The NYC Band Released Not Only a Single, But A Video Game!
Heavenly Faded is Back With a New Hit Single–AND A video Game!
What’s better than a new single? No, not a new album–a single AND a video game! Heavenly Faded’s latest release, “Whales” is just that.
If you’re new here, Heavenly Faded is a New York-based ambient-alternative rock band that has been hard at work writing, recording, and releasing music since 2018. In the wake of the release of their EP, False Memories, the band “continues to chisel away at their vision, patiently illustrating their very own sound, thick with cascading, reverb-drenched guitars, ala Reignwolf, The Smiths and Oasis, and soaring, heartfelt vocals that radiate with shades of The Cure and Incubus, all held together by a thunder and lightning rhythm section, one part Led Zeppelin, and one Arctic Monkeys.”
Current band members Luis Payero (Vocals / Guitar), Jake Stamoulis (Vocals / Guitar), Rijk van Zanten (Bass), and Jared Pease (Drums) have battled “a near breakup, a pandemic, and the whole kitchen sink, [but] the band continues to chisel away at their vision, meticulously illustrating their very own sound….” with hit tracks like “CTRL,” “Mt. Hope,” and “False Memories.”
The band’s latest release, “Whales,” is the epitome of what makes a Heavenly Faded track so special. The combination of dreamy, full instrumentals and buttery vocals make for easy listening, the track’s gentle strength creating a sunburst of sound. With each release, Havenly Faded’s musical themes have only grown stronger in their definition, and “Whales” is proof that they’ve truly started coming into their own sound.
I got to ask the band a bit more about the awesome idea behind their new video game, the best spots for music in NYC, and–of course–their newest single, “Whales!”
Tell me more about the video game! Did you design it yourselves?
Luis: We had a brainstorming session to try to come up with unique ideas for marketing the new single, something that would make us stand out in some way. The rapper Russ had developed a similar idea for one of his releases, and even though it was one of the hardest things we’ve tried to do on our own, we’re very proud of the outcome and feel more emboldened than ever to try new marketing techniques for future releases. We also took some inspiration from other bands that adopted similar techniques, like Colatura and Spudcannon (who are also local NYC artists, check them out!)
Rijk our bass player, programmed the vast majority of the game and I designed the characters. Jake and Jared recreated the whole song using 8-bit synthesizers to give it that classic video game feel. It was a big first for all of us, as we had never attempted this before, but we took on the challenge, especially with Rijk already having a programming background.
In this day and age, an artist is no longer expected to just release music and music videos. Now you have to think outside the box to develop better methods of capturing attention, especially with the masses having such short attention spans.
Jake: Some of my earliest musical influences were the 16-bit soundtracks to the old Sega Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games. So having a piece of music I wrote end up as the background of a side scrolling game sort of brings it full circle for me.
Rijk: Yuup! Designed and built it 100% ourselves. Video games are really powerful tools to have people engage with a certain subject matter, which to me makes it a super fitting medium for music. The added level of interactivity means that the listener almost becomes part of the song, which in turn really helps solidify the song itself.
Jared: We designed the entire video game ourselves, from picking color schemes to character design. We initially took this idea from a marketing campaign that was done for a record with Russ and Kara Marni. It really made a lot of sense to us as Rijk has a background in tech and has designed video games in the past. What we really wanted to do to set our game apart was to make it so that the characters are always running in time with the beat of the music and to have the jumps also be in time with the music. We thought it was a good marketing technique because it has worked for other artists in the past. But, most importantly, it is relevant to our band. We all enjoy gaming, and from time to time the band plays Mario Kart together (Rijk always seems to win). The reason we decided on the endless runner style game was, at our first gig, Jake was running late and managed to show up to the venue right as we were setting up on stage. It all really seemed to come together seamlessly as far as conceptualizing the game.
In this day and age, an artist is no longer expected to just release music and music videos.Luis Payero
Are you avid gamers? If so, what do you like to play?
Luis: As busy as we are with our day jobs and simultaneously running this band, when we do find the free time, most of us love playing video games. One of my favorites is Red Dead Redemption 2 and other similar RPG style games. We’ve also been known to have a brutal Mario Kart match or two in our day!
Jake: I’ll play any split screen game. I’m not as into playing single player games – but I love the smack talk and camaraderie that comes with multiplayer.
Rijk: Yes! While I don’t have oodles of time left in a week, I do like to sit down at the end of a long day and just wander around some virtual world to escape from reality. Just like Jake, I also do love the camaraderie of a good multiplayer session IRL, though he might feel differently about that after a round or two of Mariokart.
Jared: I am very much a casual gamer. I was more of a gamer growing up, but I still enjoy a lot of the older games; Final Fantasy 7 & 8, Diablo II, The Hitman Series, Mario Kart, and Super Smash Brothers to name a few.
