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Interview: Heavy Chest - 'PRE HEAT' Vinyl Tour

Interview: Heavy Chest - 'PRE HEAT' Vinyl Tour

C.C. / C.L. / Tuesday 25th July, 2023 2:36PM

Initially the solo bedroom recording project of Pōneke songwriter Andre Smith, Heavy Chest have evolved to become the now Melbourne-based collective of Smith with Josh Brown (drums, backing vocals) and Davin Ojala (bass, synth), assisted by Ben Morgan on computer and admin duties. They're revisiting their early era with a new vinyl edition of Heavy Chest's 2017 sleeper hit debut album PRE HEAT, also bundling in selected highlights from 2018's follow up HOMETURF EP. Collaborators with Aotearoa pop star BENEE on gently shimmering 2022 single 'sunday926', Heavy Chest will soon be treating their many local fans to a nationwide run of PRE HEAT anniversary events. We touched base with Smith, Brown, Ojala and Morgan, who generously answered our probing questions about Heavy Chest's journey so far, and even whipped up a special Band Favs playlist you can listen to beneath their thoughts and reflections.

Read on and don't miss Heavy Chest with just-announced special guests at the following dates — starting with a special expanded lineup show at Vogelmorn Bowling Club, including additional live bandmates Lisa Tomlins (Fat Freddy’s Drop, Fly My Pretties, Lord Echo, and L.A.B), Nikau Te Huki (H4LF CĀST, Casual Healing), Phoebe Johnson (Revulva, Octopus In Heels), Toby Leman (Hummucide, The Gallery) and Sammy Lenati (The Gallery)...

Heavy Chest - PRE HEAT Vinyl Tour

Thursday 3rd August - Vogelmorn Bowling Club, Wellington, expanded lineup w/ Hearth
Saturday 5th August - San Fran, Wellington w/ Rachel Andie*
Friday 11th August - Last Place, Hamilton w/Rat Café
Saturday 12th August - Tuning Fork, Auckland w/ The Dawns, Judah Kelley*
Thursday 17th August - Wunderbar, Christchurch w/ Judah Kelley
Friday 18th August - Dive Bar, Dunedin w/ L. Hotel, Judah Kelley
Saturday 19th August - Yonder, Queenstown [free entry] w/ Judah Kelley

Tickets available HERE via UTR
*Tickets available via
Every pre-order of the PRE HEAT vinyl LP via the website will receive one free entry to a New Zealand show on the tour

UTR: Kia ora Heavy Chest! Recent weeks have seen you play your debut Australian shows since making the move over to Naarm. How did those shows go?

Josh Brown: Really well! We put a lot of time and effort into our live set leading up to our first show, so there was a lot of anticipation and keenness to play. It was reassuring to get a good turnout to our first show, we were rapt! It also feels great to share the stage with some quality local acts and start to feel a part of the community.

Davin Ojala: We felt extremely grateful for the amount of support we’ve received on our first show at the Northcote Social Club, especially coming into a new city. The nerves were high about how the music would be received and how the attendees would react but it was a great night overall on all fronts.

Andre Smith: The shows went off! Great crowd response at our headline show and playing to a sold-out Night Cat with Daily J was insane! It is special to see that Australians are familiar with the music and with who we are, nice to have ticked off a couple shows, and once we get back from NZ looking to book more in Melbourne and further afield in Australia.

Celebrating the sixth year anniversary of PRE HEAT with a new vinyl LP edition, as well as the fifth year anniversary of your HOME TURF EP (some of which is included on the vinyl LP), how does it feel to be revisiting and reflecting on these early works in 2023? Were you at all tempted to tweak or make any changes to your older recordings for the reissue?

Josh: We did consider re-recording / mixing some things, but settled on the idea that we’re basically celebrating the release for what it was and staying true to the original rough and ready recordings... There’s a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in those albums for us so it feels right! We’ve breathed new life into the songs for the live set though, so we can season the old faithfuls with some new flavours and ideas that reflect where we’re at musically and creatively these days.

Andre: PRE HEAT means so much to me! So many fond memories are linked to this album! It set everything on a path to where Heavy Chest is at now, it’s a real glimpse into my head and where I was at mentally in 2016 / 2017. Most of the songs were recorded in different locations around Wellington and are snapshots into little worlds / moments of my life, so it’s amazing to finally have it coming out in a physical form. Like Joshie said, we did consider re-recording some of the tunes but this feels authentic and represents a time and place, as we plan to record / write all the music as a band moving forward which I can't wait for!

Davin: For me and a lot of others, this album really represents a time and a place in Wellington music and I came into this project a few years later as a fan, so now releasing this on vinyl many years after its release brings me a lot of pride and it feels nice to now have a physical tangible piece of that sentimental time.

