the AU interview: Jess Carroll of Second Hand Heart (Melbourne)

Second Hand Heart are a local collective whose serene, integral sounds have been making waves across the blogosphere since their inception back in 2006. The AUreview had the pleasure of sitting down with lead vocalist Jess Carroll to find out what it’s all about.

When did Second Hand Heart meet and start playing together?

We started out in Ballarat. Lil and John were doing a music course together. I’d been catching up with Lil and we’d been playing around with different harmonies. She mentioned her friend John and that we should all play together and then we entered a band competition and did really well and it all sort of went from there.

We started playing back in 2006 and since then we’ve had 2 members changed and changed our sound a bit. It’s still centred around Lil and my harmonies but our guitarist has studied music and he does ambient pedals and guitar tone and our drummer has started writing more percussive parts so Lil can play those as well. We’ve definitely changed from what were originally. I was 19 when we started. So you tend to change in those years.

What’s your personal musical background?

Everyone in the band has studied music – I’m the oddball and I’ve kind of just been mooching off of their education. I come up with the guitar chords but I play by ear and the guys tell me that I’m adding a 7th and I don’t know what they mean but I’m making an effort now. My family is a really musical family – my Mum plays piano and my Dad plays guitar. I never really learned music at school. I never liked reading music and had some bad experiences with teachers. It was something that I’d go off and do in my own time and eventually I shared it with Lily and a few friends and they started to pull me out of what I was doing in my bedroom saying we should be doing this together.

I’ve been the key song writer, Lil writes as well and it’s been interesting from going to not having played with many people to hearing the songs arranged and played with a full band. Everyone in our band is really talented. They all have their thing that they bring. John is really good with his ambient, heartfelt guitar sounds. Lily does a lot of the arranging. It’s good fun. We’re all really good friends too. We’re all from Ballarat. Well John is from Lorne but he came to Ballarat to study music. We found our drummer Chris on Melband – of all places. Michael is a friend who studied with John. We spend a lot of time hanging out outside of the band. Which makes the band more fun as we’re all friends. It’s not like a work thing, we’re all really excited about it.

The launch show for your debut EP is fast approaching. When was the EP recorded?

We recorded that just over a year ago. There was a bit of time between recording and releasing. We wanted to release it earlier but I went overseas and some of the band went back to uni, so we’ve only just gotten around to getting it out. We’re getting straight back into recording now. With that EP we still play those songs but we’ve got a lot of new things ready to show again.

Our song “Trouble” which was written after this EP is the direction we’ve started to take. We’ve played together for quite awhile but it’s been disjointed as half the band were in Ballarat and half were in Melbourne so rehearsals and gigs were difficult to organise. It’s only been recently that everyone is living in Melbourne and the EP is done so now it’s like we get to show the band. It’s a tour to show everyone how we’ve changed and our first EP. We just gotten the CD’s pressed and printed. My friend did the artwork. She’s awesome she created this beautiful aesthetic for us out of ink with rainbow colours. I’m looking forward to the shows.

Who are your biggest influences?

I went to Fuji rock last year with Lil and four other girlfriends and that was one of the most amazing experiences ever. It’s hard to explain but the Japanese people really listen to music. We saw Muse play with about 40,000 people at the stage and everyone was clapping and then we heard someone’s phone go off at the other side of the stage and it was wow – did you just hear that? They listen intently. While we were there we saw Local Natives and that was fantastic.

What we’re starting to write now is really influenced by them with lots of harmonies and rhythmic layers. For me personally I’m a big fan of Regina Spektor and Radiohead as well. Everyone says Radiohead but I listen to them everyday. I love everything that they do. I’m also a really big fan of Jeff Buckley. I don’t even remember when I started really listening to Jeff but his music conjures up so much emotion. I started reading one of the books about him and then went off and tried to find a lot of other recordings from him as well. I love the older live recordings from the Sine period that a lot of people don’t know about. The version Jeff Buckley did of Hallelujah – I didn’t even know that was a cover for a long time as he plays it like it’s his own. Our song “Tribute” is influenced by that cover.

Future plans for the band?

We’re getting a clip together at the moment for “Sweet Little Nothings”. We’re heading in to the studio to record in October and we’ll be doing a lot more writing. We’d really like to play nationally so that might happen towards November and that’s as far as we can plan for right now. A couple of our members play in other bands and we’ve got stuff on for uni so we have to juggle all of that, but we’re looking forward to what’s coming next.

What’s the best live band you’ve seen lately?

I’ve seen a few lately. Tessa and The Typecast. I’m a big fan of her stuff and how they write and their vibe. I saw Playwrite recently. I stumbled across them after I’d heard a few things and then I went and saw them play. They’re so up and awesome and so energetic. They did a Radiohead cover and they pulled it off. Tehachapi as well. They’re awesome. I saw them play last week at the Evelyn. There’s a band called The Velocettes – they have a cool surf kind of Western vibe. They’re really fun live. We have such a rich music scene here. I’ve stumbled across some really cool music lately. You can get lost in it, following who they’re friends with and their influences as well. It’s really cool.

Be sure to catch Second Hand Heart as they launch their self-titled EP at the following venues:

Friday 26 August – THE GRACE DARLING – Melbourne
Supports Leagues and Ellen Kibble

Friday 9 September – KAROVA LOUNGE – Ballarat
Supports Tully and the Thief and Little Naima

Saturday 10 September – THE NATIONAL HOTEL – Geelong
Supports The Highwater Ballroom Band and Rhys Bongetti