What are your favorite lyrics from the new song and why?
Luis: I might be biased in saying that all the lyrics in this song are my favorite, but I’d have to say “Thought I could save you from disaster / With every stiff misstep I take.” To me, it sums up the song in how I’ve been more concerned with someone else’s happiness before taking care of my own. I would try so hard for perfection, but no matter what I did, it would be misconstrued as needy or controlling. I was also a really bad dancer a couple years ago, so stiffness is a running theme in my life. Much better at dancing now though 😀
Rijk: I tend to listen more to voicings and how the lyrics intertwine with the music rather than follow along with the words themselves (might be a byproduct of English not being my first language?). With that in mind, I really enjoy the last chorus coming in. The sheer power in the vocal line combined with those melodic and smooth harmonies really hit you in a certain way.
Jared: That would have to be the chorus, “Crawling up the walls / Wasting all my energy / Tell me what you want from me? / Write it off, another useless memory / To keep me afloat, while I’m falling.”
I think that most people in the world have had a rather rough year and a half. In my personal experience with the Covid crisis, these lyrics really speak to me. They describe some of the problems I dealt with in my personal life, as well as a dialogue that I was having with myself. Working in music and seeing how the entire industry could be brought to its knees in a matter of days, I found myself constantly questioning if I have made the right decision for my personal career.
From your first song to your most recent, how has your process changed? What has remained the same? Why?
Luis: A lot has changed in our songwriting process since our first release. For starters, a lot of our earlier material was somewhat rushed. We would get really excited about a song, spruce it up a bit, and present it as it was without too much thought about continuity with our other material or stressing too much about how “complete” they were. Now it’s a much more collaborative effort, where we throw around a lot of ideas before we settle on fully fleshing something out. When we decide a composition is worth focusing on, we then take it apart and really analyze each section in order to make it as “good” as possible. In addition, as we eventually wrote more and more material, we started finding our sound and we can now hone in on the elements that make our songs as “Heavenly Faded” as possible.
Jake: I think since we started to write from scratch with Jared and myself as full members, we’ve had a broader and slightly more eclectic approach in terms of rhythmic and harmonic complexity. Our bassist Rijk shares my enthusiasm for what we call “stretchy” chords, those more complex voicings that give the music more mystique and intrigue.
The biggest advantage of writing in a group setting is that everyone will bring their own flavor into the collective stew. I might come in with a guitar figure and have a preconceived idea of how the rhythm section might feel, and the rest of the guys will hear different elements in it and guide the idea in a wholly unique direction.
When working by yourself, you have a tendency to fall back on your own clichés. But when you’re playing with others, you have to do whatever it takes to make the song work, whether it means laying back on some chords or being the one who provides the main hook.
Rijk: I think one of the only upsides of the COVID pandemic was that we were effectively forced to go into a writing hiatus for a couple months when all the venues were closed. This meant that we spent hours and hours getting used to each other’s strengths and weaknesses and really honed in on our specific sound. I think that time also gave us the opportunity to really work on our craft and increase the level of professionalism we put into our work.
Jared: The biggest thing that has changed is the production process. We are writing in a very similar manner: someone brings an idea in and we all collaborate to develop it into a full song structure. From there, when we go to record the song, we will put every single aspect under a microscope to make sure that everything is adding to the song. We are still figuring out this whole process, but as we’ve continued to work in this way, we have been making major strides in the quality of our recording and production. All of it is done in-house, outside of the final mix and masters. For this batch of singles, we did all of the tracking and production ourselves. Jared and Rijk led the process with Jared handling a majority of the mixing before passing it off to an outside mix engineer, JM Baez. From there it was off to mastering with Paul Logus, who mastered Coheed and Cambria. He always does amazing work.
Working in music and seeing how the entire industry could be brought to its knees in a matter of days, I found myself constantly questioning if I have made the right decision for my personal career.Jared Pease
How have some of the meanings of your songs shifted, deepened, or changed as you’ve grown as artists and people?
Luis: This is a tough one to answer, since writing lyrics is shrouded in so much mystery, even for the one writing them. I think we’ve always strived to make our lyrics as relatable as possible for anyone of any gender, creed, or class, but I’d say getting to the root of the emotion trying to be expressed has become more of the focus instead of just writing our feelings in a general sense. We try to look at the song as a whole and reflect what the song is trying to convey in all departments, sonically, instrumentally, and vocally. The question has become, how can someone know exactly what the song is about without any explanation? We want it to hit right at home, we want to make you cry, laugh, and sing all in one.
