This week indie darlings, Headlights just released their third, highly anticipated album, Wildlife (Polyvinyl). The album shows a new side of the band but still manages to obtain those great Headlights hooks and sound that we all know and love. Recently I had the chance of interviewing the lovely Erin Fein who gave us some insight on what makes Headlights shine.
How did everyone in the band initially meet?
Let’s see, we’ve known each other for a long time. I’ve known Tristan, our guitarist since I was in high school. Originally we were a three piece and met at the University of Illinois and that’s where we went to college. And then we met our bass player, Nick, just through playing music since we had already started the band at that point. We stole him for us.
Your third album, Wildlife is coming out. Are you nervous since Some Racing, Some Stopping was so successful?
Yea I think you’re always nervous just because your putting something out there that’s very personal so it’s kind of a vulnerable feeling. But I’m looking forward to it, I’m excited about it. I can’t wait to be back on tour and see what adventures lay before us.
What is the inspiration behind the songs on the new album?
It really comes from a lot of places but meanwhile we just tend to write about things that we’re going through and things that we feel. So Tristan and I particularly had some a big year as far as shifting family health issues and some people passing away. That kind of stage of life comes to people at different times and so it’s difficult. I guess probably what we went through definitely affected the mood of the record.
Had did you come up with the title of the record?
Well actually, it’s been a long time trying to think of what we wanted to call the record. It didn’t come very fast but we wanted some sort of way of expressing this kind of general idea we were feeling. It’s not particularly original, just the idea of kind of like this song that’s on the record called ‘We’re All Animals,’ just is sort of a personal realization sometimes that you’re not in control, people can be cruel, life can be cruel. But also the positive side of that too. So I think maybe Wildlife has the idea of animals and how we’re probably closer to that than we’ve wanted. But that’s what it means, I think, to me anyway! You may get a different answer from someone else in the band.
What’s your favorite song on the new record?
I will say my favorite is the one called ‘Secrets,’ because I just love the melody and I love every time we play it. It’s personal so it feels meaningful when I sing it, particularly meaningful, not that the other ones aren’t meaningful. That one is very close to my heart.
What’s it like being the only girl in an all boy band?
Sometimes it’s overwhelming, a little overwhelming. I grew up with brothers so I’m kind of used to that dynamic anyway so I think it’s fairly natural for me to be around a bunch of guys, since that’s how it worked growing up. Sometimes I urn for a female friend when I’m out on the road. Every now and then I get to go on tour with other bands that have girls and that’s always a delight.
Do you think it’s harder for women in indie rock in general to have to prove themselves as great musical forces?
I don’t know if it’s harder for women that it is men, but women are definitely outnumbered. I think doing anything when you’re kind of up against a lot of other guys, maybe it can be a little intimidating at times. For me personally which is probably the best way to speak about it, I think I feel like I wish I had a man’s voice. Because I really love sort of scratchy voices like Bob Dylan, the guy’s voice from The National, so many examples. So many male voices that I love, but there’s a lot of female voices that I love too. I always feel that everytime I sing it’s very ‘pretty’ and I like my voice a lot, but it doesn’t have that deep dark thing that it seems that male voices can do. But then again you go to somebody like Stevie Nicks, she has a great, strange, dry voice. Maybe I just need to smoke a lot of cigarettes.
How does the songwriting process occur for the band?
It is somewhat collaborative. Basically we don’t have one way we stick to necessarily but generally it happens that either Tristan or I write a song and record a demo to give it flavor. Then we’ll bring the demos we made to the guys and we’ll knock it out and be like ‘here it is, does it do anything for you?’ And so the one we tend to gravitate to we record it downstairs in our basement and just trying to open them up and making them a Headlights song, not just a Erin song or a Tristan song.
What’s your favorite part about recording in general?
At least with modern technology you’re limitless as far as with what you can do. You can put 15 keyboard tracks, no problem. I really love arrangements like that with lots of melody and tons of keyboards, I’m a keyboard player. I also enjoy pulling back every now and then but really I tend to just want to keep putting more and more onto a song to our drummer’s dismay because the does all the recording. He has to tell me to stop usually! I love the aspect that you can just dive into your song and create this musical landscape and that’s unique to recording for me.
What’s your favorite part about being on tour?
I like traveling. We live in Champaign, well Tristan and I live in Champaign, it’s a lovely little town but it does get boring. When we leave it’s the feeling of ‘Yes I got out!’ so I get to see the world again. I love traveling and particularly like going to the west coast just because the drive there is so beautiful, and I love New York City that’s always an exciting place to be. I think the traveling and the performing every night, the waiting part is a little bit hard when you’re sitting in the van and there are so many hours of nothing to do. But once we get to have a drink and then we play it’s really fun.
What inspires you to write music?
I don’t really know. I don’t know why I started writing music, except I always gravitated towards playing music. Even when I was very little I always wrote my own little songs on the piano so I guess it’s hard to say. The music just sort of comes to you I guess.
Did you record Wildlife yourself?
We recorded it ourselves, but actually the credit should go mostly to our drummer. He’s really the brains behind the recording operation.
How would you describe the difference between the new record and the first two albums?
I think that this one is a little darker, sonically and lyrically. At least something we try to do, or like doing are kind of writing songs that straddle sort of hopefulness with a darker edge. I think that remains. We try to just go into a recording studio with an open mind and see what comes out. Having some basic idea set before we go in and because of that each record is pretty different from the last record, and that’s kind of what we like to do. It’s boring to do the same thing over and over again.
Who are your influences?
They’re so many of them. Harry Nilsson, you know the song ‘The Point’? ‘Me and My Arrow,’ I love that one. I’m a big Stevie Nicks fan and Fleetwood Mac. I really love Emmylou Harris. It’s so hard for me to narrow this down especially using the rolodex of musician’s in your mind and you don’t know where to stop. Most I’m drawn to really neurotic music, edging towards that. There are so many fantastic band’s I’ve loved over the years like The Kinks, Bob Dylan, Neil Young. I kind of tend to listen to a lot of older stuff. Carole King, newer bands, I really love the new Grizzly Bear record. Influences just come from so many different places. Some of it’s musical, some of it’s lyrical. It’s a person or something you have done, so it’s hard to say it comes from one place only. Definitely it’s centered around a lot of melody.
Are you excited about playing the new songs on the road?
Yes very much so! After you play 200 or something shows a year, the same songs over and over again it’s exciting to put new flavors into your setlist. It’s nice and fresh to play for people.
What’s your favorite song to play live?
Right now, honestly, I love playing the new song ‘Secrets.’ I love playing that song, it really seems to go over well everytime we play it. It’s a very dynamic song.
If you weren’t in The Headlights, what would you be doing?
Riding a horse off into the sunset! Am I allowed to say that? I have no future ahead of me as you can see. I’m a musician first and riding horses into the sunset second. There’s no health insurance in my future unless Obama gets his way, which I’m crossing my fingers. To anyone reading this just know I like the public option. Selfishly!
Where do you see The Headlights in 10 years from now?
We’re all be fat! If the guys read that I’m going to be in trouble
Best answer ever.
Except for me!
Check out Headlights on MYSPACE
Order Wildlife at POLYVINYL RECORDS