The Heavy Guilt
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The Heavy Guilt

San Diego, California, United States

San Diego, California, United States
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"In Support Of The Art: Alfred Howard (The Heavy Guilt)"

In Support Of The Art is a feature which will run on Fridays. Each entry will focus on a different musician and his very own collection of vinyl records, along with what’s currently going on with their music. If you’re a musician who’d like to get involved, you can email us at news@modern-vinyl.com. For this week’s entry, we spoke with Alfred Howard, who plays junk percussion, circuit bent radios and assorted other swap meet acquisitions in San Diego-based band, The Heavy Guilt. We recently reviewed the band’s latest work, “In The Blood.”
As the primary lyricist for The Heavy Guilt, what was your approach when writing the newest album “In The Blood”?

In the Blood had more of a collaborative approach to the song writing. When we wrote the first record, it was basically me emailing lyric ideas to our keyboardist Josh Rice and him putting them to a melody. Then we’d polish up those outlines rhythmically and the band would learn them. We had all the songs arranged before we had even met our singer, so we were just hoping to find the right person/people to breathe life into these ideas. Now that we’ve been a 6 piece with the same members for a couple of years and now that I know Erik’s voice and the kind of raw emotions that it conveys, it really helps me to put stories together around it. And the whole band refines those ideas that I brought to the table and sculpts the song structure collectively.
You’re described as playing “found objects” in the band. Talk about some of the objects you’ve experimented with and what you think they add to the group’s overall sound?

I’ve always been the cat listening at obnoxious volumes in headphones and trying to figure out what my influences are doing, and how they’re creating tones and sounds. I’ve built a few different stomp boxes, the most recent one involves some chains, some springs, some drywall screws and two wooden boards. I like to think it’s a combination of Tom Waits, Sanford and Son and Macgyver. But with a hard stomp, it accentuates the snare in a nice way and creates a rusty haunting blues effect. I have a mop head lined with about 500-1000 bottle caps that sounds like a shaker, but has a very unique tone, something kind of oceanic. All in all, my favorite rock in roll is the kind that stands out, something hard to do in a genre that’s been explored so thoroughly. My goal with my input is to sculpt sounds the listener hasn’t heard within a context that is familiar.
You released “In The Blood” on vinyl independently. What would be your advice to a fellow independent artist who would like his music to be on the vinyl format?

Vinyl is expensive. Our album was too long to put on one LP and getting a gatefold was as expensive as sacrificing any of those songs, which would be costly in a different way. For us, pressing the vinyl was important for two reasons: One, to bring our fans the best listening experience that they could have, and two, as fans ourselves, it’s really meaningful to hold that record in hand, to have the needle touch it for the first time and to hear something you created spill out. I teared up. Crazy coincidence, the day the test pressing came in the mail, I was exactly 33 and 1/3 years old. Maybe not a coincidence at all.
You also work in a record shop. What changes have you seen in the past couple years in relation to the vinyl industry?

We sell waaaaaay more new vinyl than new CDs. I get to sell kids their first records and I can retrace an excitement I remember. I see a lot of older people picking up reissues of things they haven’t seen in years or gave up on finding. It’s great to see the vinyl moving again.
Now about your own vinyl collection. What drew you to collecting records in the first place?

When my buddy Charlie Robertson got his license and an old brown Buick Regal, we had nothing to do on Saturdays, so in the summer we’d just cruise yard sales a score vinyl. This was in the 90s when everyone was going ape shit over cds and ditching - Modern Vinyl


"The Heavy Guilt deserves the spotlight with ‘In The Blood’"

After spinning “In The Blood,” the 2011 album from The Heavy Guilt, I had one primary reaction: How exactly had I not heard of these guys before? But more importantly, I wondered how they hadn’t blown up to the point where I was forced to hear about them. Because you see, The Heavy Guilt demonstrate with their newest material a sound that is capable of grabbing both a large audience and a favorable critical response, a combination only a few bands in the rock and roll scene are able to accomplish. To put it bluntly, go listen to “In The Blood.” Right now.

