With enough weed and goodtime jams, One Eleven Heavy certainly thinks so.
Music makes everything better. That’s why One Eleven Heavy are getting heady, tuning out consciousness and letting the jam take them. Inspired by the Dead, entranced by Santana, the fiercely authentic One Eleven Heavy are saving the good times for us all.
Heads Lifestyle: Your new album is called Everything’s Better. Is that how you feel?
Nick Mitchell Maiato: I guess so. Music makes everything better. That’s kind of the point. While the world’s machinations divert us all toward self-blame and over-sensitivity so that we don’t really ever get to engage meaningfully with anything beyond whatever is trending on Twitter that day, I feel that rolling back the rug and getting into some goodtime jams is one of the only things left that makes you feel like you’re still real. Know what I mean? What I think we’re saying as a band is that, moment to moment for most of us, it’s not as bad as social media would have us believe as we scroll through constant political horror and, now that the news doubles up as our social lives, it’s important to pick your battles and enjoy life in between feeling terrible about how it’s all turned out and working out if there’s anything you can do about it.
I guess the album title works as a kind of tongue-in-cheek joke about the state of things. We don’t really think we’re saving the world from over-stimulation and political ennui. I’m actually surprised we haven’t had any haters come along and say, Yeah, everything’s better than this record (laughs). The title actually came from a lyric in the tune Zygo Grip, that says, “everything’s better when you like to smoke hash,” and that’s about how a little herbal help can have the same sort of impact. Like, it’s not escapism; it’s actually a conduit to differentiate between the meta-world and what’s actually there in front of your nose or between your ears. It’s about getting older and learning to cope—welcome the change as it flows along your laugh lines, you know?
I feel that rolling back the rug and getting into some goodtime jams is one of the only things left that makes you feel like you’re still real. Know what I mean?
HL: Tell us about the background of the various band members and how you came together.
NMM: James Toth and I have known each other for years, via the international underground and sub-underground, and we got along so well and shared such a similar musical trajectory (at least in terms of taste), that it totally made sense to make music together. The way Toth tells it, I called his bluff. “Let’s write some songs.” We wrote some songs. “Let’s make a record.” We made a record. “Let’s go on tour.” We went on tour. He was just repeatedly surprised that I kept pushing it through and has kind of semi-passively gone for it because I think he’s a bit tired of the industry machine and just likes the idea of being one of the songwriters and musicians and not necessarily participating so much in the whole marketing drive. He’s like, I’m along for the ride! And that’s how we’re treating it. It’s the only vehicle he and I are really working on right now, respectively, so it comes before everything else for us.
We built the band around this idea of making goodtime music and so we invited a few rockers in. Dan Brown was the bass player with all the mad, slinky runs on three of the most overtly rock-ist Royal Trux LPs (Thank You, Sweet Sixteen and Pound For Pound) and he was sort of the linchpin who made One Eleven Heavy into more than just an idea. You know, once Dan was in, it felt like a band in the classic sense. Hans Chew is an old pal of James’s from New York and I already knew his wife Melodie (aka Connie Acher) as I put out her last LP. So we both knew he’d be the perfect piano player. He’s got that rolling style down and he’s like our very own Leon Russell—huge presence, personality and voice. Adam Kriney is a drummer who came to us via Hans, but who James already knew because he’d put out an LP by his older project, La Otracina. He’s super intuitive, sensitive, enthusiastic and maniacal like every good drummer should be. He’s not on the record; the recording was done with Ryan Jewell on drums, who’s also still very close to the people in the band, but a very busy dude who couldn’t ultimately commit to it as an ongoing concern. Adam stepped right up and really made his presence known right away and did an incredible job of taking the music into some new places on the road.
One Eleven Heavy left to right: James Toth, Hans Chew, Nick Mitchell Maiato, Dan Brown (seated) and Adam Kriney.
HL: What are the common threads/influences that informed the music you've created?