Rijk: The new(er) songs greatly reflect the changes that we’ve gone through as a band. The newer tracks have way more depth, mystery, and intrigue to them. Next to this, we’ve been able to explore more unique approaches to these songs, reflecting each band member’s personality within.
Jared: I think the biggest shift is that they’ve become more universal. Now we’re looking at specific scenarios that we’ve gone through and trying to dig to the core meaning behind them. Because while we can’t always relate to specific moments in another person’s life, there are many universal ideas that are at the core of these experiences; love, loss, pain, and more.
What is your proudest accomplishment as a band?
Luis: I’d say just sticking together, especially when so many other artists resorted to breaking up during the pandemic. Before this lineup, we almost threw in the towel when the band had a shake up and a couple members left, but Rijk and a few other people in my life convinced me to continue soldiering on and not let it get me down. So, we chose to push forward and found Jared and Jake, and it was the best decision we ever made. This version of Heavenly Faded is the truest version.
Rijk: To me, the live shows are always the proudest moments. No matter the size of the venue or crowd. While we’re obviously super enthusiastic about our music, it’s always a special moment when we can share with the audience. I’m also very proud and happy with the release of our single, “Whales.”
Jared: The progress that we’ve made in our songwriting and production process. We’ve all learned and developed immensely as musicians, artists, and human beings. It’s been a great experience to work and grow alongside everyone in the band.
When working by yourself, you have a tendency to fall back on your own clichés. But when you’re playing with others, you have to do whatever it takes to make the song workJake Stamoulis
What are your favorite band bonding activities?
Luis: First and foremost, we love playing music together. If we could do it all the time, well that would just be dandy as all heck, but when we aren’t playing we love just cooking food, cracking open some beers, and either watching classic rock music videos or kicking each other’s asses at Mario Kart. Rijk is definitely the best one, no question. It’s ridiculous.
Jake: Our senses of humor are simpatico, and we all share a passionate love of all kinds of music, film, and tv. So we get to geek out about those interests a lot.
Rijk: I concur. If we’re not writing music, we’re playing music. If we’re not playing music, we’re jamming out and messing around, which eventually turns into writing, and the cycle repeats.
Jared: Eating and Mario Kart.
What are some of your favorite music-related spots in NYC?
Luis: There are so many to choose from–and so many we’ve lost to the pandemic–but I think my favorites have to be The Sultan Room in Bushwick and East Berlin (Formerly “Coney Island Baby” and “Lola’s”) in the East Village.
The Sultan Room just oozes art and the vibes are immaculate. Great food too. Also, since the last time we played there, East Berlin was one of the coolest small venues I’d been to. They have a huge green room with its own bar, and the stage and sound equipment are top notch.
Jake: I’ll always have a soft spot for Piano’s. It was the first venue I played that wasn’t a church basement or a backyard party. I spent my early college years gigging the Lower East Side clubs, so I’ll always have that nostalgic feeling towards those places.
Rijk: I too have a soft spot for the venues of LES; Piano’s, Arlene’s Grocery, Bowery Electric, etc. That being said, I also really enjoy playing the Bitter End, the Delancey, the Cutting Room, and many others. Variety is key!
What does success look like for Heavenly Faded?
Luis: Success to me is being able to survive this life, just performing and writing music. As long as I can pay my rent on time, that’s paradise for me. We want to play to as many people as feasibly possible, so the moment we hear an entire crowd sing our words back to us, that will truly feel like a huge milestone.
Jake: For me, the biggest success is the satisfaction of writing and recording the music. I love the process of a song coming to fruition. If I’ve created something that I truly enjoy listening to, and that the band thinks is good, then I’ve done something right. Taking it out onto the stage and performing it is the icing on the cake for me. If you are honest in your craft, the audience is willing to take that ride with you. It’s all about communicating and having a shared experience.
Rijk: Being able to communicate and share a certain feeling through the power of airwaves rattling your brain is the most important to me. If I’m able to change your internal rhythm and take you along for the ride, my mission is successful.
Jared: Being able to live comfortably off of the music.
Being able to communicate and share a certain feeling through the power of airwaves rattling your brain is the most important to me.Rijk van Zanten
What should we expect from Heavenly Faded in the future?
Luis: We have a bunch of new music to release in the next year, and we plan on growing our following as much as we can. We have high expectations, but don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. Only thing we can promise is that we’ll give it our all onstage and that we’ll continue to make the best music we can.
Rijk: We are continuously improving our skills in both music execution and production, so expect more varied, polished, and exciting releases coming out!
Jared: We have a lot of cool things in the pipeline right now. We have three more singles that we’re finishing up that we are very excited about, along with some very exciting plans for merging technology with the upcoming releases.
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Note: Responses have been edited for grammar, length, and clarity.