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Nov 15, 2013 HAERTS Photography by Tommy Kearns Bookmark and Share

If they were ever to fuse their collective DNA in some future sci-fi experiment, the members of HAERTS are in full agreement that their resulting progeny would be unlike any other. “It would be beautiful,” laughs frontwoman and vocalist Christina “Nini” Fabi. “But I would have to give birth to it, don’t forget.”

“Well, by that time I could give birth to it,” quips keyboardist Ben Gebert.

Imaginary offspring aside, the genetic backgroundand worldly upbringingof the New York City-based quintet is inarguably diverse, and is one of the more silent influences behind their polished synth pop. Fabi, born in Ohio, was raised in Germany; half Australian on his mother’s side, Gebert was born and raised in Germany; bassist Derek McWilliams, whose mother is from the Philippines, was born and raised in the U.K.; drummer Jonathan Schmidt grew up in Colorado; guitarist Garrett Ienner, a native New Yorker, is the band’s only non-transplant.

Years before HAERTS took any kind of official formation, Fabi and Gebert were just kids growing up in Munich. Introduced to one another while competing on the same swim team, the two connected over their mutual interest in music. “We’ve been basically writing songs since we were teenagers,” says Gebert. “We always listened to a lot of music together and went to tons of shows. We’ve always had that connection.”

Inevitably developing a romantic relationship, the two continued their creative partnership by moving to Boston and attending the city’s Berklee College of Music. Eventually uprooting once more and settling in Brooklyn, they began clocking in studio time and experimenting with one-man electro-pop artist Jean-Philip Grobler, aka St. Lucia, who in turn introduced them to Ienner. Inspired by Grobler and Ienner’s more expansive sonic palette, Fabi and Gebert moved away from the stripped-down Americana that dominated their earlier material for a more cinematic, synth-based sound. “I think the synths were a way for us to explore something new and it, in a way, informed our writing and changed the ways we write,” says Fabi. “It was a very exciting thing for us to actually incorporate that in our music.”

After bringing in McWilliams and Schmidt to round out the ensemble, HAERTS released their debut single “Wings” earlier this year. The track fully embraces its title, soaring with shimmery, ‘80s-evoking textures and the kind of cloud-climbing vocal work from Fabi that can’t help but channel vintage Stevie Nicks.

“‘Wings’ was one of the first songs that we did, and after a pretty long time in the studio we just felt the need to put something out there,” says Fabi. “So we made a Facebook page and we had this discussion…and we just chose ‘Wings’ over dinner. And then the next thing we knew people started liking it. There was a lot of surprise, I think. Getting the responses gave us more faith in the project.”

Aiming to release their debut full-length in early 2014, with a previewing EP released this fall, HAERTS truly is the product of individual origins moving forward as a group, much like a child born to loving parents. “We’ve all come from different places,” says Ienner. “It’s in us at this point. We never honestly tried to find a sound, to sound like a [specific] band or time. It’s really just what suited the song and what came out of us.”

[This article first appeared in Under the Radar’s September/October 2013 issue.]


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