The album kicks off with the folksy “It’s Time,” a track which introduces the unique voice of Erik Canzona behind a simple instrumental arrangement. Within seconds, you’re taken aback by the pure soul that exists in his voice, again a rarity in today’s scene. And by the time the track works its way into the chorus, Canzona is joined by Jenny Merullo, creating a vocal combination which is bound to keep the song in your rotation for the coming weeks. Short bursts of electric aggression also work to foreshadow some straight forward rock songs that exist later on in the album.

With “The Cost,” The Heavy Guilt move into a garage-rock type of sound, not far from the quality of material that stadium rockers The Black Keys have been producing for the past couple of years. Canzona and Sean Martin provide a gritty electric guitar section, culminating in almost a psychedelic-style outro, which gets the entire band involved. In “Wyoming” and “Through The Tangles,” the band really produces one long epic, building up for nearly 9 minutes, until a boiling point is reached in the final stages. Canzona sings, “Don’t ask me why, you caught my eye, opened it wide, and then changed my life,” amidst what feels like an army of musicians screaming out.

The band creates their catchiest track in “Alibi,” a song that’s the only one which falls below a 4-minute running time. Each instrument is given room to breathe, including Canzona’s voice, and the simplicity is a refreshing change, considering the heavy instrumentation the previous tracks included. Listening to both “Alibi” and previously discussed opener “It’s Time” will make you realize that sometimes, less is more for The Heavy Guilt.

“When It Comes Down” is another standout which utilizes a simpler arrangement, again allowing the lyrics written by Alfred Howard, and vocal delivery to take center stage. Again, the band reminds you of some of the rock scene heavyweights in this track, making it harder and harder to understand why they’re not being heard on your local radio station quite yet. The album finishes with “Fallen,” a rather subdued song which eases you out of the record. Canzona finishes his vocal duties with a heartfelt delivery of the lines, “I’ve fallen down before I fell in love; And I fell in war, and I haven’t had enough; Only love can lift you up.”

Sound Quality: The record’s sound quality, much like the music itself, seems to shine brighter in the slower and less frantic moments. Hearing those opening vocals in “It’s Time” is one of those musical moments that nearly gave me the chills, while the conclusion of “Wyoming,” in which Canzona really stretches out his voice stands as another excellent moment. In the busier moments of the record, especially in a few of the extended arrangements, the sound suffers slightly. The layers of instrumentation aren’t quite given the amount of breathing room they need to truly take this vinyl record to the next level.

Packaging: The packaging includes two records in a standard single LP jacket, which was a slight disappointment, but I’m certainly willing to cut the band some slack since the release was independent. The lyrics come on an insert, but are a little jammed together for my liking, as well. Would I have liked a gatefold jacket with the lyrics printed on the inside? Of course. But I also understand the finances of an independent band and what they have to work with. The - Modern Vinyl


"The Heavy Guilt - It's Time"

The Heavy Guilt isn’t an easily categorized band. Their songs range from folk to rock to dream pop and beyond, often combining many sounds and styles in a way that makes them hard to describe. But that doesn’t mean I won’t give it a shot…Something like Cat Stevens, State Radio and Pear Jam morphed into an indie folk-rock outfit (sorry, that’s the best I can do). Lack of genre doesn’t prevent this band from sounding catchy and tight-knit and it makes their second album, In The Blood, an exciting journey. The songs can take you anywhere from a dirt road in the West to a dark city street. From a bright day to a dark night. And the band members certainly do their part to create such a unique sound, especially lead singer Erik Canzona. While the album shifts in sound from song to song, Canzona remains a constant. The rock that solidifies The Heavy Guilt. No matter the style, his powerful voice stands strong as he makes his way through rocker like, “The Cost” as well as folkier ballads like “Wyoming.” Check out the genre-spanning appeal below and pick up In The Blood. - Tour De Vaap


"New Year's Eve at the Lafayette"

The condensed heat of the Lafayette Room was the perfect conduit for an hour's worth of sweaty, punch-to-the-gut blues courtesy of the Heavy Guilt. They powered through a spell of slow-burners from their second album, In The Blood, before closing out the set with Iggy and the Stooges' classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Backed by Sean Martin's furious riffs and the alien sounds emanating from Al Howard's circuit-bent radio, frontman Erik Canzona displayed an expansive vocal range capable of gravelly blues and retro punk. - San Diego Reader