NMM: The van stereo on tour told us a lot about common influences. Namely, that they are many. Mostly obscure psychedelic and classic rock from the 1970s with some free jazz and contemporary underground shit in there. We all learned a lot from each other. I was playing the guys Triana and Chango. Our Manager, Scott McDowell, was blasting the new More Klementines record. We were all ploughing into various Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead bootlegs and comparing notes on those. We all agreed that Coltrane’s Ascension wasn’t really ‘van music,’ and plumped for Ole instead. The average age of the band is roughly 43, so our tastes are rooted in the fact that the underground was just going overground around the time we came of age and, also, we’ve all listened to a lot of music in the intervening years. We played everything from Mountain Movers to Gordon Lightfoot on that trip. Some really good van times, overall, especially Dan Brown’s ‘possession’ by a half-breed Orson Welles/Brian Blessed character he invented, who ran a commentary of everything that happened on the road. We were also pretty closely bonded on the way to Philly from Richmond, VA when we were hit at 80 mph by a drunken house painter that ran us off the road and nearly killed us. That kind of thing brings you closer together.
The van stereo on tour told us a lot about common influences. Namely, that they are many. Mostly obscure psychedelic and classic rock from the 1970s with some free jazz and contemporary underground shit in there.
HL: Do you feel there’s a direct lineage between what the Grateful Dead were doing as a band and what you’re doing?
NMM: We’d be crazy to deny that the Dead inspire us, though I’m, of course, wary of this recent Zeitgeist that’s unfurling. I play with a clean tone most of the time and we like to stretch out the songs and jam them out and that’s developing as we play together more. I love Santana, too, you know, and I think that whole sustained Dorian mode thing comes through just as much. We play some sloppy rockers like the Stones. There are lots of influences running through the music. What’s interesting about the Dead for all of us, though, is the way transitions work; how to find your way from a jam into a song via close listening and using motifs as cues. We’re not there, yet, as we all live so far apart and don’t get to jam except on tour, but I’m hoping that we’ll keep this thing going for as long as we can and keep developing the way we all interact with one another.
HL: Does the modern music industry make it difficult for you to remain authentic?
NMM: If, by authentic, you mean poor and unable to make a living out of this, then I’d say the modern music industry makes it really easy to remain authentic. If you showed Woody Guthrie my bank balance at the end of this November tour, he’d write a song about it.
I feel the modern music industry is more focused on technology than it is on actual sounds, so it seems like we’re operating kind of in spite of it, even while we slot into a small corner of it by necessity. All I know is that we grew up with a certain set of aural signifiers and that they have helped to define us as adults. So what we’re doing as a band is just, you know, continuing that. It’s the folk tradition, really.
We took some lollypops and gummies on the road with us and they helped to set us into that perfect pocket of vibe where you’re not so baked that you can’t be bothered to move your fingers but are just heady enough to tune out of pure consciousness and let the jam take you.
HL: To what extent does cannabis play a part in the development of your music?
NMM: We actually have two people who’ve struggled with addiction in our band and, whilst each of them has chosen his own individual path to sobriety, the one thing they have in common is that neither imbibes anything stronger than a cough drop. So the relationship with weed is a precarious one as the other three—and I count myself among them—do like to partake, but we also feel it’s important to support our friends’ respective lifestyles. Edibles are the most considerate way to achieve balance between everyone’s individual needs as you’re not huffing smoke in anyone’s face and, anyway, I’m cripplingly asthmatic so I had to finally quit smoking about a year ago. We took some lollypops and gummies on the road with us and they helped to set us into that perfect pocket of vibe where you’re not so baked that you can’t be bothered to move your fingers but are just heady enough to tune out of pure consciousness and let the jam take you.
All rock music is indebted to marijuana usage, so I’m not sure there’s much new that I can really add, other than to say that I don’t think any of us would be here doing this if someone hadn’t decided to stuff that bud in a pipe and see what happened if you sucked in the smoke. But I do think we live in amazing times in terms of society’s general attitude toward it and the continually developing ways of consuming it. I wish England were half as progressive as Canada in terms of its attitude toward weed. I guess, once the U.S. fully relaxes federal law, we’ll follow suit. I’m at least happy that we finally made medical marijuana legal, but even that is heavily regulated. The one thing I hate about U.K. cannabis culture is that you have to call a guy who comes out, then go sit in his Mercedes in your slippers in front of your house and hand him £20 and make awkward small talk. There’s no dignity to it. And I’m very envious of those global cultures that have been handed back their dignity. I could always move, I guess, which is what I’ll probably end up doing, anyway.
One Eleven Heavy's debut album "Everything's Better" is available now at Kith & Kin Records
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A One Eleven Heavy curated mix straight from the tour van stereo.