With the beginnings of Heavy Chest being that of a relatively low key / introspective solo recording project, how have the overall goals or ideas about Heavy Chest evolved — either creatively, sonically or in what you have wanted to achieve — since expanding into its current lineup? What sparked that expansion?

Josh: Between solo bedroom recordings, live recordings and ‘So it Seems’, ‘Just You’ and ‘Shoulders and Spine’ that Andre and I wrote together, we’ve had a pretty loose approach to songwriting and what Heavy Chest stands to achieve. I think when Davin joined the band we really started to think about things a bit more in-depth and since then we’ve gotten more and more collaborative in our creative approach. We now have a pretty clear and shared vision of what we want to achieve, and we’re really enjoying trying out new ideas in the studio!

Andre: Josh summarised it really well. The writing process has been a little all over the place since I began recording early demos in my bedroom. This project has taken a few forms over the last six years, but this setup feels really great and the fact we all moved to Melbourne together has really sparked the new collaborative direction. I'm really looking forward to getting into a studio and recording the ideas we have been brewing up together.

Davin: As the project develops we are constantly figuring out how to work as a unit, keeping Andre’s original vision alive while also integrating our own musical and personal voices into the band.

Was there a moment when you realised Heavy Chest "had legs" as a musical project?

Andre: When PRE HEAT came out in 2017 we had such a good response to the music, especially in Wellington which has arguably the best creative community in New Zealand. I think being well received there gave me confidence to keep writing music and gave us all a taste of what could come if we put in a bit more work. Following that, touring around NZ for the first time and getting a similar response in different parts of the country gave us all an indication that we had something special going on.

Are there any new Heavy Chest release plans on the horizon?

Ben Morgan: The vinyl release has honestly been a mammoth task this year, even though it's an old project we’ve had to get it re-mastered for pressings, so we’re a bit tuckered out on that release and it’s not even out yet! After this tour though we’ve got a studio booked back in Naarm for early September and the crew will hopefully record a few singles! Plus there's a mini goal of recording an album this year... You’ll have to follow the band on socials to see when it will all come out haha.

Josh: Ohhh yea, we’re working on a few singles with studio time booked in September and plans to release over summer, and an album to follow next year!

Andre: Now that PRE HEAT is coming out on vinyl which we owe a lot to Ben! There are lots of ideas bubbling away. We are writing a lot together and discussing where we want to take the sound of this new record. A new single or two before the end of the year would be great but it's gotta be just right! Haha.

How did Heavy Chest's collaboration with BENEE (Stella Bennett) 'sunday926' come about? Any more collaborations in the works?

Andre: I have been a big fan of Stellas since her first release 'Tough Guy'. We met briefly at her first show in London 2019 and having worked with Dylan (low strung) we crossed paths a couple of times! During the 2021 lockdown in NZ I reached out and sent her a couple of demos. The result of that was 'sunday926', such an awesome experience :) She is a super special artist. As a band we haven't thought too hard about collaborations for upcoming releases but I am sure in time that definitely will come! For my ‘Andre Smith Music’ project I am currently working on a few exciting collabs though.

What can local fans look forward to from your homecoming tour in August?

Josh and Davin in unison very loudly say with a Texan tinge “OH BABY!”

Davin: We spent the last few months really expanding and honing our live set, there’s a few new songs for fans to look forward to, which gives a glimpse into upcoming releases as well as added musical elements and arrangements for the classic bangers!

Josh: What he said, x 2

Andre: A sonic visual journey taking the live set to a new level!! And yeah what Davin said! We have spent a lot of time in small rooms together recently and everything is moving in an exciting direction looking we are looking forward to getting on stage in New Zealand.

What's been on the Heavy Chest playlist rotation in 2023?

We’ve actually made a playlist here on Spotify if you’d like to listen! Four songs picked by each band member, try to guess who picked what haha


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Heavy Chest - Aotearoa Pre Heat Vinyl Tour
Thu 3rd Aug 7:00pm
Vogelmorn Hall, Wellington
Heavy Chest - Aotearoa Pre Heat Vinyl Tour
Sat 5th Aug 8:00pm
San Fran, Wellington
Heavy Chest - Aotearoa Pre Heat Vinyl Tour
Fri 11th Aug 8:30pm
Last Place, Hamilton
Heavy Chest - Aotearoa Pre Heat Vinyl Tour
Sat 12th Aug 8:00pm
The Tuning Fork, Auckland
Heavy Chest - Aotearoa Pre Heat Vinyl Tour
Thu 17th Aug 8:00pm
Wunderbar, Christchurch
Heavy Chest - Aotearoa Pre Heat Vinyl Tour
Fri 18th Aug 8:30pm
Dive, Dunedin
Heavy Chest - Aotearoa Pre Heat Vinyl Tour
Sat 19th Aug 7:00pm
Yonder, Queenstown