Uncovering the unbridled pop brilliance of HAERTS

You may not know the name of the song or the band behind it, but you have undoubtedly heard the shimmering synths, plucky guitar, and soaring vocals of “Wings” that immediately made you feel like you were falling into a pool of sunshine. “Wings” was German indie pop duo HAERTS’s (Nini Fabi and Ben “Benny” Gebert) 2013 debut single that was co-produced by St. Lucia’s Jean-Philip Grobler and quickly shot the pair up onto the international stage as indie pop darlings. That song alone captured the attention of major labels and landed HAERTS a deal with Columbia Records.

In 2014, HAERTS released their debut self-titled album but it didn’t catch fire the same way that “Wings” did and soon after, Nini and Benny parted ways with Columbia. What followed was a period of deep self-reflection and a re-commitment to making music true to themselves.

Enter 2018 and HAERTS’s New Compassion album. The collection of eleven tracks exists as a tribute to the band’s dedication to self-transformation and unwavering persistence.  Written in the isolation of upstate New York’s Hudson Valley, New Compassion sees Nini and Ben’s creativity set free, marking a new beginning for the two.

We had an opportunity to catch up with the pair to chat about a little bit of everything – successes, set backs, New Compassion, and more.

FAULT: The album New Compassion is about self-transformation and unwavering persistence. Can you tell us in more detail about the experiences that shaped the songs on the record?
Nini: This album is us and it’s about our personal experiences of the past years. It’s about the whole spectrum of love, everything from breaking to healing and the notion of having to go through it all in order to live fully.

When we wrote it we were going through a lot of changes. We had just been dropped from our label, and were going through a very stormy time. The decision to make the album seemed crazy at first because there was no support, and we did not know where the band or where we as partners were going. But at the same time we felt that we had to focus on the work and make this album. It was our way of communicating with each other, things that we could not put in words. In writing we tried to make sense of our life and love by shaping it into music.

After having such immediate and astronomical success with your first single “Wings,” how would you describe the evolution of your sound from then to now?
Benny: Our sound has changed quite a bit, especially on this new album. It seems that we kept stripping back layers over the past few years. We originally came from writing simple songs on guitar and piano, and with this record we wanted to go back to that, because we thought that we could be more direct and clear that way. The production and instrumentation followed that approach and we just tried to support each song with a rather limited song palette.

Is there any part of you and how you create that tries to recreate what you had with “Wings?”
Nini: Of course we would love another one of our songs to have the reach that “Wings” had, but from an artistic standpoint I don’t think it’s possible to recreate any song. It’s nice when a song works and has some success, but when we write music it’s just our way of communicating something, moving through something. Sometimes what comes out can connect with people and sometimes it can’t, but trying to chase that is not something we are good at. We just want to keep doing our work.

You’ve been long-time residents of NYC. What about the city continues to inspire you?
Nini: The noise, the electricity, but mostly all the different people that manage to live here side by side and still feel connected through the city. We left the city to write and record this album, because at the time everything became to intense, too frantic, and we were looking to find peace and solitude. But every time we came back we still felt the magnetism and as long as we feel that I hope we can find inspiration here.

What is your favorite song on the record and why?
Nini: This answer changes every day and I think it will change even more once we tour the album this winter and start playing the music live. Today I will say No Love for the Wild. The song was the key to the rest of the album. After we wrote it, we knew where we wanted to go with this new music and so I feel grateful for this song.

Benny: Special. I initially did not want the song on the record because it seemed a bit alien in the context of the album. Especially in the chorus Nini’s vocals are very different from what she has done in the past. But then again I think she was expressing something new in this song and I am glad the song made it on the album.

What are the biggest differences between being on a major label to being an independent band? Is there anything that you miss?
Nini: It’s hard to make a general statement about this, because I believe that the important thing is not so much whether you are on a major label or independent, but whether you are in an environment that feels right to you, that supports you. We’ve been with a major, we’ve been completely on our own and now with Arts & Crafts with people that we love and who completely support us and who we are as artists.

What is your fault?
Nini: Many things, they are all on the album.

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