Hello my old heart. How have you been? Are you still there inside my chest? I’ve been so worried. You’ve been so still, barely beating at all.
Oh, don’t leave me here alone. Don’t tell me that we’ve grown for having loved a little while. Oh, I don’t want to be alone. I want to find a home and I want to share it with you.
Hello my old heart. It’s been so long since I’ve given you away, and every day I add another stone to the walls I built around you to keep you safe.
Hello my old heart. How have you been? How is it being locked away?
Well don’t you worry. In there, you’re safe. And it’s true, you’ll never beat — but you’ll never break.
Nothing lasts forever. Some things aren’t meant to be. But you’ll never find the answer until you set your old heart free.
One of my most amazing musical soulmates, Bre Goldsmith, shared this song with me on December 20th of 2011. (Yes, I know the exact date. Thanks to facebook’s obsession with chronological order, I was able to go back and check.) Upon first listen my sensory neurons went wild. A frenzied excitement spread through my being the way it does when I’ve stumbled across something magical — something that was meant to find its way to me. Hello My Old Heart waltzed through the very core of me. Each line tracing up and down the walls of my mind in search of the corresponding memories. They were there. This song woke them and proceeded to gently medicate the vulnerable spaces — the tender spots that serve as reminders that broken bits do mend. Never, never under estimate the power of music. Though it often sends my spirits soaring, it also brings me to my knees. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
A year has passed and I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of The Oh Hello’s debut album, Through the Deep, Dark Valley. It’s here and the magnitude of its beauty is truly spell-binding. In 11 tracks, just under 40 minutes of play time, Tyler and Maggie Heath (the brother and sister duo that make up The Oh Hello’s) give you a glimpse of the world they inhabit. We were born in the valley of the dead and the wicked that our father’s father found, and where we laid him down. We were born in the shadow of the crimes of our fathers, blood was our inheritance. No, we did not ask for this…. will you lead me? The journey continues as an eyes-wide exploration of life. Sorrow, wanderlust, confusion, admittance, redemption. It’s all there. The joy is there, too, but it manifests itself in a subtle overcoming. I ran like a speeding train, cut my hair and changed my name. Only had myself to blame for the company I was keeping. Curse my restless wandering feet prone to wander endlessly. All the love you gave to me, it wasn’t enough to keep me. If this album was a short film, you’d be riveted to the screen — mesmerized and energized, living vicariously through the process of someone else’s becoming. I won’t give it all away; it’s a journey you simply must embark on yourself. I can’t claim a favorite track, but the number of plays on my iTunes would indicate that I’m partial to this one. It’s barely in the lead though. This album plays best start to finish.
A few weeks ago I was able to catch up with Tyler and Maggie and do a little Q & A with them. The following summarizes a little of our conversation. Really. This is the condensed version. I was so excited about the album, and the opportunity to chat with them, I may have gotten carried away. I do that.
Can you guys tell me a little bit about the process of making the album? You did everything yourselves?
Tyler: [laughs] I don’t know if you’d call it much of a “process”. Making the album was months of throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. We had a broad idea of what we were doing and the direction we wanted to go, but we let it evolve and grow as we went. I think we went through at least two versions of each song while recording.
Maggie: We would start, get half way through, and start over. We’d go through three versions of the song, change the title, and then finally decide what we wanted it to be. Second Child took soo long. We went through seven versions of that one, maybe? Being that there are only two of us, we had to record and rerecord to layer all the different pieces. You know? We couldn’t play all the instruments at once, so it took time. It was very much like piecing a puzzle together. There was a lot of patience. We had to just be okay with starting over — again. I did most of the engineering on the album, while Tyler played most of the instruments. It just worked the best that way.
When did you officially start making the new album?
Tyler: We got serious about the conception phase in April, I think. We tossed around ideas and worked on a few songs. Actual recording started in early June.
Maggie: I went on tour for a few weeks this summer with Those Know-It-Alls & Their Mighty Causes. So we took maybe a three week break?
Tyler: Yeah, other than that we worked non-stop pretty much up to the minute of the release. Yeah… that was fun. (<— said with a tired smile and a touch of sarcasm)
How does the song-writing work?
Maggie: Half of the songs have Tyler as the primary writer and the other half are mine, with ample collaboration occurring. It’s pretty 50/50, really. We have a coffee shop we like to work at, so we’d go there and really focus on the task at hand. We just brainstorm and throw out ideas to determine how we want the song [in question] to develop.
From the album do you have a favorite song, or one that was especially a labor of love?
Maggie: I really like how The Truth is a Cave/ The Reprise came together. We had a lot of fun with that.
Tyler: I don’t think I could pick a favorite. I really like all of them.
Any other tidbits about the album?
