A product of the ever-flourishing central Ohio music scene, Heartstring Stereo’s momentum is all but slow-moving.
Their 2020 debut, Remember in Color, is an alt-rock dedication to the realities of the individual experience, encompassing a wide variety of themes. Now, with a steady stream of 2021 singles under their belt, the 6-piece is gearing up for the release of their forthcoming EP, Casefile.
Since September, Heartstring Stereo has released 4 singles: “Agent Orange,” which tackles political dystopia, “Fuse,” a plea to escape isolation, “Enemies,” a call to socio-racial justice, and now, “Reunion.”
The latest single offers a light at the end of this tunnel, offering the fact that all we’re left with when the dust settles is each other. This collection of singles, like most releases amid COVID, is a reflection of collective social dysfunction as well as a call to hope for the future. Pretty fitting, no?
The band’s sound is influenced by the alternative and classic rock influences of their youth, but they make it their own by blending in the unique sounds of cello (Jeremy Cottam) and the power of two lead singers (Erik Anderson, Christina Cash). Cottam and Anderson also provide some help on guitar for lead guitarist Dane Marsack, along with Charlie Orwing on bass and Matt Hawkins on drums.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Heartstring Stereo about Casefile, “Reunion,” and their plans for the upcoming year.
Surprisingly, 2021 is almost in the books. How would you sum up your 2021 in one word?
“Anchoring”, surprisingly… There’s been so much isolation and chaos in the world the past year and a half – where we couldn’t always count on being able to gather and be a band, or be music fans, where we couldn’t take for granted that our families were going to be healthy… As a value system, we’re back to basics: family, music, and survival. The rest really is white noise. We still found a way to be creative together and make this EP.
I see y’all are from the Columbus, Ohio, area. What makes it such a special place, especially for musicians or creative types?
Actually, none of us are from here originally; we’re all imports! Columbus is great. There’s a growing arts district in Franklinton, where the studio we recorded these tunes is located. It feels like a reborn kind of place, full of color and possibility – just what the world needs.
So I was hoping you could talk about your new single, “Reunion”. What’s the inspiration and influence behind it?
Our recent four-song collection was written as a reflection of turbulent and socially dysfunctional times lived out over 2020-2021. “Reunion” was written as the closing single of the collection; and offers a light at the end of this tunnel.
It’s fundamentally a healing song; speaking to the fact that after all the dust settles, we’re left where we started – with what mattered in the first place – each other. We wanted to end this EP with a sigh of relief of getting back together with love.
How might this track differ from previous releases of yours?
Both sonically and thematically, this 4-song EP represents a different approach than our first full-length record. Christina joined the group as co-vocalist about ½-way through the writing process. Jeremy joined us toward the end of the first record’s sessions; now his cello parts were essential architecture in these songs from the start.
On the first record, for us at least, there was no conceptual linkage between the song topics; we featured some guest players in the studio, the sessions were spaced out over a long period of time… It was freeing, but also very scattershot. I think we were finding ourselves in a lot of ways.
This time around, we had a distinct theme, and wrote intentionally to tell that story across four songs. We’d worked with Keith Hanlon before; this time we brought him in as producer and cut the tunes in one go for a more cohesive set.
What does a day in the life of Heartstring Stereo’s songwriting process look like?
It happens in pieces with us. Usually, one or two of us will bring a potential song start to the group rehearsal, and slip it in between more organized practice moments. It’s typical that the song gestates over several weeks or months, both in and out of rehearsals, before it finds its full voice.
We’re definitely a group that feeds off one of another to write – there’s no way these songs would be conceived as such without all of us piggybacking off one another. Those are the best moments – when your bandmate hears something that was missing or turns the song on its head in an unexpected way.
How do you know when a song is finished? Do you find yourself wanting to keep tinkering and re-recording tracks etc.?
It IS a struggle! DaVinci said ‘Art is never finished, only abandoned’… there’s truth to that. Saying “done” is hard; it takes some self-awareness to recognize when you’re hitting diminishing returns. Our band as a whole makes the decision – and has to be able to – in order to function and grow. At that point, it’s let it go free and no regrets.
What messages or feelings do you typically try to convey in your music?
Oh wow. There’s not an overarching agenda or plan as a whole. Just as with life, it’s a variety. We try to take parts of our lives that we feel driven to connect with listeners and explore those themes, whatever it may happen to honestly be.
What does a dream gig look like for the band?
To play a festival and to have everyone there totally in the moment and enjoying themselves, of course!
What might Heartstring Stereo have in store for 2022?
More shows, thank goodness!
Photos by Harry Acosta