The Reckless Hearts



Image courtesy of MySpace

Image courtesy of MySpace

Words by Erin Wolf

The Reckless Hearts are unapologetic about power pop — where many bands (especially now) get more notoriety for being sullen and world-weary, their instruments acting as weapons of discontent, power pop often gets regarded as mere fluff. Songs about cars and girls are probably fluff to some, but they’re totally sweet sounds to this trio’s ears — guitarist/vocalist Thomas Culkin tells us why.

“Yer a Blur”, The Reckless Hearts

The Reckless Hearts are comprised of two previous bands (The Danger and The Jet Set). What are the main similarities and differences between the Reckless Hearts and the other bands?

I think the main difference between the Reckless Hearts and the Danger is essentially approach. I think that the Danger was a  much more visceral kind of Iggy-wannabe type of group that was focused on the live portion of the show more so than recording to a degree. A lot of the records were a document of the parts we wrote for the live show.

I think the Reckless Hearts is a group where the songs and how they’re put together has taken the front seat a lot more. Think of it as the Stiv Bators’ Dead Boys to Disconnected transition (though that’s kind of a stretch). The rhythm section and main song writer of the Danger became this band.

I wasn’t in the band, but the Jet Set was a three/two-piece that had a lot of the same influences as this group, with probably a bit more of a garage feel. So, we come from similar head waters.

Like in most power pop, there’s a heavy emphasis on the vocal arrangements with the tight harmonies being key — how do you go about writing songs with this emphasis? Do vocals get written first, or the instrument arrangement?

When I write a song, I usually start by playing a chord change and trying to marry a memorable vocal part to it. Then, when it comes time to add harmonies, we sometimes have to edit the original part (usually simplifying it), and then experiment until the harmony sounds right. I know it should probably be a lot more scientific, but I was never in choir and lack that kind of immediate knack for creating harmonies, though it’s gotten better. I’ve got to sing a ton until a lead vocal and a harmony make sense together. So basically, I usually try to write the vocal and changes simultaneously. There are exceptions to the rule, though.

Your band has adopted a ‘cynicism-free’ attitude that’s pretty unique for indie outfits. do you feel it’s harder to feel like a more credible band today with little or no ‘edge’?

Speaking as the main lyricist, I just feel like cynicism is fucking played out. Any two-bit hack can do it. I mean, over the past eight or more years, I have become so insanely pessimistic that I finally got sick of myself. It got to the point where advertising it in my music became uninteresting and useless to me. I feel like the only road to go down is in the opposite direction. To me, it’s a much greater challenge to turn difficult situations (like being isolated, growing up too fast, etc.) into true joy. I’ve always had a hard time figuring out how the Ramones could write “53rd & 3rd” and make it sound like a fun time. That is actually impressive to me. I mean, I am not an innately happy person, but neither were any of the Ramones. they had to will that element into their music. That’s pretty much what this entire album is, and you know what, it’s a lot more enjoyable to play.

As far as the credibility question, I mean…regardless of who you are or what you play, at some point someone is going to say you aren’t credible, so you can’t worry about that. I like this question, though, because it gets at the heart of the idea that pissing and moaning in and of itself makes one credible (and therefore, your music is good). I would argue that it does not. If it did 30 Seconds to Mars would be credible and the Buzzcocks would not, and we have scientifically proven that false. The adverse is also true though, in as much as any group that blows sunshine up your culo isn’t necessarily credible either. Just look at the Billboard Top 40. Credibility in music is less connected to cynicism and more connected to how sincere you are, and how much grace you use to convey that. Even if it’s some stupid song about a car and a girl.

The Reckless Hearts play this Saturday at Frank’s Power Plant (2800 S. Kinnickinnic) along with the Trusty Knife and Thunders (Chicago). 10 p.m. 21 + Their record Get Up and Run will be coming out this year on Off the Hip recordings (Australia). Watch for some 7″ splits, too.


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One Response to “The Reckless Hearts”

  1. Andrea Says:

    I love the Reckless Hearts! They deserve a lot more credit than what has been given to them in the past. Impressive song writers these boys are.

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