"SD Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Top 5 Songs of 2011"

5. “Alibi” by The Heavy Guilt
A funky Talking Heads-like guitar moves throughout this song, laying down an infectious melody. A groove centric beat with a rich vocal you can feel keeps this song ebbing and flowing with enough emotion to grab you and pull you in. Heard this song live a bunch over the last year. Definitely a crowd favorite. - SD Rock N' Roll


"The Heavy Guilt at the Glashaus, July 16, 2011"

An all-ages crowd gathered in Barrio Logan on Saturday to help The Heavy Guilt celebrate the release of their new LP, In the Blood. The event — presented in part by the always-classy Latent Print — featured art by Alexander Jackson, Joseph Bowman and Ryan Tannascoli, as well as performances by Low Volts, Gun Runner, and Black Sands.

Even with all that copious musical and artistic talent on hand, The Heavy Guilt were the undeniable belle of the ball. Frontman Erik Canzona’s gravelly vocals were in fine form, with songs like “It’s Time” and “Wyoming” respectively evoking the heartfelt urgency of Mumford & Sons and The Swell Season.

The rest of the group provided solid — if a bit sedated — support, but luckily multi-instrumentalist Al Howard was there to infuse the set with some much-needed animation. Attacking his collection of chains, wooden boxes, bells, shortwave radios, and sheet metal like a hyperactive, long-limbed marionette, Howard single-handedly doubled the band’s onstage energy. - Owl and Bear


"Day from Night"

On the night Alfred Howard played the last show with his former band, K23 Orchestra, he had no idea he was about to meet the future lead singer of his next. In fact, after spending seven full-throttle, road-weary years as frontman for the spoken-word-meets-psychedelic-funk ensemble, Howard had no interest in ever being in a band again.

When Erik Canzona, a fan of K23, gingerly inquired about his plans for the future, Howard sullenly responded, “Whatever it is, it’s not going to have anything to do with music.”

Canzona was content to leave it at that until nearly two years later, when he was one of three people who responded to a craigslist ad that Howard posted, looking for a singer to help start a band influenced by “Wilco, Otis Redding, and Radiohead.”

One of the respondents was a girl who said she liked to sing, but mostly in the shower. The other was a guy who said he’d have to split time between the new project and his main focus, a Sublime cover band. Both candidates were, as Howard puts it, “incorrect.”

And so began a collaboration that has spawned from its original intention as strictly a recording project into a six-piece live band. With Howard as lyricist and percussionist, Canzona on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Josh Rice on keys, Sean Martin as lead guitarist, Jason Littlefield on bass guitar and Jenny Merullo on drums, the band’s sound has evolved from mostly low-key, back-porch folk strummers into a sweeping brand of folk-rock that incorporates everything from subtle string and keyboard arrangements to hard-hitting rock drums and gritty, over-driven guitar.

For Howard, just finding a vocalist who could so naturally interpret his descriptive and emotive lyrics was nothing short of a musical rebirth. After years as a frontman performing very politically charged, rapid-fire spoken-word poetry, the night-in / night-out grind and constant touring had started to take its toll. He admits that in a figurative sense, he had lost his voice.
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Related to:The Heavy GuiltAlfred Howard

Things were different for Canzona. “Al was kind of ready to call it quits on being in bands, but I was the complete opposite,” he says. “I had never really been on the road or played in bands before. I played guitar and sang, but I had never thought about doing that in front of people or anything.

“But when I met these guys,” he adds, “it just felt right and I knew that I really wanted it to be a real band.”

The Heavy Guilt’s new full-length album, In the Blood, is proof positive that Canzona got his wish. The 11-track collection tells the tale of a band that has spent a lot of time on stage, getting to know one another, developing an identity and a dynamic range. Lyrically, Howard purposefully paints some of his most gritty, desperate scenes yet, which stand ready for Canzona’s guttural interpretation.

“I try to write songs that suit Eric’s voice,” Howard says. “To me, his voice has such a raw, emotive sense, and now that I know him better, I try to convey that lyrically.”

And the well from which the band draws these lyrical motifs is not shallow.

“Al has a Word document with about 900 pages of lyrics,” Canzona says. “I look through it all the time and there are certain ones that just click with me. It’s really important for me to be able to relate.”

One particularly stirring track is “Wyoming,” a beautiful, longing ballad about missing someone terribly but still searching for a silver lining. It’s a common idea revisited at several points on Blood, elevating the band’s songs from merely morose, shoulder-shrugging laments to uplifting tales of struggle and longing. Canzona draws you in by the end of the vivid first verse: “Warmth and wind Wyoming whispers wishing you were here / Why were you like willows winter leaves they disappear / Shaky sly like cigarette smoke offer up - San Diego CityBeat


"Sounds Like San Diego:"

The other day I admitted to Al Howard and Sean Martin of the Heavy Guilt that I'd long ignored their band because I had confused their band name with another band with a similar name. That changed the first time I saw Al and Erik set up outside of the Soda Bar to promote a show they had the next night. I was a fan instantly.

The Heavy Guilt have recorded a new record, and though it won't be officially released until this summer, I can tell you that if you haven't heard about them much, by the release you'll be kicking yourself for not having them on your radar, just as I did. The songwriting is fantastic, the orchestration is full and warm, and when they vibe together onstage, you want to be a part of their magic. Tonight they're at Winston's, and the show is free if you get there before 10, so I suggest heading down to OB, grabbing a burger a Hodad's or some fish tacos at South Beach, and then calling your old burnout friends to see if you can crash on their couch for the night.

Source: Sounds Like San Diego: April 22 | NBC San Diego
- Sounddiego


"Local band the Heavy Guilt lifts up the audience"

Out of the downfall of well-known San Diego-based band Alfred Howard and the K23 Orchestra, The Heavy Guilt has risen to fill the void.

The folk-rock band was formed when ex-K23 members Josh Rice and Alfred Howard decided to put their accumulated surplus of musical material to use. The only problem was, they didn’t have anyone to sing it.

“Toward the tail end of the K23, we began writing songs that didn’t necessarily fit the context of that band,” Howard, 32, explained. “Since I’d rather watch ‘Speed 2’ than hear Josh or I sing, we needed a vocalist.”

Key-in grizzly voiced singer Erik Canzona, add some drums, guitar and bass, and you have the lyrically inclined sextet The Heavy Guilt.

The group released its first album, titled “Lift Us Up From This,” last September and has since been busy touring and promoting the album.

A musical jack-of-all trades, Howard talked about his new band:

What is the music of The Heavy Guilt?

The Heavy Guilt is rooted in folk, Americana, psych and rock ’n’ roll. We try to lay out a vibe; some songs have a mournful quality to them, others are uplifting and ethereal. We try to take that feeling of guilt and absolve it through the energy of our music.

After the K23 Orchestra, what motivated you to get back into music?

Personally, I never expected to take a stab at music after the K23. We poured seven great years into that band, and it was both glorious and demanding. But when we started this group, something clicked; there is an inherent magic in music, and when something feels right, there is no denying it. I feel that way every time we play. - San Diego Union Tribune


"Day From Night"

On the night Alfred Howard played the last show with his former band, K23 Orchestra, he had no idea he was about to meet the future lead singer of his next. In fact, after spending seven full-throttle, road-weary years as frontman for the spoken-word-meets-psychedelic-funk ensemble, Howard had no interest in ever being in a band again.

When Erik Canzona, a fan of K23, gingerly inquired about his plans for the future, Howard sullenly responded, “Whatever it is, it’s not going to have anything to do with music.”

Canzona was content to leave it at that until nearly two years later, when he was one of three people who responded to a craigslist ad that Howard posted, looking for a singer to help start a band influenced by “Wilco, Otis Redding, and Radiohead.”

One of the respondents was a girl who said she liked to sing, but mostly in the shower. The other was a guy who said he’d have to split time between the new project and his main focus, a Sublime cover band. Both candidates were, as Howard puts it, “incorrect.”

