Gambling Hearts Q&A
Some of my favourite singles from 2020 were released by Salisbury, Wiltshire band Gambling Hearts with a heady mix of jangly and rocky guitars within tight well-constructed songs - think Foo Fighters mixed alongside the rockier moments from Elliott Smith with some Neil Young and Crazy Horse thrown in. With another single due out on the 12th February ('Leave It All Behind'), guitarist / vocalist Simon Rowe took some time out to answer a few questions :-
Gambling Hearts are Simon Rowe (Guitars / Vocals), Sam Wright (Bass Guitar) and
Will Kozak (Drums)
Singles 'I Am A River', 'These Days' and 'Still Waiting' are available in all the usual places.
Hello Simon, thank you for taking some time out to answer a few questions. For those people who don't know Gambling Hearts, could you give a short history of the band?
We got together sometime around 2006. Me, Sam and Will. We moved from Salisbury, our home town, up to north London. Sam and I took places in Camden Town and Will took a place (and a job) at The Hope & Anchor in Islington. We played the hell out the toilet circuit for a good couple of years, playing two or three times a week, but we weren’t that good. It all got a bit Spinal Tap, late nights and parties got the better of us, and we weren’t going anywhere. We had a couple of line-up changes and pretty soon after, that was the end of The Hearts. Well, that’s the short story. Then, a couple of years ago, Sam got married and Will and I were invited. It was the first time in a good ten years that the
three of us had been together in the same room.
And who would you say were the main influences on Gambling Hearts?
We all love Neil Young, Nirvana, Black Rebel, The Beatles, Oasis…that kind of thing. I listen to a lot of Oasis. I was fourteen when Definitely Maybe was released. That record was a big deal to me at the time. Still is. More than any Beatles record, it changed my life. When I heard that record, my desire to be in a band became the greatest obsession of my life; to the detriment of everything else. I love Neil Young too, and I’m a huge Elliott Smith fan. Elliott Smith’s music’s been a big influence on me. I’d say Elliott Smith and Oasis were my big two. I love indie music generally. Bands like Ride, The Charlatans, Doves, The Roses, Paul Weller. Will’s a big fan of the Brian Jones Town Massacre, and a big Blur fan too. He loves really obscure Americana and indie. For every three records he has, I’ve
probably only heard of one of them. Sam’s into the Seattle grunge scene; bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, Mark Lanegan…but I’d say it’s our shared love of Neil Young that really brings us together, he’s our biggest influence.
You formed in the early 2000s and then after a few years away re-formed. What were the driving forces for getting back together and does the band differ in feel now to how it did before? And did the members do anything musically in the interim period between the two phases of the band?
After the three of us stopped playing together, Will and I played in different bands for a while. I wrote and played bass in a really cool bluesy/rock band with some friends that I’d been in a band with before, but I don’t think Sam played with anyone? When we met at Sam’s wedding, we realised how much we missed hanging out with each other. We got back together pretty soon after that meeting, though we didn’t intend to gig or anything, we’d just meet up at rehearsals to play and hang out. But as soon we were back playing I started writing again, and then we started gigging, and then recording, and then Animal Farm (south London based indie label) approached us and said they wanted to work with us, and now it’s all this…
You managed to get three singles out in 2020. How was recording in these strange times? And did Covid present any particular challenges to getting the singles together and releasing them?
We got lucky with timings. We finished recording the day before the first lockdown was announced, and we mixed as and when we could. We had a few festivals in the diary, and a few other bits that got cancelled. It was disappointing, but no great fuss. There’s always next year.
If you had to pick a particular favourite from the singles you've released so far, which one would it be and why?
I love the last single ‘Still Waiting’. We played really well on that one. Mat Leppanen (Animal Farm) engineered and produced it. He did such a great job on it. It sounds great. But my favourite of the three singles is probably ‘I Am A River’. It’s a love song for those people who aren’t in my life anymore. I had this idea that life is like a river, and all those people and places and moments that you’ve loved are lined up on the banks of the river, but the river pulls you relentlessly up stream; you can’t go back. It’s not a song of unrequited love, the opposite, it’s a song about people I’ve loved and who have loved me. People I miss. People that I look forward to seeing again at some point.
And do you have any favourite songs yet to be unveiled that you're particularly fond of?
Yeah, I’ve written a few songs in lockdown. One of my favourites is a song called ‘This Old Glass’. It’s about looking in the mirror and not recognising yourself. About how time can creep up on you and before you know it you don’t even recognise your own reflection. And how your life can feel like a serious of memories. Time passes so fast. I often think that you can be in the moment, but in the blink of an eye that moment is a memory. Do you know what I mean? There’s a line in it that goes ‘I’m sitting in the morning sun, a new day before me, but it won’t be long before that old sun sinks, days turn to memories, I’m just a head full of memories’. It’s a nice little song, I’m really fond of it. Though I didn’t think that it’d be one for the band, but I played it to the them and they loved it, so we’ll have a go at it and see how it sounds.
Where do you do your recording? Is it a place you've recorded at frequently?
We record at The Animal Farm. They’ve a studio in Bermondsey, South London. They’re a great team. Mat, who’s engineered the sessions since we got back together, is such a good guy, we enjoy working with him. We hope to get back in and record when we can. We need to, we’re running out of songs to put out!
It's perhaps a little tricky to put together a video at present but is that something you'd like to do when circumstances allow?
We were gonna play (and record) at New Year. It was going to be streamed live on Facebook. We had a whole crew ready to go, but then we got locked down again, so it’s on hold. We’ll pick it back up again just as soon as we can. It’ll be taped, so we’ll hopefully be able to cut a few bits together and come out of it with a couple of videos.
In terms of playing live, bands have had to try different things over the last few months in terms of reaching out to their audience; I know you did one or two acoustic livestreams during the first lockdown. Do you think bands will continue to carry on with these methods if we return to some sort of semblance of normality? And do you think the ways bands present themselves has changed forever now?
The livestreams have been a lot of fun to do, and they really helped to keep me sane over the past few months. I’m not sure if it’s something I’d do in normal times, but maybe, time will tell. I love going to gigs, and I love play live with the band. That’s where it’s at. Not online. Social media’s a great way to become aware of new bands, and a great platform for bands to promote themselves, but I’d be wary about it becoming anything more than that. I like going to see bands play and I like buying records; that’s what I’m into, and that’s what got me in a band in the first place.
And finally, what does 2021 hold in store for Gambling Hearts?
The next single’s out on 12th February. It’s called ‘Leave It All Behind’. It’s an angsty door-slam of a song. Toys out of the pram type of thing. An old-school indie whinge. I wrote it at a time when the Brexit row was in full swing. The country was divided, there was a lot of in-fighting and, like a lot of people, I was sick of it. So it’s a song about feeling let down I suppose, feeling a bit sick of it, and of wanting to get away from it all. It’s a great song, I’m looking forward to putting it out. Other than that, we’ve just really missed hanging out and rehearsing. Spending time with each, you know? And playing live too, we’ve missed playing live. Most of all it’ll just be great to hang out and play music. We’ll get back to that as soon as we’re allowed and, I suppose, take it from there.