I’ve cut them up.”
They list Micachu and the Shapes, Career Girls and Childish Gambino as influences, along with their friend Elvin Alfaro who features on the album under the alias LVJ. His deep vocal tone and agile rhymes are an added highlight.
“For me, with raps, it’s not what they say, but the style they rap in, and the way that [the raps] merge from bar to bar,” explains Reem, pointing to Philadelphia-born hip hop artist Bahamadia as another influence.
Heavy had planned to take a break from writing after their album tour, but a few ideas have surfaced since they’ve been back.
“Who knows? Maybe we’ll make another album. We’re still fresh and we’ll keep developing our sound, whatever it is,” asserts Liam.
And finally, the weed question. The pair laugh.
“Everyone who asks the weed question is like, ‘What’s the deal?’,” says Liam. “There is no deal man, we smoke pot. And it’s just chill.”