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The Heavy Heavy at First Avenue on October 24, 2024.
The Heavy Heavy at First Avenue on October 24, 2024.Image provided by promoter.

The Heavy Heavy

Thursday, October 24
7:00 pm

First Avenue

701 1st Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55403

The Heavy Heavy

with Dylan LeBlanc

Doors 7 p.m. | Show 8 p.m. | 18+

Information | Tickets

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The Heavy Heavy

With the arrival of their debut EP Life and Life Only, The Heavy Heavy immediately filled a longtime void in the musical landscape, delivering a soulful breed of rock & roll untouched by modern artifice. As audiences across the globe grew enchanted with their era-bending sound, the UK-based band began selling out headline shows in major cities like New York and Chicago, opening for the likes of Black Pumas and Band of Horses, and earning critical comparisons to Jefferson Airplane, The Band, The Mamas & The Papas, and more—all with only a handful of songs to their name, including the AAA radio top five singles “Miles and Miles” and “Go Down River.” After spending the past two years on the road and in the studio, The Heavy Heavy now draw listeners even deeper into their dreamworld with their long-awaited debut album, One Of A Kind.

Written entirely by co-founders Georgie Fuller and William Turner and mostly recorded at Turner’s studio in Brighton, One Of A Kind maintains the self-contained approach of Life and Life Only—a seven-song project acclaimed by outlets like NME (who named them an essential emerging artist for 2023) and The Guardian (who noted that The Heavy Heavy “write and play music with that lick of madness that makes early Fleetwood Mac and peak Stones so thrilling”). To that end, Turner produced, engineered, and mixed every track and handled most of the LP’s lavish instrumentation (including guitar, bass, piano, organ, Mellotron, and more), with The Heavy Heavy’s live band lending their explosive energy to the album. But in a departure from the EP, One Of A Kind leans away from Laurel Canyon-esque folk-rock and fully embraces their British roots, finding a particularly crucial inspiration in the gritty and groove-heavy hedonism of the Rolling Stones’ Goats Head Soup. “A lot of our EP was very bright and pretty, so we wanted to smash the door down like we do in the live show,” says Turner. “Because we were creating an entire album, there was so much more space to explore and expand,” Fuller adds. “It’s still undoubtedly that Heavy Heavy sound, but now we have all these other rooms to play around in.”

For One Of A Kind’s lead single, The Heavy Heavy chose a sun-drenched and sing-along-ready number that serves as an auspicious bridge to the band’s new era. The last song written for the album, “Happiness” bends toward the lush psych-pop of Life and Life Only while introducing a new level of visceral intensity. “We felt we needed a song that had that summery, flowery feel of the EP, and somehow at the last minute we were able to pull magic out of thin air,” Fuller recalls. A fast fan favorite at their live shows, “Happiness” channels a bold determination to break free from loneliness and stagnation, ultimately providing an automatic mood lift thanks to The Heavy Heavy’s resplendent melodies and signature multi-part harmonies.

Kicking off with a majestic bang, One Of A Kind opens on the rolling drumbeats and walloping riffs of its title track—a feverishly chanted anthem whose lyrics transform the listener into the protagonist of their own impossibly glamorous movie (e.g., “You’re getting down/You’re keeping on/You look the best/You’re all night howling”). Graced with a breathtaking vocal performance from Fuller (a classically trained singer), “One Of A Kind” quickly set the tone for the album’s larger-than-life vitality. “Something about the primal nature of that song inspired us to keep making songs that feel quite big and powerful,” says Turner. Later, on “Because You’re Mine,” The Heavy Heavy sustain that feel-good spirit and share a carefree love song lit up in slinky grooves and hallucinatory lyrics depicting what Fuller refers to as “the psychedelic daydream of a wandering nomad type—someone who goes wherever the wind takes them.”

