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Interview: The Black Heartthrobs
The Black Heartthrobs are a four-piece melodic garage rock band from Culver City. Punk bassist for Osker (Epitaph), David Benitez switched to vocals/guitar and is joined by Jane Greely, Mark Yates and Diana Salier. David studied songwriting from 70’s power pop icons Peter Case (Plimsouls) and Berton Averre (The Knack). Irreverent lyrics and catchy choruses abound in their indie white collar rock.
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
David: We started the band when a DJ asked me to play on UCLA radio. I didn’t want to do it solo, so I got Jane on drums. The best way to keep your drummer is to marry her, so I did. If that didn’t happen, I’d probably be asking myself today…man, what happened to that cute drummer at UCLA?
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Jane: I meditate and surf, but not at the same time. Both help me feel more connected to what I’m doing and you gotta be present to be creative.
How long has music been your career?
We’ve been doing this band since college.
Where are you based and how did that influence your music?
David: I say we are from Los Angeles, but it’s actually Culver City. I love Culver City! I’ve lived here my whole life and haven’t moved more than 2 blocks. It’s good having roots and a community of musicians.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
Jane: One of the most interesting shows we had was opening up for Billie Eilish at a backyard party. It was right when she got signed to Interscope. One of the worst shows we had was when David got in an argument with a sound guy.
David: He was asking for it. He wanted us to turn our amps 90 degrees, because that’s what Beyonce’s guitarist does.
Jane: Well, the sound guy left and turned the PA off on us during our set only.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Jane: The Satellite in Los Angeles, but it closed during the pandemic.
David: I like playing locally at the Cinema Bar (Elliott Smith supposedly played there), but would love to play the Troubadour.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Jane and David: Mike Viola!
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into music?
(David) Write a bunch of songs and play as much as you can. Join a songwriter group. I did. I took a class with Peter Case (The Nerves, Plimsouls) and Berton Averre (The Knack). I owe both of them my soul.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Jane: Make music for yourself.
David: Keep writing songs. Write tons of bad ones, just don’t stop. And buy Tesla stock.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
David: “Recover” off of our new album Back to Zero. Most of my songs are autobiographical and that one’s got a lot of true stories. It’s loosely based on the days after my ol’ punk band Osker (Epitaph records) broke up.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Jane: I like playing all the songs off the new album especially Long Cold Summer.
David: We get lots of requests for old songs, but we don’t honor those requests. It’s time to move on, son. We like the new stuff.
What is the creative process for you, and what inspires you to write your music?
David: Really being part of a songwriter group helps. It gives me a deadline to finish a song to play for my peers. If I didn’t have that, I’d just watch endless TV. Most of the time, songwriting can be grueling. I’m just isolated and waffling about. But once you’ve found the right chord or the right lyric, you surprise yourself. You find out something about yourself that you didn’t know. It totally makes all that time worth it. After I’ve written a first draft of a song, I spend days going over it trying to improve it… losing sleep… talking to people, but I’m half there. It’s actually really enjoyable to be in the middle of that obsessive creative space. A strange drug.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
David: I want people to feel like an actual person just like them wrote these songs… a connection. Maybe they feel the same way I do in the song. Hopefully, to inspire people too.. to stop streaming and write songs with friends.
Do you ever have disagreements when collaborating and how do you get past them?
Jane: Sometimes we disagree on song arrangements. You just gotta talk it out. Compromise, but don’t compromise the music.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
David: We just put out our new album Back to Zero. We had so many songs left over, we might put out a part 2 called More Than Zero. We also wrote songs for a rock musical. It might never see the “light of stage”, but those songs will be released. We also just finished a music video for Long Cold Summer.
Bandcamp = https://theblackheartthrobs.bandcamp.com/