Firing off questions like mortar blasts, Recoil attacked Grand Rapids noise-rock trio Heavier Than Air Flying Machines over the Internet last month to find out more about Novikov, which they’ll release Jan. 11 at The Pyramid Scheme. The band’s second album, following their 2011 debut Siam, the record finds them reteaming with Grand Rapids record label Friction Records and producer/engineer Rick Johnson at Cold War Studios, also based in GR.
Quickly returning fire, in a form fitting of the rapid bursts and high-flying falsettos of their music, vocalist/guitarist James Pyne, distorted bassist/backing vocalist Jeremy Pyne, and drummer/backing vocalist Trevor Goldner discussed their origins, the influence of science and science fiction on their lyrics, and the intangible definition of noise-rock.
Recoil: When did you guys first come together and decide to start Heavier Than Air Flying Machines?
Jaymes Pyne: All three of us were in a band in college called Joyride. That band had a good run, but after that I was pretty worn out on playing catchy, melodic music and performing live. I was living with Jeremy after college and we were playing some music in his basement. We decided to hook a fuzz pedal up to his bass, and just play some noisy, irritating music. So it really started as kind of a test of how far we could go with sounding unpleasant but still have a good time doing it. That hasn’t stopped since.
Jeremy Pyne: I remember our first show was at Jukes and we were really unsure how it was going to go over. We had been writing those songs with no concern whether people would like it. We have run into people after shows that hated it and that’s great, it’s definitely not for everyone and it keeps our music just the way we want it.
R: Why did you decide on Heavier Than Air Flying Machines as your band name? Where did you get the name from?
Jeremy Pyne: Our name comes from a famously bad quote from Lord Kelvin, who is known for correctly determining absolute zero in temperature – hence Kelvins for measuring heat. He was briefly interested in aeronautics but quickly became a cynic, declaring that ‘heavier than air flying machines are impossible.’
Jaymes Pyne: Yeah, it’s also great because it’s this verbose, antiquated way of talking about something that is ubiquitous to modern living. So it really fits with our overall presentation style.
R: How would describe your sound and how have you developed together as a band?
Jaymes Pyne: We’ve been called post-punk, post-hardcore, noise rock, ‘nu-punk.’ A blogger once called us ‘post-everything.’ A fellow GR musician called our music ‘deep spazz.’ I once heard a kid in the audience enthusiastically describe the music to a friend by going “DAHT DAHT DAHT DAHT DAHT.” I don’t really know. It’s just a lot of dissonance and noise, accompanied by a lot of words and some falsettos here and there.
Trevor Goldner: When we were in the studio recording our first album, [2011’s] Siam, Rick Johnson at Cold War Studios had asked us about several groups in terms of influence. I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but we hadn’t listened to any of the groups he listed from what I remember, which was really interesting to me. I’m usually not that great at describing our sound, but I can say that each one of us brings elements of At The Drive-In, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Death From Above 1979 to the table.
R: What do you think about the current music scene in Grand Rapids? What other bands in the scene are you close with?
Jeremy Pyne: The current local music scene in Grand Rapids is amazing. We’ve been playing music in Grand Rapids for a long time and it’s stronger now than it’s ever been. The music is diverse and there is a great sense of camaraderie among local musicians. We are good friends with Ghost Heart, Tokyo Morose, Apostles, Charles the Osprey, The Campanellis, Lazy Genius and absolutely love The Concussions, Haunted Leather, I Believe in Julio and many more that have been a big part of local music.
R: What are some of your biggest influences outside of music?
Jaymes Pyne: Non-music influences contribute to the words I decide to chain together and the song titles I choose. On our albums I think it’s apparent that science and science fiction are big influences both thematically and through word choice. I am a huge sci-fi fan; I love everything Star Trek, for starters – even Voyager. I spent my adolescence and early adulthood fascinated by Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. I studied history and literature in undergrad. I’m in graduate school for sociology too, so that and the psychology field have had a big influence on my vocabulary.
R: What does it mean to you as a band to be releasing the album with a headlining show at The Pyramid Scheme?
Jeremy Pyne: It means a lot to us to headline and release our album there. The Pyramid Scheme is so good to local bands. They provide the opportunity to play in a quality venue with great sound and opening slots with national touring acts. They have become a very important part of the local music community.
R: What do you have planned for after the release of Novikov in 2014?
Jaymes Pyne: We’re talking about a few mini-tours in the Midwest, but we’re not going crazy with it. Up to now we’ve been content with acting as passive observers of our band’s fate, so we’ll most likely just put it out there and see what comes our way.
Heavier Than Air Flying Machines will release Novikov at The Pyramid Scheme Jan. 11. To read Recoil’s full interview with the band, check out recoilmag.com. For more, click over to htafm.com or frictionrecords.com.
Interview by Eric Mitts