Heaters Explores the Darkest Recesses of Vintage Psych Rock

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Heaters
Emily Jonker

"It feels good to get into weird stuff," Heaters bassist/vocalist Nolan Krebs says of the trio's deep, spaced-out, fuzzy psychedelia, the kind that comes only from full immersion into the darkest recesses of the form. "It's hard to say why that is, and I don't think any of us feel like ambassadors for the genre or anything, but hopefully people are just getting drawn back into music with that emphasis on creativity and abstraction . . . Those are tendencies that we're attracted to."

That's not to say Michigan-based Heaters is only dark or abstract. Heavy — very heavy — at times, yes. Yet, for all the thick noodling and probing and exploratory stabs into the musical unknown, for all the reverb and the feedback, Heaters also filters in moments of 1960s West Coast pop-psych whimsy. Given the availability of effects these days, it's not hard to sound like Spiritualized, which Heaters does in places, but the band's preference for vintage tube amps and analog synthesizers also lends itself perfectly to the jaunty surf-garage intros that provide relief against some of the more pressing numbers.

Such instrumentals, often coupled with country twang (and Heaters adds this element, too), were essential to the development of psychedelic rock and important for acid- and biker-flick soundtracks.

"I don't think it's something that consciously works itself into our writing process, but I think we certainly all feed creatively off of science-fiction and atmospheric Westerns or whatever we might be into at the time, whether sonically or just by exercising our imaginations," Krebs says.

Michigan has a storied past with garage and psych rock — from the Stooges and MC5 to the White Stripes. Hailing from Grand Rapids, Heaters initially followed in the footsteps of such forebears before finding its own voice.

"Some of the first records that we really got into . . . were a lot of those straight-up garage rock cuts you would find on a Michigan Meltdown compilation," Krebs says. "We definitely love that type of music, but I think our inspiration a lot of the time can stem from more fluid, spaced-out stuff."

Think Pink Floyd, Camel, The Seeds, Davie Allan and The Arrows, and Thirteenth Floor Elevators blended together. Maybe the nod to the latter act was enough that after a mere two years in existence, Heaters performed at the preeminent psychedelic festival: Austin Psych Fest.

"We feel really fortunate for the people that are into our music," Krebs says of the experience. "We're all pretty driven about what we're doing and knew from the get-go we wanted to really put ourselves into it and do the best we could. So, we're just sticking with that."

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Following a series of EPs, Heaters visits Phoenix ahead of the September release its debut record, Holy Water Pool. Krebs admits the "willful craziness" that drives the band's sound took a little while to develop, but notes the EPs presented the opportunity to test the holy psych waters and see what floated and what sank.

"Yep, we were getting our footing as a band and figuring out our sound, but at the time we thought the stuff we were writing and recording was cool enough to put out there," he says."Our style has changed in some ways. I'd say we're a little more daring and willing to challenge ourselves right now than when we first started putting stuff out there. So, for us, the newer songs are a little more exciting to listen to."

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