As One Of A Kind floats along, The Heavy Heavy endlessly push into previously uncharted sonic terrain, tapping into such unexpected influences as mid-’90s big beat on the bass-driven and gorgeously hazy “Miracle Sun.” “It’s a song with a lot of attitude to it—sort of our way of telling the world, ‘We’re living the way we want to live, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand,’” says Turner. Meanwhile, on “Feel,” the band merges the mesmerizing grooves of Madchester-era Britpop with a bit of idiosyncratic poetry (“I am a freeloader love junkie/A real heavy cannonball and I’m hungry…I stand between the sun, between the stone/I feel it in my fingers, feel it in my bones”). And on “Wild Emotion,” One Of A Kind offers up a country-infused serenade laced with galloping rhythms and twangy guitar tones partly inspired by the work of Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler. “That’s probably the most emotional song on the album,” Turner points out. “It’s meant to have a reassuring message, but at its center is the story of a woman who’s gone through a heartbreak and can’t find her way out of feeling hopeless and distraught.”

After journeying through a whirlwind of sounds and textures—the hypnotic Mellotron of “Lemonade,” the frenetic psych-rock organ and skyscraping vocals of “Dirt,” the earthy acoustic guitar and sweetly playful harmonies of “Lovestruck”—One Of A Kind lands at the reverb-soaked splendor of its closing track, “Salina.” Named for a sparsely populated volcanic island off the coast of Sicily (an otherworldly spot Fuller and Turner visited on vacation), the slow-building epic unfolds in so many exquisitely strange sonic details: moody cello lines, thundering percussion, a spellbinding pedal-steel part simultaneously played by two separate guest musicians. “‘Salina’ was one of those moments where we let ourselves get experimental with the production and create a whole ocean of sound,” says Fuller. “We knew we had to put it at the end and let the reverb ring out in those final seconds—almost as if we’re leaving the album hanging in the air.”

Formed in 2019, The Heavy Heavy emerged from a potent alchemy of their eclectic sensibilities. Hailing from the small town of Malvern (a stretch of the English countryside he describes as “a beautiful place full of hippies and longhaired people”), Turner took up guitar in his early teens and later played in a series of psychedelic/surf-rock bands, while Fuller’s extensive background includes performing at Montreux Jazz Festival as a teenager and acting in the London theater. As they moved forward with a mission of “making music that sounds like our favorite records ever” (including everything from Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac to folk-blues act Delaney & Bonnie to Fleet Foxes), the duo dreamed up a batch of songs in a London flat and self-released an early version of Life and Life Only in late 2020, eventually catching the attention of ATO Records and signing with the U.S.-based label in 2022. Fueled in part by the breakout success of “Miles and Miles” (their ATO debut single), The Heavy Heavy’s five-piece live band soon began playing bigger and bigger venues and taking the stage at leading festivals like Bonnaroo, Boston Calling, and Newport Folk Festival, in addition to performing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” and “CBS Saturday Morning” and scoring major syncs with the likes of Nissan and Netflix’s “Outer Banks.”

Because of the rapturous response to their debut EP, The Heavy Heavy found themselves in an unfamiliar headspace when it came to the creation of One Of A Kind. “With the EP we were making songs as a way to soundtrack our own lives, but now it’s a different beast—it’s no longer theoretical, which gives everything more weight,” says Turner. But in the end, the band discovered an essential touchstone in the connection they’ve forged with their fans over the last two years. “Not too long ago, a woman came up to us at a show and told us she was getting a tattoo of one of our lyrics to remind herself to keep pushing on and keep chasing her dreams,” Fuller says. “Moments like that always remind us that as long as we keep making what feels good, chances are it’s going to make other people feel good too. I hope this album feels like a great big party to everyone, and I hope it inspires them to live their lives however they want.”

Dylan LeBlanc

Dylan LeBlanc is engaging and soft-spoken in person, yet his striking new album Renegade reflects the power of his live show – one that he simply describes as rock ‘n’ roll. While the album was recorded in just 10 days and tracked in three, the intensity of the project marks the culmination of more than a decade on the road. “I like the idea of a renegade -- branching off from society or from the structure of the way our world is designed,” he says of Renegade, his first album for ATO Records. “It felt right to call it that. I wanted to write about the crueler, nasty aspects of the world and life.”