Maggie: I mostly wrote In Memorium and we didn’t have the lyrics until a week before the release date. The clouds opened up and they fell out of the sky just in time. We were down to the wire. I had been working on the song forever. Too close for comfort, but we pulled it off. I’m really pleased with it.
Tyler: Yeah the wait was worth it on that one. It’s a good song. We’ve had some really positive response to The Lament of Eustice Scrubb. That was one I wrote and for some reason I feared that it might be a weak point on the album. I’m glad it’s been so well received.
Ok guys, this is the question everyone wants the answer to: Is there a TOUR in the works?
Tyler: Absolutely there is, but we don’t have any idea when we’ll be ready to launch it! There are some logistics we have to figure out before we hit the road — like finding a band! We want to be able to recreate the sound of the album in a live show. That’s very important to us. Right now, we’d have to play the songs as an acoustic set. I really enjoy recreating the songs in this way, but that would be too different than what people buying tickets for our shows would be expecting.
Maggie: Nobody wants a tour more than me. I’m ready to go on tour tomorrow!
(*Fans, if you’re chomping at the bit, as I am — PATIENCE is the word. Our new favorite band will make it out on the road, hopefully soon.)
Who is your dream band to tour with/ open for?
Maggie: If we ever got to tour with Sufjan Stevens, I think I would just die. I don’t even think I could play the show. That would be the top of the top for me, the pinnacle.
Tyler: Yeah, definitely. Everyone else would be really cool – but that would be the greatest thing.
Anything you’re listening to that you want to share?
Maggie: La De Les. They’re really good. So good.
Tyler: Yeah, for sure. It’s only an EP, right? It’s great.
Maggie: They could not have made that EP any better. There’s also an Austin band that I’m digging. They are called Boyfrndz. They are kind of experimental, indie-rock – I don’t know what you’d call them. They are really stinkin’ good.
Do you have a song, current or from years past that resonates with you in such a way you wish you’d written it?
Tyler: [Directed to Maggie] Didn’t we just have this conversation? I think we did. It happens a lot. But I can’t think of a specific one right now.
Maggie: Pirate Blues, by As Cities Burn. It’s just a great song; actually pretty much anything by them deeply resonates with me. They are really musically talented. Maybe my all-time favorite band. I will always get a ticket and go see them live anytime they are nearby. The lyrics. The musicianship. Wow, just wow.
Do you have a go to album when you’re sad? Something that makes things better, or something that gives you permission to wallow?
Tyler: Coldplay. If I’m feeling melancholy, Coldplay is it for me. Any album, doesn’t matter.
Maggie: Umm, I don’t know if there’s an album, but any of Sufjan Stevens’ slower stuff, like Futile Devices or Enchanted Ghost. I will wallow forever.
If you were not pursuing music, you would be?
Tyler: Probably still something creative. Writing, or I don’t know. I like art, but I’m not very good at it.
Maggie: I would probably be doing art. I mean, I still am. I was taking classes, I was studying print making. I’m still practicing that. I’m hand-printing the album. So I think I would pursue that more full time. Or maybe writing, as well.
So let’s talk about growing up. Born and raised in Texas?
Tyler: Yes, in Angleton. Our parents have been really supportive of us practicing the arts. They are both very creative and gave us plenty of opportunities to find our outlets.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Maggie: I wanted to be a singing snow cone lady. We had a snow cone stand that was open in the summers, I guess it was the exciting thing in Angleton. The lady who worked it was always really nice.
Tyler: I think there was a period of time that I also wanted to run the snow cone cart thing. I did not know that we had that in common! I guess that’s just an awesome career in the mind of a child. There was also a period of time that I wanted to design video games.
Maggie: I think I wanted to do that to, too. But probably just because Tyler wanted to. I was the kind of little sister that wanted to do whatever my brother wanted to do.
Tyler: [laughs] That might have been how the band started, too.
Do you remember your first concert?
Tyler: Pretty sure it would’ve been Cademon’s Call.
Maggie: Third Day
How about best concert?
Tyler: Mutemath. When I found out about Mutemath I kind of stopped listening to anything else. I talked some friends into going with me to see them in concert because they were opening for The Fray (even though that didn’t matter to me). It changed all of our lives. It was insane.
Maggie: Easy. I was at “Cornerstone Music Festival” this past summer and my friends and I stumbled upon La De Les. It was mind blowing. We heard their music coming from a tent in the distance and we were drawn like gravity to them. The best show I’ve ever been to — and it was a total unexpected surprise.
First album you purchased?
Maggie: Probably something really embarrassing. Well, maybe it wasn’t too bad. I think it was an Ok Go cd. The album with A Million Ways on it.
Tyler: I can’t even remember any of their names. It would’ve been a Christian Contemporary album. DC Talk’s “Jesus Freaks”, on cassette tape, I think. Tally Hall is the first album I remember buying as I was growing into my own musical tastes.