And so began a collaboration that has spawned from its original intention as strictly a recording project into a six-piece live band. With Howard as lyricist and percussionist, Canzona on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Josh Rice on keys, Sean Martin as lead guitarist, Jason Littlefield on bass guitar and Jenny Merullo on drums, the band’s sound has evolved from mostly low-key, back-porch folk strummers into a sweeping brand of folk-rock that incorporates everything from subtle string and keyboard arrangements to hard-hitting rock drums and gritty, over-driven guitar.

For Howard, just finding a vocalist who could so naturally interpret his descriptive and emotive lyrics was nothing short of a musical rebirth. After years as a frontman performing very politically charged, rapid-fire spoken-word poetry, the night-in / night-out grind and constant touring had started to take its toll. He admits that in a figurative sense, he had lost his voice.

Things were different for Canzona. “Al was kind of ready to call it quits on being in bands, but I was the complete opposite,” he says. “I had never really been on the road or played in bands before. I played guitar and sang, but I had never thought about doing that in front of people or anything.

“But when I met these guys,” he adds, “it just felt right and I knew that I really wanted it to be a real band.”

The Heavy Guilt’s new full-length album, In the Blood, is proof positive that Canzona got his wish. The 11-track collection tells the tale of a band that has spent a lot of time on stage, getting to know one another, developing an identity and a dynamic range. Lyrically, Howard purposefully paints some of his most gritty, desperate scenes yet, which stand ready for Canzona’s guttural interpretation.

“I try to write songs that suit Eric’s voice,” Howard says. “To me, his voice has such a raw, emotive sense, and now that I know him better, I try to convey that lyrically.”

And the well from which the band draws these lyrical motifs is not shallow.

“Al has a Word document with about 900 pages of lyrics,” Canzona says. “I look through it all the time and there are certain ones that just click with me. It’s really important for me to be able to relate.”

One particularly stirring track is “Wyoming,” a beautiful, longing ballad about missing someone terribly but still searching for a silver lining. It’s a common idea revisited at several points on Blood, elevating the band’s songs from merely morose, shoulder-shrugging laments to uplifting tales of struggle and longing. Canzona draws you in by the end of the vivid first verse: “Warmth and wind Wyoming whispers wishing you were here / Why were you like willows winter leaves they disappear / Shaky sly like cigarette smoke offer up a glass / Have a toast to all the flaw and coax me with your rasp / All in all it is alright / As long as day comes from your night.”

“Blistered Hands,” meanwhile, showcases the group’s collaborative spirit and its ability to lay down a dynamic assault of high and low, loud and quiet. A tasteful psychedelic interplay between Rice’s dreamy Fender Rhodes twinkles, and Martin’s dissonant guitar stabs builds nicely into a blistering guitar solo.

Asked what comes next for the band, Howard and Canzona are somewhat dismissive. But Howard acknowledges that he’s achieved at least one of his dreams.

“For me, I’ve been waiting to put out an actual album for probably 30 years,” he says. “So, I’m good now. I put a record out on vinyl. I won.”


The Heavy Guilt celebrate the release of In the Blood with Low Volts, Gun Runner and Black Sands at Glashaus Artist Collective Warehouse on Saturday, July 16. There will also be record vendors, circuit benders and live art exhibits. theheavyguilt.com - San Diego CityBeat


"The Heavy Guilt Set To Unveil In The Blood + Al Howard Q&A"

When the K23 Orchestra called it quits in late 2008, the fire was still burning for lyricist Al Howard and keyboardist Josh Rice. In a last ditch effort to keep it lit, the band sent out a mailer seeking a brooding baritone to flesh out the blues rock sketches Howard and Rice had been working at for years. As fate would have it, Erik Canzona, a web designer with a voice like a grizzled hurricane, was available. After a couple successful calls to local musician buddies and a drummer garnered from Craigslist, all systems were go for the freshly minted Heavy Guilt save for studio funds. The remedy? A three weekend yard sale in Howard’s Ocean Beach (San Diego) backyard in which the band “damaged our backs significantly carting out 3,500 LPs every week.” As Howard painfully recalls, “Nothing is heavier than a ton of vinyl.”


