Heads or Heads is the musical brainchild of 22 year-old Alex Harbolt, who describes his project as "simultaneously avant-garde and easy-listening." Harbolt is also an actor, filmmaker and writer, seeing the intersection of these practices as something "to be ingested as nothing more than a part of the story that is being told; I don't want anything to feel out of place or not within the vision." His new album, Low Angles, due in April, was inspired by his first-ever trip to Los Angeles. Read more about its inception below in our exclusive interview with the artist.
Describe the making of your sophomore effort, Low Angles. What inspired it? How does it build on your first album?
This album was inspired by a trip I took to Los Angeles in December 2018 with my girlfriend. It was the first time in LA for both of us and I remember being there and so many crazy things kept happening that in my head I was going "I can make an album out of this." I grew up in rural Missouri and always wondered what places like LA would be like - it's sort of been a dream to live there for a while now. And being there in person was a very surreal experience.
One of the differences separating this album from my first one is that I've become much more meticulous in the craft. I made Am Enigma in about 2 months time, completely by myself in my apartment. I really had no idea what I was doing, I had never extensively used music making software or had any formal musical training, it was very much a run n' gun process. Low Angles is almost exactly the opposite of that - I've worked on it for almost 18 months now. I listen back to the first album and I cringe at it because I've learned so much more since then. Not to say I think my music is bad - just that I think this album will show a natural progression.
How long have you been a songwriter? Who were some of your earliest influences?
I've been trying to write songs since I was in middle school I suppose - those were all influenced by bands I adored as kid like Green Day or Coldplay. And to be fair, I still think Billie Joe Armstrong and Chris Martin are songwriting geniuses. But nowadays I don't even think of myself as a songwriter so much as I am a studio painter. I sorta sit down at a canvas and throw stuff at it until it begins to find a form, there's never any one big idea for a melody or a concept of what the lyrics will be about - usually I don't write lyrics until the instrumentation is totally finished, if there are even lyrics at all.
You’re also a filmmaker, writer and actor. How do all of these creative outlets intersect with your music?
My other passions do heavily influence the way I approach and analyze both the music I make and the music I listen to. I think being a filmmaker has an effect on my music, some people say it sounds 'cinematic' which I mean, makes me feel pretty flattered because I'm glad there is a connection to be made. Some tracks on this new album are almost intended to be ingested as nothing more than a part of the story that is being told - I don't want anything to feel out of place or not within the vision.
Describe your creative process. Are you a heavy editor of your music?
Yeah so needless to say I am 100% guilty of being a perfectionist with my music. And I'm never truly satisfied, but I hope to get each song to a level of me being like, "okay, it's listenable," which is hopefully enough for other people as well. But the creative process this time around has allowed me to branch out and try new things. I have some great friends who play live with me when we do shows and they are each insanely more skilled than myself. So on one of the songs I wanted our drummer and guitarist to be able to contribute and we all play on the last track on the album which to me is the best because I'm being helped by some truly talented people.
What music currently inspires you?
I'm a pretty big fan of Tame Impala's new tracks and am very excited for his next album. Beck has and will always be a huge influence, along with anything Thom Yorke does. But there's quite a few smaller bands I've found recently that I'm a big fan of - my girlfriend is the #1 supplier of good music for me to listen to. So yeah, some artists like Hector Gachan, Richard In Your Mind, !!!, Spirit and the Cosmic Heart.
Alex Harbolt's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
1. Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison by Jim Morrison
2. The Beach Bum - Directed by Harmony Korine (the comments on the website seem to indicate a lot of people hate it, I love it!)
3. The Information by Beck
4. Drive -- Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
5. Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky