An interview with Heinali and Matt Finney

Coming to our attention in the death knell of 2010, Heinali and Matt Finney were a very rare surprise with their truly beautiful music and heart-breaking poetry forming an unlikely partnership under the shroud of dark drones and shimmering atmosphere. Things have quickly taken off for the duo since Conjoined, however. They recently signed with Paradigms and already have an epic follow-up in the works under the name Ain’t No Night, due to be released later this spring. We talked to the masterminds to get an exclusive insight into their latest opus.

So you’ve mentioned that you’re aiming for ‘Album of the Year’ with Ain’t No Night. Why does the record deserve it and do you think there’s much of a market for depressive, spoken word doomgaze?

Heinali: Please don’t take it too seriously. Of course there’s close to nothing of a market for “depressive, spoken word doomgaze”. But this the the way we are. And doing something about it, doing something to change it would mean being, well, not quite sincere. ANN is the album of the year for me, personally. Just because it reflected most of the things I’ve been through. If I die now, I wouldn’t mind it to be the last thing I wrote. Not because it’s perfect, it’s far from it, ANN is just right, feels true. And this does not happen very often.

Matt: That started as joke but the more we thought about it, the more we wanted it to become a reality. Not sure there’s much of a market but once people listen to the album they might agree with us. Without sounding too Kanye, we’re so proud of this record we can’t even put it into words. The initial idea for it was “our interpretation of a blues record”. We wanted to see what we could do with that idea but it became this mammoth beast. We feel like it’s everything we’ve been working toward and we managed to capture that finally. It’s one of those records that’s gonna make people go “what the fuck?” when they first hear it but once it settles in it’ll drag it’s way along those nerves and hopefully become a part of you. A really messed up part but something that’s gonna stay with you. I feel like a dick talking this way about my band’s album but that’s how I feel. We’ve created a record that we’re absolutely in love with and we hope everyone else will love it too. And as long as the Arcade Fire don’t come out of nowhere with a new release I like to think we have a chance.

The album takes on a much more stripped down, bluesy guise compared to Conjoined. What formed the inspiration for Ain’t No Night’s sound?

Heinali: It’s hard to tell. What I know for sure is that the last track, ‘Hallelujah’, was inspired by ‘A Sad Love’ by The Footprints, a song by my old friend, probably only heard by me and just a couple of other people. I don’t think he has the original anymore, I remember he put it on CDR for me alongside with the other material, about nine years ago. It sounded simple and a bit raw, but there was this melancholic, almost unexplainable feel in it. Stuck in my head since then. And popped out accidentally while I was working on Hallelujah.

The album’s title track is incredible, mainly because it reminds me a lot of Angelo Badalamenti’s work on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, particularly ‘The Pink Room’ and ‘Blue Frank’. Would you say he is he an influence for this record?

Heinali: Thank you! And thanks for mentioning Badalamenti. He’s definitely an influence but an indirect one. I guess this is a magic of David Lynch’s portrait hanging in my studio.

Does your verse encompass real life experience? Because if so, holy shit man, I’m here for you.

Matt: Thanks, man. I’m afraid to let my family hear anything we do because I don’t want them putting me on suicide watch. But yeah, all of our songs have pieces of my real life in them. People that I know and people I’ve met that left a pretty big impression on me. I remember talking with my friend Otto who is in an amazing band called Sleepmakeswaves while I was putting the finishing touches on the lyrics to that song (‘Ain’t No Night’) and he said that it seems like America, especially the region I live in, is hard on people. And I agree with him. The album is exhausting and so is this song in particular and that’s how I felt with everything. That’s what the title means. There’s no time to rest or recover.

Hateful women and fucked up fathers seem to be recurring elements of the Matt Finney mythos. Who are these people?

Matt: Women I’ve dated. Women that I’ve had the misfortune of getting to know. Passing themselves around to three or four guys at a party. I thought, why don’t you treat yourself better? Why would you put yourself out there like that? Maybe I should just enjoy the half-naked photos they post on Facebook but it irks me. The other things are from a relationship I was in that was on a Mark Kozelek/Katy level. I’mjust now getting to the point where I can think of her as a friend. As for the fathers, the main one being my dad who was a child molesting piece of shit. He passed away not too long ago and it was a strange time for me. It felt like an end to the dark ages. Some of those songs come from stories of friends. Things they’e told me about their dads. How they abuse their mothers or he raped them or he just plain walked out. The horrible fathers are probably the reason for the crazy ass women that I write about but I could go on and on. Needless to say, I don’ think too highly of them.

The lyrics on Conjoined seem to revolve around heartbreak, loss and depression. Granted, on Ain’t No Night these themes return, but there appears to be a political slant as well. What experiences have informed your poetry this time round?

Matt: 2010 seemed like it was the year for my family to lose their minds. My siblings especially, my brother completely cutting off contact with me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alone in my life. You’d think I’d toughen up by now. My dad’s death was another huge one and the unwanted reunion I had with my half-brother. Friends dying. Constant sickness from not being able to afford to fix the heater and no insurance. I was so fucked up. The political slant comes from what I said before about this country being hard on people. I never thought about it too much before this record. I’ve never felt any patriotism. I’ve never been proud to live in this country. I could live in a place that’s a million times shittier but that doesn’t make the feeling going away. Sorry for the Cormac McCarthy-style rant.

What goes into deciding which lyrics are appropriate for each composition? Do you have a large body of work to draw from?

Matt: Lately, I’ve been doing this thing where I’ll put down a couple of words and see where I can go from there. That’s how I got the opening lines to the title track on this album and they’re two of my favourites. Other times I’ll have them looping in my head while I’m walking around or when I’m about to go bed. I have a notebook filled up with lines where I’ll write them down really quick so I won’t forget. I’ll take them from there and shape them. Tie up all the loose ends. I don’ write anywhere near as much as I used to because it takes a lot out of me so when I do it’ strictly for the albums.

How did you get into writing poetry?

Matt: Being an angsty teenager I guess. Trying to make girls think I was “deep” or whatever. Kurt Cobain’s lyrics were a huge inspiration when I started and they still are. After a while I got tired of making everything rhyme, no matter how weird the rhymes were, so I started experimenting with free verse. I blindly followed Charles Bukowski’s every word and at some point I got tired of him. Around this time I started writing lyrics to songs that I wish my favorite bands were singing and it kind of took off from there. I haven’t looked back.

Heinali, you’re somewhat isolated in Ukraine. What is the process for writing and recording your music? Are any other musicians involved in the project?

Heinali: Nope, just me. I got used to being isolated. I’ve been isolated my whole conscious life. Fucking isolationism it is. I record everything in my home studio, which is the room I’m living in. I sleep on a couch just opposite the workstation. It’s extremely low budget, two midi keyboards, an old rusty acoustic guitar I found and an Ibanez EDR170 electric one. Plus software, of course. Since Conjoined I produce all the drones, textures, some effects by processing the sound of this electric guitar. Actually, the most painful part is to find and develop the specific desirable sound. It could take weeks or even months. But once it’s done it’s just pouring out the flow.

“We were both drifters during the grunge explosion. We met at a homeless shelter. Heinali said, ‘I can’t really play guitar but I know these two really cool chords.’ And I said, ‘I can’t really sing but I can do this moody spoken word thing.’ We started a band as a way to get Mexican black tar heroin. The rest is history.” Ok, but how did you actually start working together?

Matt: It’s nowhere near as cool as that but here you go. We met through a mutual friend. He used to post some of Heinali’s solo stuff and my old band Finneyerkes. He told me to check out this guy and that turned out to be Heinali. I immediately fell in love with his music and I got in contact with him through Myspace (this is back in early 2009 when it was still useful). It turns out that he was already a fan of FY. I asked him if he’d be interested in working together on some songs. That turned into our first album, Town Line, and we’ve been at it since.

You recently inked a deal with LURKER favourite, Paradigms Recordings. How did this come about, and what else is in the works for the future?

Matt: That actually happened out of nowhere. Our myspace hadn’t been checked in almost a week, I think, so I logged in to delete all the spam messages and fake friend requests. When I check the inbox there’s a message from Duncan at Paradigms saying he loves our music and he’d love to re-release Conjoined. He gave us his email and we started talking from there. Conjoined had been out for a bit and we were in the early stages of working on Ain’t No Night. I asked Duncan if he’d be interested in putting ANN out too and he said of course. He’s been great to us and we love the label. It was amazing for us to find out that he had worked with The Angelic Process in the past since we’re such huge fans. For the future, the Conjoined re-release comes out early next month and later this Spring we’re unleashing Ain’t No Night. We’re piss-our-pants excited about both of these. Freddie Lloyd, who did our ‘Under God’s Heaven’ video, is already working on another one for ANN and it’s gonna be beautiful. Then it’s back to writing and recording. Already gathering up ideas for the next album!

Spoken word is a very niche thing, which many will undoubtedly approach with caution. How has your work been received by critics and music fans alike?

Heinali: Lots of people don’t get us. And that’s normal. We talk about some stuff that is not very pleasant, and we talk in a raw and sometimes harsh way. But there are people who’ve been through something like this, and these people usually get us. I know about the importance of feeling this connection. And the music does this very well. So no matter how fucked up you are feeling right now you feel that you’re not alone in this.

Matt: I think the worst thing anyone’s ever said was calling it pretentious bullshit. Others are like, “This would be amazing if that guy would shut the fuck up.” It’s discouraging but you can’t make everyone happy. On the other hand, the people that do get it love it and they couldn’t be more supportive. The best compliment I ever got from someone is that I sound like Batman. That was probably my proudest day. I like to think I have some Kevin Conroy in me.

You guys are perhaps one of the most astounding independent projects we’ve come across. What are your thoughts on the global independent music scene? Where is the music “business” headed?

Heinali: Thank you very much! Who knows. Nothing is clear anymore. The old music business model is dead and the new one isn’t born yet. It’s a time for dreams and experiments. One thing I can tell for sure is that the majors are either going to adapt to this new digital reality or disappear. I dream of the democratic music revolution, the world where the investment into your favorite band or music project would be a common practice amongst the people.

Any final thoughts? This is your pedastool. Release!

Heinali: Love each other, please, please, please.

Matt: Gonna copy what Heinali said. That’s most important. I think we’ve kept everyone reading for too long. Thanks to LURKER for being awesome and helping us out. And to you for talking with us. If you like our music, please pass it on to a friend. We could always use the help. We hope you’ll pick up our new album and we hope it’s Album of the Year worthy. Thanks again!

Hates music and writing. Unfortunately, he's a journalist.

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