When I moved to New York from Philadelphia for graduate school, I felt invisible and displaced. I'd spend hours wandering around the neighborhoods near school and my apartment, feeling lost. On one of those aimless days, I went to a coffee shop in Brooklyn and slowly drank coffee, listening to the ambient noise: blips of conversation, the distant hum of traffic, and the melodic swell of Heliotropes's "Everyone Else" (the barista was kind enough to tell me the name of the track). I sat there, and for the first time since moving to New York, I listened, really listened to the sounds of the city, to the song that the filled the café, and actually felt OK with being lost.
Since then three years have passed and New York has gradually become what Philly used to be: home. I don't get lost (as much) anymore. I go to local shows with new friends, and songs by bands like Heliotropes have become the soundtrack to the latter days of my 20s, easing the discomfort and challenge of coping with transitions. Their songs helped me grow up.
In a way, Heliotropes's forthcoming album Over There That Way is the result of a similar journey of maturation. The Brooklyn-based outfit's latest LP is a departure in genre from their 2013 debut, A Constant Sea . On the new record, front woman Jessica Numsuwankijkul explores the experience of disappointment or struggle in a more subdued way, through easy rock inspired riffs and the recurring metaphor of war. Over There That Way examines what it means to persevere in the face of adversity, most tangibly on tracks like "Normandy" and "Easy." I met up with Jessica on a Saturday at Sunrise/Sunset, a café in Bushwick, and talked with her about which albums shaped Over There That Way, the biggest lesson that she's learned from being a part of a band, and how her fascination with World War II inspired "Normandy," which we are premiering here today on the website.
Dianca Potts: When did you start writing songs?
Jessica Numsuwankijkul: When I was in college, I lived in this town called Encinitas, 15 minutes north of San Diego, in this really nice beach house, but there was nothing to do because I was underage. Once I was sitting in my room with this shitty Tascam four-track that I had at the time, and I wrote this crummy song. Afterward, my roommate at the time came in and said, "Hey, this sounds really great." I was listening to a lot of Spiritualized back then, and I wrote a song based on the fact that I was listening to a band that made an entire catalog of really simple three chord major songs. Before that, I'd been listening to a lot of really baroque music like the Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine, and that seemed inaccessible for me.
It didn't even occur to me that I could play music in a cohesive manner before that, because as a young person I was always surrounded by these really driven dudes in bands. All throughout high school I was just the friend that came along, and the few times that I did play, I felt really put on the spot. I didn't think that anyone would ever want to hear the kind of music that I would ever make.
DP: Was there a specific album or a band that you were listening to a lot while you were working on Over There That Way ?