TFN Finds: Interview with Hearts on Speed on their new single “Buzz Like Bees”

Here at The Forever Now, we love not only making music but also discovering new music and independent artists that deserve a little more recognition. This week we caught up with Hearts on Fire to discuss their new single, “Buzz Like Bees”. It’s a guitar driven track with a solid call and response between piano and guitar riffs and a melancholic pseudo-anthemic chorus that might recall acts like The National or even The Thermals or The Weakerthans if one thinks back far enough. The track is pensive, relaxed, and has a clean, minimal production—not bad for a band that started on a dare. Check them out on our Indie Rock & Pop playlist here.

You say that the band started as a dare, who dared you and how did it happen?
We wrote our first full album in about 14 days in February – hence our band name, Hearts on Speed (valentine’s day etc). We were rushing to complete the RPM Challenge, a songwriting challenge we signed up for, for some reason. It was a thrill.

Hearts on Speed is a relatively new project, have you been making music for long before that? What were your other projects like?
We (Mark GH and David Y) have been writing songs together for about 15 years. Since early on we were aiming for an indie ideal, catchy – working within the pop song construct is very satisfying for us, as is breaking it – but always with a thread of angst, a fine balance between accessible and maladjusted, ha. Guitars have always been our base, with synth lines, and hybrid drums (analog and beats). We also had an early side project called “Kevin!” that was far more guitar-riff-driven, more swagger in those tunes. Most of that stuff was a quality I’d call “good demos.” We’re only emerging from our lo-fi years now.

I see that you’re from New York, would you say this has influenced your sound and relationship to music, and if so how?
Mark GH is in NYC, but David is in Atlanta, GA. We love tons of New York bands, like The National, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem, etc. Their struggle to reach fresh emotion beyond their cynical self-consciousness, might be a thread. And the songwriting, production, that stuff is as good as it gets. Music (and all art, really) should have a bit of courage to it, be brave, be different.

You’ve just released your single Buzz Like Bees, can you tell us a bit about how the track started out?
Every year David takes two days to hide and write songs; a self-imposed solitary confinement, no booze, just coffee steak and yoga to fuel the songwriting – to see what comes out. So far that has happened in January, and in 2022 four songs emerged, two of which we decided were good enough to finish as a band; So Serious, and Buzz Like Bees.

What was one of the most fun moments of recording the song? How about one of the most frustrating?
Buzz Like Bees was the hardest to finish, because it really required so much revision. Mark and David re-worked the lyrics a ton, there are more discarded lyrics than ones we kept, by far. The instrumentation and production was also a series of debates. Ultimately Mark is the bands main producer (and guitarist and more), just because he’s better at that part.

We value the tension each of our preferences brings. […] A lot of songs die because they just aren’t “us”

I see that you’ve been inspired by artists such as Tanlines, the National, and Guided By Voices, can you talk a bit about how they’ve impacted your work, and maybe even ways in which you try to depart from your influences?
Guided By Voices have given us a lot of permission over the years to value imperfection in art; they are champions at that kind of beauty. Tanlines’ first record is perfect synth-driven simplicity, which we also love. The National are poets, reinventing the proven rock instrumentation, and the male baritone vocal is something we can relate to, ha.

How did you come to craft your “sound”? Did you sit down and decide what it would be, or experiment until it clicked?
We value the tension each of our preferences brings. Mark GH brings references from Luna and Low, while David brings aspires to Phoebe Bridgers or TV on The Radio. We both love Psychedelic Furs and Spoon. Each of us have veto power – we want to make songs we both love. A lot of songs die because they just aren’t “us”, ha.

I feel like I can hear a more direct connection between Buzz Like Bees and your previous song So Serious, whereas it departs a bit from your song Wire which features more keys and a drum machine. Was this an intentional choice?
“Absolutely, and thank you so much listening and noticing that! Ha. Wire is an older song we wrote, and re-released because we love it. Mark GH wrote the music for that, and David did vocals and a little arranging. So Serious and BLB were written in the same writing session, and Mark identified those as almost a double-whammy, or potential co-release, which is what we did.

Music is not prescriptive – it’s offered with an intention, but then it’s received, and every listener can get something out of it that’s totally their own, and that is so awesome

What does the titular lyric “buzz like bees” mean to you?
It’s trying to describe a peak feeling, like the honeymoon period in a relationship, or when life is good on vacation, you just can’t wipe the smile off your face. In this song, the narrator is not there, not feeling that way, but wants to be.

The opening lyric states “I don’t want to see the latest news tonight, I don’t want to get tight on cheap wine alright”, can you tell us what you were feeling when you wrote that and why?
It’s trying to describe being a rut, the mundane day-to-day, the boring routine, the same-old attempts at escape. It’s the yearning to feel something fresh and different, something surprising.

What’s something about the song people often miss that you’d like to share?
It’s fun finding out what listeners hear in it, because those things often surprise me! Music is not prescriptive – it’s offered with an intention, but then it’s received, and every listener can get something out of it that’s totally their own, and that is so awesome. There’s probably something I missed in this song!

What’s one question you’re dying to answer but no one’s ever asked?
“I love sharing new music I find and love, so maybe that – I and I would turn you onto Girlhouse – that group is a current binge for me.

What’s next for Hearts on Speed?
Always writing the next better song, always aiming for a better production of it, just having fun with the process, and sharing music in hope it connects with someone, and means something to them.