The Heavy Heavy are a Brighton-based band playing retro rock with a modern twist. They are fronted by Georgie Fuller (vocals and keyboards) and Will Turner (vocals and lead guitar). Their sound evokes the rock music of the late 60s and early 70s – think all those West Coast Laurel Canyon bands, British rockers like Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones, and even the likes Lynyrd Skynyrd. In my pre-punk youth I was a great fan of Skynyrd, Free, Bad Co, the Stones and Led Zep, but hated all that Californian soft rock (though I did, of course, make an exception for Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours). I’ve changed over the years though, and love a lot of it now. Joni Mitchell and Neil Young led the way, but I even sneak a listen to the Eagles from time to time these days!
I was ready for The Heavy Heavy.
I first heard the band earlier this year by chance on a Sunday morning, when I was listening to Cerys Matthews on 6 Music. Her show is well worth a listen if you haven’t heard it, spanning music from across the globe, genres, eras. This song with a rolling rhythm, infectious melody and classic guitar solo came on and it grabbed me instantly. It was Miles and Miles by The Heavy Heavy. Naturally the next thing I did was to check out what they had on Spotify, which was a seven track EP called Life and Life Only. That was a delight too – full of the riffs and the harmonies from those 60s/70s bands. But not just a tribute band – The Heavy Heavy had stamped their own personality on that classic sound.
Next thing was to see them live, an opportunity afforded to me a couple of months later at End of the Road. They played the lunchtime slot on the main stage on the Saturday, not necessarily a great time to get the crowd going. But they absolutely did. There was such energy and joy in the music and the way they played, that most people in a good-sized and growing crowd were dancing, swaying, toe-tapping. A highlight of that show was a cover version of Janis Joplin’s Piece of my Heart, with Georgie really giving it some on the vocals. Sensational, one of the best moments of the festival for me.
So when a UK tour was announced I had to see them again. Only problem was, I already had a gig on the date of their London show. No matter, that was another opportunity to pop down to Bristol. Kath came along with me – she’s a fan of Bristol too. They were playing the Louisiana, like Indigo Sparke just recently. This time the venue was sold out. It’s not massive – 140 in the space above the pub – but there’s a good atmosphere. We caught about half of the support band Hunny Buzz. Fronted by the charismatic Lydia Read, they played a lively pop-punk that reminded me of a band like the Beths, even my old favourites Honeyblood. They set things up nicely for the main act.
The Heavy Heavy came on around nine o’clock to the Rolling Stones’ Can’t I Hear You Knocking? – a fine choice! – and launched into an instrumental. I’m not familiar with all their songs just yet, but the harmonies of their most-streamed song Down by River were unmistakeable a couple of songs in. It’s such a joyous song, brimming with that feel of the late 60s. As well as Georgie and Will, the other guitarist and the bassist joined in some of the harmonies, which really made them resonate. They bounced around the stage too – there’s a wonderful danceable rhythm to The Heavy Heavy’s music.
They played for about an hour. We would all have liked more. There was no Piece of my Heart this time, though Georgie gave it her all on a couple of other songs, including Sleeping on Grassy Ground, which is on the EP. There were a couple of covers, which just happen to be their last two singles: Real Love Baby (by Father John Misty) and Guinnevere, which has just been released. Tellingly, the original was by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. That’s a pretty dreamy number; they tail-ended it with some riffing which is the sort of thing Black Midi would do.* Miles and Miles came late in the show, which ended with another instrumental. That was interesting – shows the band have a lot of confidence in what they are doing and how the audience will react.
It’s not surprising that The Heavy Heavy have already become popular in the US, with another tour already lined up for 2023. There’s a huge market for nostalgic rock’n’roll there. It might be a slower burn here in the UK, but I think the strength of their songs as well as their influences, will attract a decent following. Georgie paid tribute to Christine McVie, who’d died that day, during the show. Her band, Fleetwood Mac, one of those influences.
The Heavy Heavy’s music is rooted in what many would regard as the golden age of rock music. They are taking it to new generations, as well as providing a joyous reminder to those of us who might have experienced it first time around, or second, or third… Music is always recycling and evolving – that’s why I still love being on the journey.
*Setlist FM has an entry for the show which looks pretty authoritative. It doesn’t include Guinnevere, but I’m pretty sure they not only played it, but introduced it, which they didn’t do for many songs. In the words of Radiohead, I might be wrong!