New York’s most underrated alt-pop duo
“It was a pretty heavy time, and and in a way, a painful time as well,” says Nini Fabi, co-founder of alt-pop duo HAERTS, of the origins of the band’s recently released album, New Compassion. “We were going through a lot of changes both personally and musically, and I think for us, making the album was a way of really working through things and a way of communicating something. We’ve been in relationship with each other for a long time. We’ve been making music together for a long time also. It’s a very intense thing to do.”
“Before writing New Compassion, we had come to a breaking point–asking ourselves if this was the path we wanted to take,” she continues. “With making the music there was a shift to say, ‘We don’t know where everything is going, but we have this feeling that we want to continue the work. There was something that we wanted to to write about.’”
And write about it they did, with a twist–as NPR’s World Cafe commented, “More often than not, when you hear songs that ring out with the urgency and complexity of being in a relationship at a difficult time, you’re hearing just one side of the story; what passion and loss and doubt and loneliness and lust feels like from just the side of the person making the music.” Fabi and co-founder Ben Gebert, who began making music together years ago as teenagers in their native Germany, used the writing process to, well, process a trying time in their history together, and, as World Cafe points out, we as listeners get to experience it from all angles.
“I don’t think we see it in a way where it was this phase, and then we made the record, and now we’ve come through something,” Fabi explains. “Of course, there’s something transformational in doing music, but I don’t think that there were any conclusions that came out of it. Music has always been a way of making sense of things and a way of understanding things. I think it was the same way this time, maybe just a little more intense. We always believe that if you’re writing from a place of emotion or a place of pain that something really beautiful can come out of it. That was our hope to do that as well.”
Following a split with Columbia Records after the release of their acclaimed 2014 self-titled album, the pair struggled with anxiety and uncertainty brought about by major life changes. They sought solitude away from their base in New York City, and settled in the quiet splendor of the Hudson Valley.
“We love the city, but at this point in our lives we realized that solitude is also necessary sometimes,” Gebert reveals. “We went upstate and set up in this cabin–set up all our instruments, and started working on songs that we maybe had already ideas flow or were writing at the time. We came up with a sort of sketch; karaoke-style with handheld mics, free to move around in the room and sing over what we had worked on,” he continues. “It was very freestyle in that sense.”
“We wrote a lot of the record surrounded by nature, but then we would come back to the city and do some of the recording,” Fabi adds. “But initially, we left the city for for a longer period of time. I think it had a huge impact. We were looking for solitude, something peaceful, and that was very important to the music because we needed that space to get some clarity, to get back to ourselves. We had just been dropped from our deal. We had to do something on our own, physically on our own, as part of it.”
The result was New Compassion, an 11-track set of captivating tunes Fabi and Gebert produced themselves. “For this record, because we were trying to deal with very personal matters emotionally, we wanted to boil each song down to its essence. We wanted to do that with the production as well and kept it minimal,” Fabi relays. “We didn’t want to manipulate things at all really. We wanted to keep each song as pure as it could be and we wanted to create really specific moods to show those certain emotions. If the album’s 11 songs would be the spectrum of love in this world of compassion, then each song should be a color or an aspect of that.”
Now, the band is gearing up for a string of U.S. tour dates in November and December, ready to share their work with eager listeners who are chomping at the bit for a live experience with the first new music from HAERTS in four years. “It’s been really beautiful for us because we made this album in a very solitary way,” Fabi says. “For us to bring it out and to connect–to have the music really go beyond us and see that at the shows, it’s a really great thing. I think for us too, in the last few years, we’ve been thinking a lot about this, the power of music to make people connect and make people feel something. With this album, we want to bring people into this world of new compassion, and we want them to have, physically, a collective experience with the show. It’s not just about us. It’s really about everyone who comes to the show,” she adds. “It’s emotional, too, because when we do those shows, we get as much from them as what we give to them. It’s not a painful thing at all. It’s not like you go through the same struggles when you perform the song each time, but it’s definitely emotional.”
“We didn’t make the album to make some grand statement or anything. It’s an expression of our past years and it’s really who we are,” she continues. “When you bring something out, of course you want it to be heard and we always want to make people feel something and inspire something within them. What that is that they feel is not in our control, really. We all go through these things–and love, heartbreak, going through pain, going through all the beautiful parts, it’s a very human thing. That’s the compassion element of it,” she explains. “That’s that’s the thing that really repeats in all of us.”
[New Compassion is out now via Arts & Crafts and can be purchased HERE.]