Interview: Heathcliff

Heathcliff
Photo By Basti Woelfle

It’s been a while since German skate punkers Heathcliff unleashed their second record named Stay Posi on SBÄM Records, so I sat with Bernie and Andy a talked about their latest record, gigs, and some random stuff. Enjoy!

Hello, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. How have you been?

Bernie: I am good, thank you! 

Andy: I’m fine, hope you are too. 

Yes, I am fine, thank you! We are all witnessing how the pandemic deteriorates modern society and gets into almost all pores of life. How have pandemics affected your life, especially band activities? How have you managed to practice, work on the songs, and record during the isolation and restrictions?

Bernie: I think canceling concerts in 2020 was the worst for us. We had a small tour with our buddies in Drunktank set up, a whole tour through France and Spain with bands like Feed the Cat, Amplify, Mainline 10, and Bates Motel, and a whole tour in Quebec, Canada with a festival slot at Rock la Cauze where Bands like Decendents, Face to Face, Comeback Kid, Billy Talent were supposed to play. So just talking about it makes me sad. 

Andy: The beginning of 2020 felt like an uppercut right to the guts. We were used to playing shows almost every weekend at the end of 2019. When we realized that in 2020 all our plans would be canceled, we didn’t really know what to do. We discussed a few possibilities like waiting (turns out that would’ve gone horribly wrong) or focusing on new songs and recording a new LP. We went with the second one and started our Pre-Production of Stay Posi.

Bernie: Yeah, basically we managed to keep the band alive. We didn’t practice for a while in the spring of 2020, but we met at Basti’s terrace and worked on the pre-production with masks and distance in the open air, haha. When we recorded Stay Posi at the Engine Studios, the situation was quite ok. We even managed to play a social distancing show with Money Left To Burn at the Backstage Werk, Munich, and the birthday party of our friend Martin in a private garden. 

Andy: In hindsight, I think we made the best of it. Not quite a Canada tour, but still lots of fun! 

Heathcliff
Bernie Heathcliff / Photo By Punk Rock Holiday

It’s been a while since I heard from you guys, but I’ve seen that you’re pretty much active playing gigs. What’s up next? Do you have plans to continue performing on particular dates only, or do you plan to tour soon?

Andy: 2021 was actually not soo bad. We didn’t play many gigs, but very cool ones. Some social distancing shows but also full shows with Venerea & Straightline in Munich, Hateful Monday & Must Be Wrong in Zurich, Melonball and Pets in Nuremberg, and NoOpinion again in Munich, just to name a few. We highly recommend checking out these Bands. And of course the Punk Rock Camp in Slovenia which was a smaller version of Punk Rock Holiday and the one-day festival SBÄMOWEEN, which was also awesome. 

Bernie: After SBÄMOWEEN our next shows all got canceled again. You get used to it somehow and that we had to chance to join Punk Rock Camp and SBÄMOWEEN has made us mild on the next canceled shows. We actually have no concrete plans. On the one hand, it is very difficult to plan shows or even tours at the moment and on the other hand, all venues and festivals are busy with postponed shows from 2020 and 2021. We try to work on stuff but we strongly depend on help from bookers, bands, and festivals. The punk rock scene is full of wonderful people and everybody is helping out each other. But if any booking agency wants to take us under their wings, we would be happy if they get in touch with us.

It’s been a while since you released your second recording named Stay Posi. What does that record mean to you? How would you describe it for the readers who might don’t know about your band?

Andy: So, Stay Posi is definitely still Skatepunk. Fast, melodic, kinda technical, and there are some surprises included. All in all very balanced. It’s our second record and to me especially personal because this time I was involved in the songwriting process from the beginning, so I could bring some new ideas to the table that I had on my mind for quite a while. I recommend checking out Stay Posi^^, oh, and please let us know what you think about it.

Bernie: This album means a lot to us. That we were able to pull this off when all the shows got canceled totally made up for all the disappointments. And we are all really happy with the record and also how it was received by the scene. We got positive feedback from all over the world and are totally stoked that many people tell us, that it´s one of their – sometimes event THE – favorite record of 2021. That’s just beyond belief. 

