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Interview: Andre Smith (Heavy Chest) - Tuatara Open Late

Interview: Andre Smith (Heavy Chest) - Tuatara Open Late

Chris Cudby / Photo credit: Kenzie Pigman / Tuesday 19th January, 2021 2:06PM

City Gallery Wellington kick off their hugely popular Tuatara Open Late programme for 2021 with a solo performance from quietly on-the-rise Pōneke songwriter Andre Smith. Stepping out from his Heavy Chest project to premiere tunes from a forthcoming debut EP under his own name Existence, Smith has garnered a dedicated fanbase through an evocative run of releases, including a recent clutch of singles launched via French imprint Nice Guys, and even snuck in a nationwide tour during 2020's notoriously hectic times for live music in Aotearoa.

Sure to quench your thirst for local culture along with your tastebuds, the next Tuatara Open Late takes place on the evening of Thursday 4th February, showcasing an evening of art, music, film, talks, beer, wine, and food — happening in conjunction with ongoing exhibitions by Zac Langdon-Pole and Simon Ingram. Smith's performance will be preceded by a highlighted tour of the gallery's current shows, a Drop-in Cyanotype Print workshop and RadioActive DJs, plus there'll be delish treats from Taco Addicts and a cash bar too. Smith generously spared the time to fill us in on his next creative move and what we can look forward to early next month, save the date and delve into his e-conversation with Chris Cudby below...

Tuatara Open Late
Thursday 4th February - City Gallery Wellington

5pm onwards: Exhibitions open, Radio Active DJ
5–9.30pm: Supper treats from Taco Addicts and cash bar
6pm: Enjoy a highlighted tour of current exhibitions Zac Langdon-Pole: Containing Multitudes and Simon Ingram: The Algorithmic Impulse.
6-8pm Drop-in Cyanotype Prints; make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. Create your own artwork!
8.30pm: Live music from singer-songwriter Andre Smith (Heavy Chest)

Koha entry / full event details HERE

Chris Cudby: You managed to squeeze in a national tour last year in the middle of a pretty hectic time for live music in Aotearoa. How do you feel about that time looking back + how are you feeling about the current situation for live music in NZ?

Andre Smith: Hello! Yes we did we tour through the country in November, North & South it was our first tour of that scale and looking back it was an awesome experience. We met so many amazing people on the tour, saw parts of the country we had never been to and felt a lot of love at our shows. I think at the moment it’s a great time to be playing live music in New Zealand and that was reflected in the tour, a lot of happy people floating around both musicians and people who came out to watch! We are one of the few countries in the world allowed to be doing this right now so feeling very lucky! A feeling I’m sure is shared amongst bands playing shows at the moment.

Did Heavy Chest's song 'Time On My Hands’ take on new meaning during lockdown

Haha! That tune was already about having a lot of spare time but lockdown was something else. An interesting time indeed.

February's Open Late event will be your very first under your own name (as Andre Smith), and you'll be premiering songs from your forthcoming first solo EP Existence. Will you be venturing beyond the sounds / songs you've mapped out with Heavy Chest? What have you got planned for the evening?

This is my first time playing an Open Late show and I am very excited to share this collection of songs. The songs themselves are old & new for me, all stripped back with guitar and vocals, and all except the title track are songs that we don’t play together as Heavy Chest. So yeah these are a step in new direction away from the Heavy Chest sound. In this project I intend to go further with the sound on more of a collaborative level, playing with other musicians to bring different elements into the sound... I am looking forward to as New Zealand has a crazy amount of talent around. For this performance I will be playing the full Existence EP and a few more un released songs just me and my guitar.

What sparked the urge to step out under your own name? Will you still be playing & recording with Heavy Chest in 2021, or does this represent a new artistic era for yourself?

Heavy Chest started as a solo project, but as the band has grown it has become clear to put a distinction between the live band experience and the shows that I do on my own. We will definitely be playing and recording as Heavy Chest in 2021, something I can’t wait to do is record a new album! But it does feel like a new era for me though, as I am starting to expand my musical output in different directions and try new things with different musicians.

What kind of lyrical territory are you exploring on Existence?

This EP is full of songs which I have written from certain moments from my life over the last few years. The lyrics are reflective of these moments, experiences that have shaped my existence and place in the world good and bad.

When I think of your music I imagine it as intimate and home-crafted. How have you found translating your recordings to live audience contexts? The recent songs with Heavy Chest are sounding very much like the output of a band — has playing to live audiences changed the way you write songs?

With the band we definitely bring more energy to the songs when we play them live, more than how they sound recorded. It feels nice to match the vibe of each show, so when we do get a chance to play in a more intimate setting I think the songs still stand up as they are written more for those environments. I find the audience can be very influential when we play a show, sometimes helping more energy find its way into the set. With the recent releases we have been more conscious in the writing and thinking from an audience perspective, so I would say yes playing live has changed the way I am writing songs for Heavy Chest. I am very excited for the coming months and putting together a full album for people to enjoy live.

You had a run of releases last year via French imprint Nice Guys (who also release music by local dreamy pop artist A.C. Freazy). How did you come to be associated with them?

I was travelling through Europe for just over a year in 2019 / 2020 playing shows around as I went, mostly local shows which I had set up through friends or contacts I made on my travels. A highlight of these shows was opening for Mild Orange in Amsterdam, an amazing experience for me which may or may not be linked to teaming up with Nice Guys. A few weeks before that show when I was living in Amsterdam I got an email from them, asking about Heavy Chest and what I had planned in the coming months and our relationship has grown from there. They are a great team to work with!

You have a few summer shows coming up. What's the plan for 2021 + when will you be revealing Existence to the world? 

I’m really looking forward to 2021 and what this year brings for both of these projects! We have hatched plans to record an album in March for Heavy Chest and follow that up with a live session or two, and another big tour taking these new songs around the country. As for the solo project I will be releasing my EP Existence on the 2nd of February, playing a couple of shows in Wellington and plan to keep on writing, recording and releasing new material. It will be awesome getting to different cities with this project as well, something which is in the planning stages at the moment.


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