It often takes unlikely circumstances to bring bands together but, in the case of Total Heels, the odds couldn’t have been more insurmountable. One of the band’s members lived in New York, the other three in Copenhagen. They met while all of them were playing in other bands, and they shared a bill in Denmark. After several months of international correspondence, Total Heels were born. The group combines the recklessness of American punk with the nihilist attitude and spirit of the Copenhagen DIY movement, for a final product that’s ruthless and hard-hitting. You can hear all of that in “What About the Gold,” a breathless kiss-off to a fair-weather friend that bucks and kicks for its entire duration. It’s a nasty, corrosive song full of snarl and spite. Listen to it below, then read an interview with vocalist Jason Orlovich below.
What was the origin of your first trip to Copenhagen?
It was tour. I was always in a bunch of bands and we were touring a lot, and the first time I was in Copenhagen was for shows. An old band I was in played a show with a couple of the guys I met in Copenhagen — they had a pretty big band at the time — and we just kept in touch after that. And so with the band, a lot of it at first was just over email — a lot of Dropbox stuff, a lot of sharing. It was one of those things where it was like, “Let’s start casual. Let’s stay out of the industry end of it and see what happens.” And it was super natural. Like a lot of those things, when you stop caring, that’s when things start happening. And then just, on a whim, we were like, “Do you want to see if this works live?” So I went out to Copenhagen and one of our first shows was a weird afterparty for Mudhoney. I just got off the plane and went into the practice space and met the other two guys and were just like, “OK, let’s see if this works.”
Not to be super cliche, because I know everyone is talking about the DIY scene in Copenhagen right now, but I’d be curious to know how you’d differentiate what’s going on there right now to, say, the punk scene in LA or the punk scene in New York? Are there things that are going on there that are unique to Copenhagen?
That’s a huge question. I mean, you can get really nitty gritty about it and say, like anything, place informs what you do. I mean, they’re kids — and that’s not to belittle them, but they’re doing what we did. And they’re trying to figure it out. You go on your first tour, you meet other bands, you do your shapeshifting and you learn it naturally. I can’t think of anything profound that sets it apart — it’s kind of universal stuff. Pick a scene and let that scene thrive and grow and mutate on its own. One thing that’s interesting about it is that Copenhagen is super small, but it has a huge history of punk rock. And now I think that people are noticing. But it didn’t just appear — there’s a pretty strong tradition on the punk and hardcore end of things.
Let’s talk about “What About the Gold” — can you tell me a little about the origin of that song?
I think the record overall is pretty dense. There’s a narrative to it, and there are all these themes about falling off the grid. You know, “What do you do in your 30s when you might not want to do music anymore?” And it is bitter, and I felt like a weird sort of drifter character. It was like “How far out to sea to I really want to put myself? And what are the things I want to tether to in music and community?” And that’s what the record is — it’s finding your way back.
Total Heels On Tour
10/10/14 DE HAMBURG, Hafenklang
10/11/14 DE LEIPZIG, Conne Island
10/12/14 CZ PRAGUE, 007
10/13/14 AT VIENNA, Rhiz
10/14/14 CZ OLOMOUC, Street Fighters
10/15/14 DE NUREMBERG, K4
10/16/14 DE MUNICH, Kafe Kult
10/17/14 CH WINTERTHUR, Kraftfeld
10/18/14 FR BESANCON, Les Passagers du Zinc
10/19/14 FR PARIS, La Mécanique Ondulatoire
10/20/14 FR LILLE, El Diablo
10/21/14 FR METZ, La Chaouée
10/22/14 DE DARMSTADT, Oetinger Villa
10/23/14 DE BERLIN, Schokoladen
10/24/14 DK COPENHAGEN, Stengade (w/ De Høje Hæle)
11/06/14 DK AARHUS, Radar (w/ a Snaredrum)