The Boom of Heidi Klum’s Bangs

24 Jul

Heidi Klum's Bangs

The popularity of the full-length LP has vacillated throughout history. Before the British Invasion and Psychedelic revolution, A-B-side singles were preferred. Then the concept album was born and numerous 1960’s bands created full-length albums (10-12 songs) that oozed with artistic creativity and musical intelligence. But that faded, and the individual song took over once again in the late 1970s into the 80s. Then the turn over happened again. The 90s brought grunge, alternative rock, and the nascent stages of indie music. All of a sudden people were asking if you had listened to Nirvana’s new album or dove into the heavy sounds of Neutral Milk Hotel. Today, though, the album has been superseded by the single for the most part. The influence of music downloading and purchasing sites like iTunes, where individual songs cost 99 cents (or more at times), has been tremendous. Yes, albums are being created and some indie bands like Arcade Fire are still dabbling in the art of concept releases, but creating albums is not the current popular choice. Albums, in more cases than not, act as mere folders, just created to hold all the singles in one place. The question that can be posed today is whether or not that modern album is dead? Perhaps more specifically, has the concept album perished?

“I think the album is still alive, and I have absolute faith in it, and I know that there are artists out there who still want to make true albums and people who enjoy hearing a cohesive or unified work,” said Zach Beck, multi-instrumentalist and singer for indie/concept band Heidi Klum’s Bangs (the subject of our new band profile today!) “I mean, not that singles are inherently bad or anything, but personally, I would easily take a unified 11 or 15 or 27-song album — even if there may be a (couple of) song(s) on it that I’m not really crazy about but that are still a necessary part of the overall theme or are integral to the story as a whole or that advance the narrative or provide another frame in the film strip or whatever — over a mix of 12 perfectly executed, flawless singles.

Zach, 22, and his brother Dylan, 17, make up the Mountain Home, Arkansas band Heidi Klum’s Bangs, and their quasi first release Palace Pier (released May, 2011) is good evidence that the draw of a concept album is still alive and well. A linked album is like a good novel while singles are more like flash fiction (short prose that ends in four pages or less). A novel needs time to plan and form. There needs to be plot, theme and message. The concept album needs this as well. The best linked albums carry an organized message through both music and lyrics. I believe Zach says it best:

“In my view, the album remains the best and most wonderful way to make something beautiful and/or meaningful and/or emotionally moving and the best and most wonderful way to connect with others. And to connect others with others, too. And that was basically the goal of Palace Pier.”

Zach and Dylan have been creating music for around three years in several formats. First, the brothers created a “post-rock / experimental / ambient band called Thee Children of Light,” and from there Heidi Klum’s Bangs was conceived. They have been working under that name for about 16 months at this current point.

When I interviewed Zach, I needed to ask where the name Heidi Klum’s Bangs came from.

“The story behind that sorta has to do with this girl I had a thing for at the time,” he said. “I mean, I thought I had a thing for her, even though I didn’t know anything about her, but I started writing something to her anyway and ended up writing just line-after-line about her hair. And then some at point soon after, I somehow found myself watching Project Runway, you know, and there was Heidi Klum, and I thought, “Wow! This girl has just about the exact same hair style as Heidi Klum!” And of course the aspect of it that drew the majority of my attention were the prominent bangs. So that ended being the title of the song-that-wasn’t-really-a-song. And it felt right for how I imagined the sound of our band, so I remember vividly just saying to Dylan, ‘The name of the musical endeavor that I am going to pursue is Heidi Klum’s Bangs. Feel free to hop aboard if you’d like; if not, see you later.’”

In short, Dylan said yes to the name and the brothers started dreaming up the concept album Palace Pier. The end result, after six months of recording in their basement, was a dreamy psychedelic release of 13 tracks most similar to the beautiful rawness of late 90s experimental acts out of the Elephant 6 Recording Company like Neutral Milk Hotel and Elf Power. Zach and Dylan are both talented multi-instrumentalists and the sound they create is a well-produced low-fi blend of indie and experimental rock. Zach writes, sings and plays guitar, trumpet, bells, keyboards/piano. Dylan completes the band with drums, bells, keyboards and marimba.

Let’s look at the introduction to the album, “The Window.”

The song begins with drawn-out keys under a tranquil, halcyon sample of seagulls and children at a beach. It lulls you into a state of comfort. The background drops out in favor of rising drums and keys. It gradually rises in sound and then falls into acoustic guitar and then into the combination of instruments that forms the song. When the voices drop I feel like I have just taken a time machine back to the experimental 90s. The harmony and the trumpet are so much in the vein of those releases that this opening track is actually somewhat freaky to a fan of Elephant Six. Freaky in a good way. The lyric is enigmatic, but certainly related to the sounds.

Painted waves
Changing shape
That smooth tattoo
Pulsing through
The beams of light
In soft cascade
To silver night
Let’s watch it fade

Descriptive but succinct and that is effective. “The Window” is my favorite track from the album. I believe the male/female harmony works well to establish the concept album. I asked Zach about the point of the full album.

“The theme of the album has to do with the transience of things – like coming to grips with the undeniable certainty of the passing moment and striving to find some way to keep it with you.”

He cites Virgina Woolf’s To The Lighthouse as a big inspiration for the sea imagery and, well, that makes an English major like myself very happy, so kudos to Zach!

Currently, the band is working together on new material and they hope to play some shows in the near future. But most of all, Heidi Klum’s Bangs wants to continue to create music with the hope that they can share a passionate message to listeners.

“We’re just trying to make people feel something,” said Zach. “We’re hoping and striving to touch and move people and bring a bit of healing into people’s lives, because I think we all need that at the moment. All we want to do is put some good in the world.”

Check out the band’s Bandcamp to listen to more songs. The album is available for purchase, but, like In Rainbows, you pay what you want to pay (even if that is nothing, but, come on, give the band a few bucks). You can also follow the band on their Facebook page

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