Their victorious haggling, which wiped out Canzona’s cherished Curb Your Enthusiasm DVDs, Rice’s golf clubs and around 2,000 of Howard’s records, allowed them to create the debut album Lift Us Up From This at Prairie Sun Studios in Sebastopol. It also provided unexpected inspiration. “Josh and I wrote “Fever,” one of the songs off of our upcoming release, during the high noon yard sale lull,” explains Howard.

The band passes time between shows and fuels the tour van with a variety of day jobs. Howard works at Cow Records in Ocean Beach, Rice is a craftsman, guitarist Sean Martin teaches (you guessed it) guitar lessons, bassist Jason Littlefield gigs around town and drummer Jenny Merullo works at the Mingei Museum.

Despite their 9-5s, the six-piece band found themselves in a familiar cash-strapped situation as time approached to record the sophomore album. This go around the Guilt turned to Kickstarter, the creative project funding platform, to secure time at North Park’s Archival Sounds. Howard gratefully relays, “This album was made possible solely through the generosity of our fan base and even that of some strangers.” The Heavy Guilt will celebrate the official release of In The Blood with a record release event on July 16th at The Glashaus featuring four bands, live art and a circuit bender display of original and recently invented instruments.

URB: Aside from yard sales and Kickstarter, are there any other creative means of raising funds you guys are engaged in or have plans for in the future?

AH: We’re hoping to not have to raise any more cash in the immediate future, but we definitely want to do as much as possible to reciprocate the philanthropy we’ve been shown. At our shows we let fans purchase CDs for whatever price is reasonable for them. All summer long we’ll be doing random free stripped-down street performances with a last minute warning on facebook, we might even show up on your couch if you ask nicely. We’ll also be giving away some outtakes, live cuts and bonus tracks to anyone willing to help us spread the sounds around.

What’s the worst job you have ever held down?

I was the mascot at a chicken restaurant called Cluck U. The previous mascot was an alcoholic and someone stole his head when he passed out in the town green, so I just had a chicken suit. This was before YouTube and the days of total and complete documentation, so thankfully there is no evidence of this happening. I would likely be known as Chicken Fail or something.

You play a variety of instruments on stage with a ferocity suggesting little regard for your own physical well being. Any significant performance-induced injuries to speak of?

Well, I’ve broken 7 tambourines in half during this year alone; in my last band I had my eyes closed while beating a tambourine like it owed me money and a pin came loose. When I opened my eyes, my shirt was covered in blood as well as some of the audience members close to the stage. I had about 300 pinholes pierced in my left palm. Iggy would have been proud. Iggy would have also made fun of me for playing tambourine and he’d be right to do so.

Are Heavy Guilt songs shaped around the lyrics or do you write to what you hear from the band?

When we started I would email Josh a few hundred pages of lyrics, he’d scroll through until something peaked his interest and then compose around it. Then the band would massage that outline into song. Presently there is a much more collective approach to the compositions, but we generally start with lyrics and build the songs around them, while also sculpting the lyrics to rhythmically fit the music. I definitely write with Erik’s voice in mind. He’s got this commanding voice that calls for a certain vibe of brooding introspection. Knowing him has been a huge inspiration in my approach to song writing. “Alibi,” a track on our upcoming album In the Blood, is the first Guilt song where the lyrics came after the music. That one started with a Sean lick and a certain era of Stones in mind.

Do you ever get the urge to pick up the mic again, whether it’s with the Guilt or a side project?

Nope. I’ve never b - URB Magazine


"Music is In Their Blood"

Each member of San Diego six-piece the Heavy Guilt brings something different to the table, but they all come together to create something new.