Heathcliff
Andy Heathcliff / Photo By Punk Rock Holiday

What are the themes covered on the record? What did you want to achieve with this particular material? 

Bernie: #chilloutradio had more global, political topics. Stay Posi has mainly personal topics about struggling with issues in life but with a positive twist. Stay Posi – Not Zombi for example is about trying to get out of a situation of being down and depressed. The first verse is: “Cheer up old friend and wipe that sadness off you face. No use in feeling blue – swallow this bitter taste. Let us embark on a journey to a higher ground These fields of sorrow – they′re out of bounds!”. I think Basti’s target is to write good and meaningful lyrics that people can relate to but always come from topics he cares about at that moment.  

Andy: The album actually has no reference to the Pandemic, even people say that the topic fits perfectly into these times where people are struggling with personal issues. But Stay Posi – Not Zombi was actually written in spring 2019. About achievement: We want to write good songs but without restrictions. I think in times where streaming services dominate the listening behavior, long intros, long solo parts or complex songs are not purposeful to reach a huge fanbase, but that is a line of thought we don´t want to have an impact on our songwriting. And I really like long and fun Guitar Soli, so those won’t vanish anytime soon. 

You released your debut a couple of years ago, and over the years, your sound evolved. There are more genres like metal and reggae involved besides your primary skatepunk sound. How would you describe this change? Was it necessary, or it’s just a natural progression of Heathcliff?

Bernie: I would say it’s natural progress. I think we stated on our FB site that we play 90s Skatepunk with influences of Metal, Hardcore, and a side note of reggae long before #chilloutradio was released. And I think you can find all these elements on #chilloutradio as well, maybe not as dominant. But if you listen to Conjuring, for example, it has a lot of metal influence in it and even a reggae outro. 

Andy: I would agree that it is natural to progress. I think the good thing is, that during songwriting we don’t have in mind what people might want to hear but only care about what we are having fun with at the moment and what we want to hear or play. That´s how it can happen, that we have songs like Stay Posi – not Zombi which is a “normal” skatepunk song in the first half and then ending with a 2 min long guitar solo with double tappings. Some people for sure don’t like that, others think it’s epic. Songs like BFF are really complex in the song structure and have no clear verse/refrain structure and on the other hand, we have more simple punk rock songs as well like Don´t give up or Same old tunes. But in the end, it all sounds like Heathcliff. That’s our route for the upcoming Songs and Records. Turn ideas into good songs. Arrange good songs into better songs and always have fun and a good feeling about our music and ourselves.

Bernie: We get a lot of positive feedback on our live shows and one remark is, that it’s not getting boring due to a lot of different things going on. I hope we can keep this “no restriction” attitude and don’t try to fulfill expectations. 

Heathcliff
Manu Heathcliff / Photo By Punk Rock Holiday

Stay Posi was released by SBAM Records, an evergrowing melodic punk rock label. How are you satisfied with your collaboration with them, and are they’re treating you well?

Bernie: We are really happy with the collaboration with SBÄM. We know Stefan for quite a while now, actually before the label was a real thing. I think we were one of the earlier bands who joined SBÄM and I would consider Stefan and Mike friends. We are in close contact even they are very busy with all the stuff they are doing. SBÄM has a good mix of older, more known bands like Pulley, DFL, Snuff, Chaser, and No Fun At All and very unknown new bands from all over the world. They are also very dedicated to supporting their local Austrian Punk Scene and have a lot of young Austrian bands like Fat Chester, The Rumperts, Mudfight, Glue Crew, and many more. 

Andy: We did play the SBÄM Fall Edition Festival in 2019 last minute, including a brief appearance on Austrian TV. There is actually a funny story behind it about how we got the slot, including a planned Guttermouth gig in Munich… Anyway, so when we were recording the demo songs for Stay Posi, Stefan asked us to send some files to him, and after listening to the songs, he asked us to join SBÄM Records and we were more than happy to do exactly that. 

Your cover artwork looks rad. Who’s responsible for the artwork and packaging design?

Bernie: That was done by Stefan (SBÄM). Of course, it is an obvious opportunity if your label boss is a designer at the same time but at SBÄM the artists are free to choose whatever design or artist they want. 

Andy: The Idea with the zombies and the surfing skeleton was ours. The zombies represent the people – including us – who are stuck on the treadmill of life and the surfing skeleton represents the person who is somehow making the best of it. “You cannot stop the waves but you can learn to surf”.

Bernie: We also made the photo collage on the inside. We have a “crew” who is joining us on most of our trips and come to most of the shows, helping us with merch and everything. So we wanted to have them in the album and that’s why we included all these pictures.

Heathcliff
Basti Heathcliff / Photo By Dominik Hruby

You are releasing a new single soon, You won’t get us down. You posted it’s a song from a befriended band Stand Up Stacy. So what’s the story behind that?

Bernie: They are also from Munich and we played a show together in 2019 at a benefits concert for Viva Con Aqua and are in contact with them ever since. They are really nice guys and quite successful too I would say. So they had this idea to not only release a single of their new song “They Won’t Get Us Down”, but also release 7 other versions that were interpreted by other bands. We are stoked that we are one of them. 

Andy: Musically wise it’s an awesome experiment and they told us they were totally curious about how their song can turn out when different bands put their label on it. And yes, we “Heathcliffed” the song quite a bit. I’m not gonna lie, there were some moments at vocal recordings where we went “damn, this is faster than we thought it’ll turn out”. But we somehow managed it and are totally stoked to hear the other versions. 

Bernie: Haha, yes. And talking about musical influences…. We all celebrated New Year’s Eve together at my flat this year and I think at 3AM we were listening to a Dire Straits Vinyl with a live version of Sultans of Swing. I think Manu definitely was influenced by that when he recorded the guitar solo at the end of the song, haha! 

Andy: Absolutely! That’s what first came to mind and I really love that ending solo. 

Heathcliff
Heathcliff / Photo by Punk Rock Holiday

Your merch also looks mindblowing. It’s a work of the same artist, or you pick someone else up to do it?

Bernie: Oh thanks. Of course, there is stuff from Stefan (SBÄM) but also from Juan de Lange who is btw drummer of bands like Double Negative and Setbacks. 

Andy: We can be found at the Epic Merch Store which is run by our friend Ray from Drunktank. The great thing is, that we can have a huge portfolio of different stuff like T-Shirts, Hoodies, Caps, Zippers, and more, which we couldn’t afford otherwise. And you can find so many bands on there. Big names like Good Riddance, Teenage Bottlerockets, Mute or Pulley, and tons of smaller bands.  I think we are all really impressed by what Ray did with the Store in such a short amount of time.

What’s currently spinning on your turntable/streaming platforms? Any good artists, bands, tunes, or albums you would like to recommend to our readers?

Bernie: Oh this could be a long list. I try to make it short. One of my favorite ones is The Dead Krazukies – Icarus, also on SBÄM which is an awesome punk rock album with a great scratchy female voice. I love the new Our Darkest Days – Snakes and Ladders which is I guess the most technical Skatepunk release of 2021. The new Krang – Make Arcade Great Again (SBÄM) is a great album, and I always listen a lot to the albums of bands we play with like Must Be Wrong, No Guidance, or Venturas all releases from 2021 and worth checking out. I am looking forward to the new album of Straightline which was recorded in 2018/19 I guess, the new Captain Asshole, the debut of Melonball, and hopefully, our homies from Dankeschatz will come up with new stuff. 

Andy: Yaiks, that’s a hard one because there are so many good artists with excellent records. I would recommend the new Belvedere – Hindsight is the sixth sense, Our Darkest Days – Snakes & Ladders, and also Chaser – Dreamers which was also released on SBÄM. You can hear that they really put a lot of thought, effort, and of course skills into that.  

That’s it. Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything you would like to say to our readers at the end of the interview?

Bernie: Thanks to everyone who supports us who listen to our music and tells their friends about it. Come to our shows, get on stage and party with us, say hello, and drink a beer with us. There is nothing we enjoy more than being part of the scene.

Andy:  Exactly what Bernie said. Stay healthy, stay tuned and of course, Stay Posi.

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