The Heavenly States have been performing in the Bay Area for seven years. Dubbed “Oakland’s answer to the Clash” following their 2005 trip to Libya, this rock-indie-garage outfit came about when bandleader Ted Nesseth met drummer Jeremy Gagon through a roommate service.
Nesseth is a self-taught lefty who plays guitar upside-down and backwards with thick unwound strings which make for a unique sound and voicing. Genevieve Gagon, co-lyricist, brings string and key arrangements to the mix. Mark Christianson has played bass for the band since 2007.
The band has quietly released several critically acclaimed records, Delayer (2008), Black Comet (2005), King Epiphany (2003), The Heavenly States s/t (2003), and a collectible 7-inch single with Coldplay and The Postal Service. They are preparing to record their fourth full-length album. As trends in music and palettes of cool come and go, the group has kept its small but dedicated following in part due to their mildly outsider status.
Backstage artist banter this year at SXSW is all over the map. “If you don’t have character, there’s no need to worry about breaking it. I don’t have to get up in the morning and remember to wear moonboots to the coffee shop in 80 degree weather in order to maintain cred with the local scene,” says Genevieve. “I don’t need to start a new band because I want to wear a sweater instead of a nose ring. I can wear an imaginary nose ring in one song and an imaginary sweater in the next.”
Meanwhile, Ted and Eugene Mirman (Flight of the Conchords) discuss the nitty gritty of survival on the road and in this business, summed up as “the futile hunt for the red banana.” Later, Genevieve states frankly, “All legitimate science is initiated by an act of madness.” Within the eclecticism
displayed by the band from song to song and also, it seems, in their own minds, there is a consistency of attitude that recalls The Fall or early Talking Heads with the anti-posturing of Gang of Four. As Genevieve has hinted, the term “character” is much in play.
You can see The Heavenly States play live at The Uptown Nightclub in Oakland on Friday, July 3rd.
Black Comet (2005)
King Epiphany (2003)
The Heavenly States s/t (2003)
Ted Nesseth (Guitar), Jeremy Gagon (Drummer),
Genevieve Gagon (Vocals), Mark Christianson (Bass)
Hometown: Oakland, CA