The Heavy

The Heavy


Our live show was off the chain at SXSW in 2008 (when we played the Playboy RTR party w/ MGMT, Justice and Moby). This year we've added live horns, backing singers, an organ player and a completely new set.

SXSW did amazing things to launch our first record in the US. We're putting together a show that will do the same for our newest offering.


"Do it again. Just a little more. Go again. Go again."

After seeing UK quartet The Heavy perform their funk-laden, foot-stomping anthem, "How You Like Me Now?,” David Letterman asks for something unprecedented in the show's 28-year history: an encore. The group duly obliges, bringing the entire audience at the Ed Sullivan Theater to their feet while rampaging, yet again, another stage. Most bands that perform here are already nationally known, established (read: safe) acts. So how the hell did this tiny quartet from a town so small it's not even on Google Maps (No. Really. See for yourself) not just get on the show…but destroy it? Three weeks later, you're watching the Super Bowl and hear the same song on a Kia commercial that is soon to become one of the most beloved ads in recent memory, in large part due to its soundtrack. All of a sudden, sports arenas and stadiums nationwide are playing "How You Like Me Now?," the song was featured during the MTV Movie Awards, the French Open, the Stanley Cup Finals, the group appears on the ESPYs, and goes on tour with Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, the pre-eminent soul and funk troupe in music today.

None of it makes sense.

Except it makes perfect sense.

Listening to The Heavy, a dizzying, kinetic mix of pop, rock, reggae, funk, hip-hop breaks, and soul—always, always soul—you don't know whether to bang your head to guitarist Dan T's monstrous riffs, snap your neck at drummer Chris Ellul and bassist Spencer Page's crisp rhythm section or lay back on the couch, drink in hand, slowly nodding to singer Swaby's smooth vocals.

But I guess you'll want the requisite band history before we continue. Growing up in Noid, England, a small town the group affectionately refers to as the "graveyard of all ambition," Swaby and Dan have been friends since before they can remember, sharing a love of rare soul, hip-hop, rock, folk and blues albums. Swaby recorded some rough soul- and blues-influenced tracks and presented them to Dan. Dan dug Swaby's voice and laid down some rock riffs over the beats. The Heavy were born.

"Our goal was to take the best bits of all the music we love, remove all the noodling and improvisation, and keep it to just strict grooves," says Swaby. "It had to have all the soulful elements that we truly love about the music that's come before us. We wanted everything to sound as if it came from 30 years ago." Proper equipment and studios were shunned - partly by choice, partly by necessity - but the talent and passion was there. The group releases "That Kind Of Man," their first single. It's Raw. Dirty. Scuzzy. The unholy amalgam of The MC5, the J.B's, and Curtis Mayfield. Finally, you had a song soul-lovers, cratediggers, and hip-hoppers could all rally around.

Their debut album, Great Vengeance and Furious Fire (Counter/+1 Records), recorded mostly between Swaby's and Dan’s apartments on a budget of a few hundred pounds, comes out in North America in March, 2008. The buzz slowly grows. The band practically owns the 2008 South by Southwest festival, with NPR, Spin and Rolling Stone extolling the group's sound. Playboy puts them in their prestigious annual Bands to Watch feature and invites them to perform at a series of parties across the country. Apple includes their artwork on displays in Apple Retail Stores worldwide. The Licensing world embraces The Heavy’s sound, featuring them in EA Sports’ FIFA 2009, 2K Sports’ NBA 2K9, the NBA Playoffs on TNT, and in a promo on ESPN; TV shows "Californication" and "Entourage" use The Heavy as soundtracks to key scenes in their shows. They make four trips to tour the U.S over 2008 and 2009 to play small clubs with no major backing, winning over one fan at a time.

Cut to October 2009 and the release of the group's second album The House That Dirt Built, also via Counter/+1 Records. The title says it all. "We wanted this album to be more dynamic than the first one," says Swaby. "Still, we like to keep things as basic as possible. The first thing I said to the guys was, 'It's about performance on this record. I don't want to chop up too much stuff." Listen carefully and you'll hear mistakes. "We love the mistakes," admits Swaby. "We feed off that rawness."

Dirt expands on the original grittiness of Great Vengeance, retaining that album's dirty/sweet dichotomy and adding in new musical elements. "Sixteen" flips Screamin Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You" before Swaby's silky voice comes into the mix. "Cause For Alarm" showcases the band's love of reggae and dub. And "Short Change Hero," a nod to Ennio Morricone's Spaghetti Western scores, was the impetus for Dan to walk around in cowboy boots on cat litter to recreate the villain coming into town (whatever it takes, right?).

"Entourage" calls back. Ari Gold is about to find redemption on a paintball rampage in their Season 6 finale and needs the proper theme music. Cue: "How You Like Me Now?"

I can go on, but don't take my word for


Great Vengeance and Furious Fire (2007)
The House That Dirt Built (2009)
How You Like Me Now EP (2010)