Speaking of musical tastes, is there a band or type of music that you just can’t tolerate?
Tyler: I can be pretty patient. I will give most anything a chance, but if I have to choose, I’d say Nickelback. I don’t mean to just pick on them, any band in that same vein will do. I could never get on board with that branch of rock music.
Maggie: I would have to second that, but I would add Psychedelic Funk musicians that are really REALLY into being psychedelic … and funky. You know the ones that take it waaay to seriously.
Is there something about you that would surprise us? An accomplishment or something you are especially proud of? (Other than making albums in your bedroom, because honestly – that’s pretty cool!)
Tyler: I think the music thing is the best one I could come up with.
Maggie. I don’t know, Tyler. I mean we did go to Pirate Camp when we were little.
Wait, THERE’S A PIRATE CAMP?!
Maggie: Yep. It’s in Vashon, Washington. That’s where our grandparents lived while we were growing up. We would visit our grandparents in the summer and we’d go to pirate camp for a week. I don’t even remember all the things we did.
Tyler: We made wooden swords. And we were not allowed to fight each other with them. That was not very fun for me. I assume it was for safety reasons.
Maggie: We did a lot of exploring.
Tyler: It was really cool. I’m not gonna lie.
What makes you mad (in a pet peeve sort of way)?
Tyler: I get mad at drivers a lot of the time. But that’s a pretty boring answer. I also get mad at noises. Like trains. And skateboards. But I think that stems from trying to record the album and the noises interfering.
Maggie: Oh gee. I don’t know. I think my biggest pet peeve is when I’m sitting in a room with with someone and I get up just to go to the restroom, or to grab a glass of water, and someone asks, “Where are you going?” Like, the options are pretty limited. It’s not like I’m not coming right back. I honestly think that’s my biggest pet peeve. It’s really not worth the effort to explain that I’m just thirsty…
What makes you mad (in a social justice sort of way)?
Tyler: I don’t know if this counts, it’s not very specific, but I really just wish people wouldn’t be so awful to each other.
Maggie: Yeah, me too.
What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
Tyler: I would definitely continue to do music. I’m still so worried we’re going to crash and burn.
Maggie: Hmm. If I could not fail… I don’t know!
Tyler: I would also want to travel the world.
Maggie: Hey, I was gonna say, travel the universe. I’d go on intergalactic adventures. That’s what I would do. That’s my answer.
Do you have a mantra or manifesto that reminds you how to live?
Tyler: Lately, as kind of a joke, I have been getting really existential when I’m trying to encourage Maggie. I will tell her, “Just don’t worry about it. Remember, one day everybody’s gonna die.” Which is kind of more depressing than comforting, I guess. But I mean it in a good way.
Maggie: It’s pretty simple really, LOVE ERRBODY!
ON EVERYTHING ELSE
Do you have any phobias?
Tyler: I am terrified of the open ocean and I could not tell you why. It’s not really about sharks or sea monsters. I’m not afraid of all the open space, because I’m not afraid of outer space – but it has something to do with the space being below me, under water. It’s weird and I don’t like it.
Maggie: I’m really scared of spiders. It’s a recent fear. I just walked through a spider web that was occupied and it was ON me. So yeah, no spiders for me.
Coffee or Tea?
Maggie: Tea. But I drink coffee, too.
Maggie: Ooh, good one. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, I think.
Tyler: Big Fish. And Miyazaki’s, Spirited Away. Wait, no. Can I change my answer? Kung Fu Panda. It has what’s probably my favorite quote in a movie ever — “There is no secret ingredient”.
Favorite TV Shows?
Tyler: Adventure Time, Arrested Development, Community, and Firefly. I watch a lot more TV than I used to since I got Netflix, but those are the frontrunners by a solid margin.
Maggie: Arrested Development and Community. And Adventure Time.
Tyler: I also got really into the BBC’s, Sherlock. That one’s really good.
Tyler: I don’t know if I can answer that.
Maggie: I have a lot of books that I like. But right now I have two favorites. The first one is “Howl’s Moving Castle”, by Dianna Wynn Jones. And the second one is “The Moon is Down”, by John Steinbeck.
Tyler: I come back to a lot of different books by C.S Lewis. At least once a year I read “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Screwtape Letters” and he has one that’s called, “Until We Have Faces” that is REALLY good. He is probably one of my favorite authors. I also like a lot of more nerdy kid fiction, but we’re not going to go there because I will probably embarrass myself.
Do you prefer late nights or early mornings?
Tyler: I’m definitely a night person. That is when I’m at my best creatively.
Maggie: I’m an all kind of day person. I really enjoy late night kinds of things. But I also really like early mornings, waking up before the sunrise.
A thousand thanks to both Tyler and Maggie for spending some time with me and for sharing their amazing talents!