Formed in 2009, the Heavy Guilt is about to release In the Blood, their second album. In the Blood sees the band refining its sound -- taking full advantage of a sophisticated studio environment and a couple years working together. According to the band, "The songs from the first album [Lift Us Up from This] had a campfire feel to them, warm as the pops and crackles of old vinyl. In the Blood is born from the dive bar."
The new album does have a "dive bar" feel, but it's more polished than one might expect. Musically, songs like album opener "It's Time" and midpoint "Wyoming" evoke the swampy blues of later Bob Dylan; "Blistered Hands" has a dark, Doorsy feel; album closer "Fallen" has an indie-rock/Shins-like quality.

It's not all about who the Heavy Guilt sound like, however. On each song, the band members' talents shine beyond their influences: richly layered keys and guitars are omnipresent; lead singer Erik Canzona delivers thoughtful and fresh lyrics, with a voice that can be at times a growl and at others a harmonious duet with drummer Jenny Merullo; Sean Martin plays guitar with fury; percussionist/lyricist Alfred Howard uses found objects to help achieve a unique sound.
The band celebrates the release of In the Blood this Saturday, July 16 at the Glashaus. Gun Runner and Black Sands will open. Sponsored by San Diego art and literary project The Latent Print, the all-ages Barrio Logan event will also feature original drawings by Alexander Jackson and Joseph Bowman. You can (and should) RSVP here.


T. Loper is a writer and photographer for the San Diego music blog Owl and Bear.

Source: Music is In Their Blood | NBC San Diego - NBC San Diego


"the heavy guilt"


The Heavy Guilt’s new EP packs a punch with soulful lyrics, sultry vocals, and a very cool Americana vibe. This San Diego band has a wispy, vintage sound filled with great rotary piano work, tasteful guitar parts, and a wonderful, floating lyricism. Can’t wait to hear their first full-length album! ALL CLEAN, PLAY ALL!
- kspc 88.7 clairemont


"need we say more"

The Heavy Guilt
_Lift Us Up From This_
self-releasedSan Diego’s The Heavy Guilt is in many ways a second chance for Alfred Howard and Josh Rice, erstwhile members of the now defunct—or more fittingly, de-funked—Alfred Howard and the K23 Orchestra. After nearly a decade of touring, the ailing vocal chords of the band’s spoken word front man, Howard, brought the six-piece to a loud silence. Undeterred, he and “Instant” Rice set out searching the virtual countryside of K23’s fan base – via an e-blast – for a vocalist who could reignite the duo’s musical aspirations, and give life to their over 500 pages of lyrics. Enter Erik Canzonar. But what was created turned out to be a wholly different sonic experience then their former funk-soul-rock incarnation, with that transformation chronicled in this, their first release. Many of the songs on Lift Us Up From This prove to be of a serious ilk: lyrics cover loss of some sort or another and the backing band doesn’t so much play, as claw at you. Album opener “Clove” slinks from speakers in a sultry, morosely waltz-like meander, as Canzona’s grit-laden voice reminisces on love with words gasped, as if suffocating, “She’s a thorn in your side, hard to pull, have to try.” Canzona’s pontifications again offer ambiguous hope as he asserts, “So we all get used to disaster,” on “Let This Daylight.” As if to further exasperate the sullen mood, The Heavy Guilt’s vocals are now buoyed by stark acoustic and serrated electric guitars, with the bouncy low-end at the core of K23’s funk-heavy, spoken poetics altogether removed – a clear signaling of their new Tom-Waits-meets-Wilco direction. Though these songs are good in many regards, they also careen listeners towards serious, even glum vibes. That would be fine in measure, but the heavy concentration of so much muted energy throughout the first half of the album is a perplexing choice in that it threatens to ground the project before it even takes off. Indeed, if not for Sean Martin’s shimmering guitar riffs on “Heavier Than Mist,” many listeners might give up prematurely, feeling it’s all a bit too gloomy. That would be a shame because there truly are a cadre of elevating gems on this album that prove worthy of its lofty title. “On My Deck,” “Quill,” and “Home” display a depth in songwriting of folks-men like Nathan Moore and Bob Dylan who, despite their pull-no-punches, topical lyrics, are able to eschew defeatist leanings for an ultimately hopeful experience. “No Ceremony” is reminiscent of Langhorne Slim’s “Diamonds and Gold,” in its easy swagger and good vibrations, and given a chance, this, or any of these uplifting numbers could easily become mug-raising classics.This album mainly suffers from logistical missteps: a top heavy balance and some areas of flat recording – the signature of a truly independent release. Yes, more diversity evenly peppered throughout could have gone a long way, but, regardless, it’s clear that these guys are on to something here. Taken alone, their songs display some true talent, with good musicianship – particularly J Smart’s tasteful drumming – and good song writing that strives to appeal to the softer side of your gray matter. After listening to Lift Us Up From This, particularly those tunes that actually, you know, lift us up from this, your interest is undeniably piqued. And with a bit more time understanding the fine-workings of their new vehicle, The Heavy Guilt could churn out something that’s truly compelling. This project, on its own merits, is a good first effort from a promising new band with what appears to be a bright future. - jambands.com