LeBlanc’s observations are woven through Renegade, though he’s more interested in telling the story than judging the characters for their decisions. The title track, he says, is “about troubled cocky young men charming young women who were intrigued by that way of life, only for it to end in tragedy. I saw this countless times growing up.” Later he writes about his personal efforts to become a stronger person in “Born Again,” after a childhood of being bullied for his long hair and an adolescence marked by insecurity, fear, and anger.

LeBlanc considers the new album a departure from his past work, but only because there’s more of an edge to these sessions, recorded with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb in Nashville’s Studio A. This time around, LeBlanc primarily stayed plugged in for the sessions, giving Renegade a Tom Petty feel, charged with a streak of ‘80s rock. “I never really played electric guitar live in the studio like that,” he says. “I'm so used to the rhythmic, acoustic thing. It was just like playing in a show.”

Since 2016, LeBlanc has toured with Alabama rock group The Pollies as his backing band. He’s known most of the band members since childhood, growing up together in Muscle Shoals, and considers them his closest friends. Because they’ve been playing songs on Renegade live, it was only logical that the Pollies backed up LeBlanc in the studio, too. “They bring out a comfort in me to let loose, let myself go a little bit more, and get more immersed in the music,” LeBlanc says. “It's such a telekinetic thing, because we've known each other for so long and we’ve played together a lot. It’s a band of guys that I know musically really well. They let me express myself creatively in a way that I probably wouldn't be comfortable enough to do before.”

These expressions are sometimes borne out of conversations with strangers, such as the woman in “Domino” who shared her stories of prostitution with him, or the man he met in New Orleans who inspired “Bang Bang Bang,” whose life was dramatically altered by gun violence. On a more personal note, “Damned” finds LeBlanc trying to wrap his head around religion, while “I See It in Your Eyes” and “Lone Rider” capture the complications of relationships. One of the album’s quieter moments, “Sand and Stone” is an effort to live in the present moment. As Renegade draws to a close, “Magenta” evokes the slave history of a farm in Louisiana, while “Honor Among Thieves” makes a powerful statement about ancestry, immigration laws, and land rights.

LeBlanc’s previous album, 2016’s Cautionary Tale, offered a satisfyingly mellow vibe in line with the ‘70s musicians who influenced him. However, once he started touring with the Pollies, the sonic textures began to shift. Yet, one of the strongest ties between the albums is LeBlanc’s blossoming confidence as a singer. The range and depth he showed as a vocalist on Cautionary Tale run throughout the 10 songs on Renegade.

“I think my voice is definitely something I had to find,” he says. “I didn't have the range that I have now. Somebody told me, ‘Your voice is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.’ I really took that to heart. I always tried to go further than what I was capable of, and push harder for it, which is sometimes embarrassing, but sometimes it works out. Over time I could sing a lot higher, and had more range and more development. Also, playing shows helps your voice. You can't substitute experience.”

As a boy, LeBlanc lived in Austin, Texas, with his mother, stepfather, a brother and sister. When the kids would go visit their paternal grandmother in Shreveport, Louisiana, LeBlanc would constantly replay of a videotape of his dad playing guitar in a band called The Underground, strumming along with a toy guitar. Before long, music became an obsession. In his early teens, LeBlanc absorbed the ‘80s music his mother preferred, like The Police and U2. Meanwhile, his grandmother encouraged him to keep writing music and introduced him to important songwriters like John Prine and Merle Haggard. He’d spend hours in his bedroom learning guitar by playing along with CDs.

Because his father James LeBlanc was a staff writer at FAME Enterprises in Muscle Shoals, Dylan spent years hanging around the office, getting to know founder Rick Hall. In contrast to the city’s incredible soul and rock heritage, most of LeBlanc’s friends were listening to metal, though personally LeBlanc was drawn to albums by Bright Eyes, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young. At 16, he dropped out of high school to join a rock band. He’s maintained a music career ever since, and the release of Renegade means another global trek with the band, which he fully embraces.

“I really like to be goofy and joke with them a lot, but also to get deep with people and have real conversations, and talk about the things that matter,” says LeBlanc, who now lives in Nashville. “I don't read anything that doesn't help me grow as a person in some way. I don't read novels anymore. I don't read for entertainment. I just read to grow. I feel like I want to have a conversation with people who are looking to grow and move forward in their own spiritual way.”