Exclusive Listen and Interview: “Mad Minds” by Heavy Lights


If you’ve ever read old Oasis interviews, you eventually come across a phrase the incorrigible Gallagher brothers use in almost every interview to talk about their music: “We’re mad for it.” In other words, they’re crazy for their music, invested in it, and thrilled with how a record turned out.

“Mad for it” is the impression one gets when listening to Heavy Light’s new album, Mad Minds. And it’s not just the name that conjures up the phrase. The Frederick-based quartet’s enthusiasm for their music is evident in the record’s wistful, playful melodies and the joyful guitar-pop that permeates Heavy Light’s sound.

You can also hear it in the cohesiveness of Mad Minds. This LP was constructed with care.

“One of my favorite aspects of creating this album was that we began recording soon after the band’s inception, which was also probably one of the most pivotal reasons in it turning out the way it did,” shares keyboardist Derek Salazar. “From the start, there was a certain energy in the room when we got together, and the only initial hope was to somehow capture it in the recordings. While the big ideas and song structures were in place, we were very much figuring out the details and shaping the songs as we went. For me, Mad Minds captures us completely immersing ourselves in the creative process and letting the songs show the way.”

The creative process for Mad Minds wasn’t an easy one, according to other members.

“It was a long process for us mainly because with this batch of songs, it took time in the studio for a sonic feel to develop,” explains drummer Chris Morris. “A lot of that is because when we went in to record it was a relatively new project for all of us and the songs weren’t fully fleshed out with all the ideas for auxiliary sounds and extra instrumentation. Once we started getting those ideas together it was a matter of how to translate what we had in our heads to the record.”

There are a variety of ideas on Mad Minds. There’s the pretty, lilting country-stroll of “Mel,” the fuzzy guitar bursts and galloping drums of the playful (and considerately titled) “May You Go Miles,” and then the standout songs, the stellar title track and the exultant gem “The Ringing Bells.”

Ryan Nicholson, the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist, gave some insight into both tunes.

“Personally, I am very proud of how the title track “Mad Minds” turned out,” he says. “It was certainly one of the tougher songs to put together at the beginning, but recording it allowed us to really bring it in to form. It was a strange song to us at first, and I can remember wondering with the guys about how people would receive the song, but that talk faded quickly as we worked on it. Derek’s shoo-wops and Brian’s funk are my favorite parts about the recording.”

Indeed, the song encapsulates the band’s ability to meld a variety of pop styles into a unified whole. The first verse starts with a Beatles-esque melody and the bright tone of many sixties guitar records. The chorus undulates between a little boogie-based rhythm guitar and soaring, swinging vocals before sequin into a coda of knotty riffage and hypnotic drumming.

According to Nicholson, “The Ringing Bells,” with its appropriately chiming guitars and the low, chaotic, and peeling tones of the drums, was the tougher track to get on wax.

“As for which song was tougher to create, “The Ringing Bells” has a pretty distinct time and groove change in the middle of the song that gave us some headaches at first,” notes Nicholson. “But eventually it worked out itself out and the track came out as intended.”

Nicholson also elaborated on his inspiration behind writing the song.  “When I wrote the bulk of the lyrics I was following a lot financial news and found myself constantly pissed off with how unfairly distributed our system is. The goal wasn’t to be political in any way, just an attempt to vent my frustration about it”

Mad Minds is a carefully-crafted yet adventurous guitar-pop record. It’s clear the band is “Mad for it,” and they hope listeners will be, too.

“Music and why people connect with it have always fascinated me,” says Salazar. “I still find it all as ambiguous as ever. Obviously, this collection of songs is something very dear to me- I know the heart, time and love that were put into each step. But when it’s time to let go, all you can hope for is that people find it as organically as possible. From there, just let the music be whatever each person needs it to be.”

Listen to Mad Minds by Heavy Lights: