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The Heavy - Heavy Vengeance

Author: Tom Spooner
Friday, 26 October 2007
Starting as a stoned jamming session between two friends eight years ago, The Heavy has since evolved into a five-piece band intent on shaking the world’s collective booty. Lead singer/producer Swaby spoke to 3D’s Tom Spooner.

Hailing from the Roman spa town of Bath in England, the band have successfully dragged vintage soul music kicking and screaming out of the past with the forward-thinking raucous funk of debut album Great Vengeance and Furious Fire. 

Swaby recalls the moment he and lead guitarist Dan T stumbled across what would become The Heavy sound:

“I remember playing him loads of hip hop instrumentals… We were generally getting high and playing these things and then I started singing whilst he was playing acoustic guitar. That’s when we decided we have to do this.

“We got ourselves a sampler, a four track and started to lay it down and people really started to become very, very interested. We would take it out acoustically and people would just get down.”

After the success of these early sampler-centric live outings, Swaby and Dan were inspired to develop the sound by putting together a full band. 

“We were sampling ourselves, running it off this little tiny sampler with just guitars and vocals over the top…” Swaby says. “People just couldn’t believe the sound that was coming out. Then we decided, you know what, let’s get a band together and started to build it from there.”

As the name suggests, The Heavy are a weighty, muscular fusion of Stax soul, hip hop, and rock. The raunchy guitar licks and low slung bass lines combine well with Swaby’s falsetto vocals, which emerge from the swell like Curtis Mayfield jamming with a hip hop Led Zeppelin. 

The raw power of rhythm ’n’ blues and classic soul funk is captured on their debut album Great Vengeance and Furious Fire, but is then modernised with expertly employed production and a unique recording process.
“We’ll write a song, record it, take vocals out, mix the track and make it sound like an old track and then sample out of it before starting again,” Swaby explains. “We make it sound old before we start producing it; that sets us aside from a lot of bands at the moment… Like with the track Doing Fine; we’ll make it sound like Neil Young and then we’ll sample what we’ve done as Neil Young and fatten it and make it sound like a rhythm Neil Young.”

The album’s biblically inspired title refers to the band’s struggle to retain this unique sound despite external pressures from record labels to change their approach to music. It was not until the band raised enough money independently to build a small studio that they could single-mindedly pioneer their sound.
“The title Great Vengeance and Furious Fire means we did it anyway; for all of you trying to change the sound, this is what it sounds like, this is what it needs to sound like,” he defiantly states.

“It’s an album of dirty-arse horn, broken down beats, heart broken vocals and there’s nothing but truth in it all.

“It’s the kind of album I would put on after a club to get you in the mood for some rump-shaking.”

WHO: The Heavy
WHAT: Great Vengeance and Furious Fire through Ninja Tune/Inertia
WHEN: Out 3 Nov