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

The Heavy Guilt is as much Americana as it avant garde garage, as much folk blues as it is psychedelic
indie stomp. It is six focused musicians, from varying backgrounds, translating their influences into a
common language beneath the dim crimson lights of the stage. It is a sweaty driving catharsis, a train of
thought bulldozing cross the tracks of rural America, it is a roadmap through the emotive wilderness, it is
a collage put together by time worn hands, it is the sound and rhythm of a saturated city, it is the direction
you take after last call. The Heavy Guilt is rock n roll.

Born two years ago, the Guilt has progressed since their debut, Lift Us Up from This. The first album is
a document of the band members initial meeting, having subtle conversations through sound, getting
acquainted through song. The second album, In the Blood, captures two years of performing together.
Not so much a handshake introduction, but a kick to the sternum.

The songs from the first album had a campfire feel to them, warm as the pops and crackles of old vinyl.
In the Blood is born from the dive bar. It isnt lacking of these quiet movements, but it balances them with
foot stomping blues, fevered crescendos and tasteful experimentation. The songs are dynamic, going
from acoustic whispers to mountainous walls of sound. Sean Martin, takes his jazz virtuosity and transposes
it to rock fury, taking songs to new pinnacles and beyond. Josh Rice adds vintage keyboard tones
from souls greatest years, bringing flurries of Fender Rhodes and Hammond swells to the mix. Layers
and layers of nuanced keys add to the dynamic of these songs, plus Joshs unique approach to songwriting
is heard throughout. Jason Littlefield provides the anchor of rhythm that holds these songs together,
hes heard here on basses, electric and acoustic, including some incredible bowed upright work. Jasons
background in jazz and classical can be heard in the arrangements, his melodic and fluid playing blends
into a perfectly subtle treatment of each song, when it grabs your ear it can be catchy as a chorus, yet,
though he is able, his playing is never flashy nor over the top, it is exactly what the song is needing. Similarly
Jenny Merullo provides the pulse of necessity, she is a driving rock n roll drummer and has transformed
the dynamic of this band more than any factor since her joining. She was the youthful caffeine
to inspire the bands new sound. She also adds endearing and warm harmonies to the songs. Alfred
Howard is the wild card, he adds new, unusual and untamed sounds to the bands traditional lineup. He
is a volcanic pocket of contagious energy on stage. He plays found objects like chains, wooden boxes,
bottle caps, bells, a shortwave and circuit bent radio, sheet metal, boxes of rice and sand paper, he may
be riffling through your dumpster or haggling at your yardsale right now. He is also the source of the albums
lyrics, poetic, heartfelt and moving, winding descriptions of love, lack, hope and longing. And most
important to the sound of this band is Erik Canzona. With his old soul road weary and powerful voice,
he is the first ingredient that pulls you in while listening. His voice inspires the band to sculpt the perfect
bed of sound to try to contain it, it is that of a storyteller who grabs ear and demands attention, it can
be delicate, fragile and volatile or it can be a thunderous tempest. The forceful gust of wind he exhales
silences audiences and creates hypnotized and muted members of previously chatty Friday night bars.
All this while providing a strong rhythm guitar, the solid canvas for the other members to paint on.

The band has matured, learned how to hold an audience captive and braided their influences into their
own brand of unrelenting soulful rock music.

Band Members