Album Review: One Eleven Heavy - Desire Path
Transatlantic rockers return with rootsy sophomore album of road songs for the politically dejected generation
One Eleven Heavy rises among a pack of exploratory contemporary bands—Garcia Peoples, Mountain Movers, Howlin' Rain, Wet Tuna—examining the past in the ever-present now. On Desire Path, their second record, One Eleven Heavy's tendency towards musical expeditions never distracts from their command of song writing. The ten tracks come together into an album that radiates equilibrium and balance. Desire Path boasts country rockers, Dead-like Americana, New Orleans boogie, and classic Stones-y riffs, all stitched up with a vintage sense of American morality. Desire Path is a wry, occasionally biting, but always joyful celebration of human endurance and the ability to overcome.
Heads Lifestyle caught up with One Eleven Heavy’s guitarist, Nick Mitchell Maiato during their Fall 2019 U.S. East Coast tour.
Heads Lifestyle: After the experience you gained as a band creating and touring your debut album Everything’s Better, what was your approach for this follow up album?
Nick Mitchell Maiato: We went into it hoping we could slow down and take a little more time because last time was so rushed. So we gave ourselves two extra days—still only a paltry seven in total. We decided we were going sleep in the studio, work into the night and get all this extra work done that we hadn’t been able to last time. What we hadn’t accounted for was the fact that we’re all in our forties and the allure of a leopard skin chaise longue in the control room of the studio as a sleeping option is somewhat less potent than it might have been in our twenties. So we got an Airbnb and rushed like maniacs all over again, especially as Hans Chew was playing both piano and drums on this one, due to Ryan Jewell being unavailable. He had twice the work in almost the same amount of time.
In terms of musical approach, though, we were still way more thorough. We stacked guitar modes and laid down more melodic runs, which really changed the character of our music for the better, I think. Plus, Hans contributed his first songs to the band so we’ve got a more varied overall output, stylistically.
HL: Word has it that you guys saw your share of mishaps and bad luck over the past year. What’s going on?
NMM: Yeah, we had a near-death van crash at the end of the last tour and some other stuff like that. I ended up in the hospital with some lung bullshit and Dan dislocated his shoulder. I think it’s all just because we’re maniacal in our approach to everything due to our respective geographical distances from one another. We’re always rushing, you know. More haste, less speed, as the cliché goes!
HL: Did those experiences send you down a different song writing path for this album?
NMM: Yeah maybe a bit. I think the pent-up sense of frustration that distance and hurry creates makes you feel a bit more like getting stuff off your chest. Lyrically, there’s the sense that we’re maybe exhaling in disbelief a little at times. But I’m not sure that’s related to our own experiences within the band so much as those experiences are just exemplary of the way we live today. Driven to do what we have to do to keep ourselves content under more challenging circumstances. It’s still a hugely upbeat and positive record, though. We had a blast making it and I think you can hear that in the playing and singing.
We had a blast making it and I think you can hear that in the playing and singing.
HL: Your three main songwriters bring unique and divergent influences to One Eleven Heavy’s sound. James Toth has a Stones-y, blues-based vibe. Hans Chew is rooted in New Orleans with a Dr. John/Leon Russell flavour. And you bring an acid-fried cosmic country current. All great stuff! Do you consciously try to blend all these feels or simply allow their singularity to shine through in each songwriter’s composition?
NMM: I think that’s a fairly accurate description and thanks for the good word. Those songs were each written at our respective homes so we just did our own thing and then tried to bring our own flavours to each other’s songs in the studio. I think it’s still a cohesive record and sounds like the same band. It felt collaborative in the studio, as we were all honest with each other and not afraid to express our opinions. Now, on tour, though, the songs are really growing and taking their own shape through improvisation so that’s a much less contrived version of collaboration. Jake Morris (of Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks) is playing drums with us and he’s turning beats on their heads and leading jams into harder, weirder territories. Some nights, we fall on our asses but, on others, we’re really lifting off. The song Hot Potato Soup has stretched out to an average of about 20 minutes and we’re not sure how to get it any shorter at this point without losing something essential.
HL: Gotta ask… How much weed smoking was involved in the making of Desire Path?
NMM: Not a lot, to be honest. We were insanely workmanlike about it. It’s more a listening-back than a performance-enhancing substance for both James and I. I personally wonder how many “weed records” were made high. I mean I play like shit when I’m stoned. But I’m definitely making the kind of music I like to get stoned to.
Stream Desire Path on Spotify here: