Hearty Har: Shane
and Tyler Fogerty,
The TVD Interview

Hearty Har, whose creative nucleus consists of Shane and Tyler Fogerty, possesses a plethora of creative influences. And while the duo did cut some of their performative teeth backing up their dad—rock legend John Fogerty, the co-founder of Creedence Clearwater Revival—during recent live tours, Hearty Har’s true gift for musical expression appears to lie in recording studio prowess, or so the band’s debut studio album Radio Astro, released last month, would suggest.

The eloquence in execution and a simultaneous demonstration of artistic risk that Hearty Har’s album incorporates offers creative traits that in other quarters could cancel each other out. Here, in the making of Shane and Tyler Fogerty’s music, they coexist and amplify one another. Radio Astro sounds new, as it should, but it also sounds steeped in knowledge of the history of recorded sound—founded not only by the Fogerty’s familial musical legacy, but by Tyler and Shane’s acute listening and absorption of great albums from the past. Yet, instead of regurgitating sounds from previous eras, Hearty Har rebirths them into brand-new listening experiences.

The album’s songs are varied and experimental—psychedelia and heavy-horn sounds are sonic characters here. It’s admirable that Hearty Har chose to craft a song like “Radio Man” that relates to and reflects upon radio itself which many of us now associate with the golden era of rock ‘n’ roll—the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s—when radio was king and played a vital role in shaping people’s musical tastes and steering them toward records they should buy—a role which nowadays has more or less been assumed by the internet.

“Radio Man” is another contribution to that canon of songs that are in conversation with radio somehow, or with famed DJs like Wolfman Jack, as Todd Rundgren (“Wolfman Jack”) and The Guess Who (“Clap for the Wolfman”) chose to do. Hearty Har has also crafted an an epic instrumental number for the album. “Canyon of the Banshee” serves as a cinematic dream portrait set in southern California with echoes of Morricone’s spaghetti western scores. Such unique creative decisions point to the vastness of the group’s aesthetic ideology.

At times Radio Astro also evokes a spooky, atmospheric, horror-film-like quality, namely in tracks “Scream and Shout” and “Boogie Man.” Since its earliest days rock ‘n’ roll music has had a longstanding relationship with the genre of horror, right down to Scooby Doo episodes. It’s interesting to consider why that works; maybe it’s because as arenas of creative expression, both rock ‘n’ roll and horror films allow for the otherworldly, the freaky, the weird stuff—both tolerant and accepting atmospheres.

In dialogue with Shane and Tyler Fogerty of Hearty Har, we discover more about Radio Astro’s backstory, their eternal infatuation with the recording studio’s creative possibilities, and the unique connections between the horror genre and rock ‘n’ roll history.

How did the Radio Astro album come about? Did you consciously decide to make a record with a certain set of songs and an overall idea or was it more organic?

TYLER FOGERTY: It was pretty organic. We started with building this studio, this room that I’m in now, and we just wanted to keep recording. Then after we had about three or four tracks, we’re like, “OK, these are pretty good. Let’s try to match the quality of these, and then turn it into a full album.” All the songs are kind of different, so I think we were just trying to explore everything we could, and in a way that would make sense as a full album that plays through, within our style or way of doing things. Just being able to record and stuff really informed how everything sounds and even how we wrote some of the songs.

SHANE FOGERTY: When we started recording ourselves, we were kind of seeing if it would even work, like, “What is this going to sound like, recording in our garage space that we have some old analog equipment in? Can we actually put this together and make something that we’re proud of how it sounds?” I think “Can’t Keep Waiting” was the first song that we had finished and we thought, “Well, it’s not perfect, but it sounds pretty cool and we like it and it’s our own thing.”

So after we did that, everything else after that was a little easier, because we knew, “OK, there’s the bar, we’ve got to raise it. Now, everything else needs to be at least that much better hopefully. We want to do it the best way we can.” So, the album just kind of formed over several years. I remember at one point I was like, “We need a spaghetti western song on this album,” because the last album we did, we had a spaghetti western track. So there were moments where we realized we’re missing this kind of feel and decided to put it on.

TF: And we kind of sat on it for a bit, because about a year ago it was, in our minds, finished. And we didn’t just want to put it out and you know, go play this usual place in LA that every local band plays at, because we had been doing that for a while. So we kind of were waiting or looking for options. And then BMG reached out to us, and we reached out to them and got our contract and all that. And then a new song came from that waiting period, “Waves of Ecstasy.” And that was, in my mind, supposed to be on our next album because I kind of had this concept for another album. But we ended up putting it on this album. And I think it was a good call.

That’s a great track, as is “Radio Man” too, which is reminiscent of the overall sound of the Rolling Stones’ psychedelic album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, which was such a great and unique record for them if you look at the whole canon.

TF: Love that record.

SF: That record gets a lot of hate, and I feel it’s undeserved—it’s like are you actually listening? There’s some really cool stuff on there.

TF: There’re just some loose ends to it, I feel.

SF: A little disorganized.

TF: But it’s really sick, I love it.

Do you have some favorite psychedelic bands that are out now, some newer people? Much of your album has a psych sound—do you like Tame Impala and those kinds of slightly retro acts?

SF: We’ve been following Tame Impala since 2010 or 2011. I remember seeing them in their jammy kind of heavy guitar days. They were the best shows I’ve ever seen, with like ten minute jams of heavy fuzz, and everything was so cool, the visuals. They’ve gotten a bit different now, but they’re still really cool.

TF: Melody’s Echo Chamber is cool too. I just listened to her second album a couple of days ago, and it’s pretty modern. It’s trippy and utilizes all the modern production tricks. It’s so cool.

SF: The song “Desert Horse” is crazy.

In some ways it’s important for certain musicians, like yourselves, to be torchbearers of these certain sounds because the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s had so many classic records that are still relevant. Do you consciously speak to sounds from the past and try to incorporate them in your music? Because there are a lot of really nice echoes and references to older music here on Radio Astro, while still sounding new and fresh, of course. But do you feel that’s part of your role, where you want to remind people that there are certain sounds from the past and certain musical tricks and stuff?

TF: Yeah, I think there’s stuff that we really like, and I think some of it, like the echoes or flanging, a lot of that stuff just sounds so good. And I think it requires more effort, and kind of the know-how and dedication like, “OK, I’m going to actually do that. I’m not just going to fake it or pull up some computer plug in.” Which you can; a lot of people say “Oh, nobody’s going to be able to know.” But then that kind of thing just builds up. You keep doing that, and then all of a sudden you have this digital kind of sound, you know? So I think there’s just stuff we really like to do, so we’ll take the time to do it and not skip over it and do it the long way.

SF: Analog.

“Canyon of the Banshee” too, is a standout track on the album. There seem to be so many different influences in that song; there’s the Herb Alpert-esque trumpet solo in the beginning, and then there are some sliding guitar leads, that ’70s sound heard in some Bread songs and some America songs too. How was that track developed? What were the composition and recording processes like?

TF: It started with that kind of trumpet riff. Shane had found this spaghetti western soundtrack, I think it was French or Italian.

SF: It was in France.

TF: And on it, there are these Ennio Morricone score pieces, but with kind of a funky sound, and with funk drumming.

SF: Very ’70s.

TF: And they use synthesizers. So we were kind of like “OK, let’s expand on that because you don’t really hear that too much. So let’s start with this slow part and then let’s bring it up a notch and go into a dance-y kind of thing.” And then Shane came up with the sections after that. It kind of came about in the studio too, because we had the parts A, B, and C but we didn’t know how to fit them together until the musicians were in the room and everybody was back and forth talking to each other. And it just worked, it was one of those magical things.

SF: It was a long day of figuring that out. But Tyler and I made the pieces of the song and had them all and went in the studio. We knew these three pieces had to go together, and we had an idea, and thought we’d just go for it. It took a while to actually get that track all the way through—the way we wanted to play it when we were recording. It was satisfying when we finally got that.

What’s the name of the ’70s album you mentioned by Mario Cavallero and his orchestra?

SF: Le Musiche dei Grandi Film Western. It’s kind of hard to find out there. But he does other compilations of other people’s songs with his orchestra and it’s all like a rock band/funk band with strings and Mellotron and it’s really awesome. It’s a boxed set, it’s so good. But disc four is not Mario Cavallero. It’s traditional stuff like “Oh Susannah,” “Camptown Races,” “Yankee Doodle.” But the other three discs are amazing, mostly Morricone, but there are pieces from some other Western scores like The Magnificent Seven. Great, great scores.

In the music video of your song “Scream and Shout” off this album, there’s kind of a trippy ode to horror films. How did that music video’s concept develop?

TF: We had done a music video prior to that one. Our friend Justin had reached out to us and was like, “Let’s make a music video.” So we did one with him out in Joshua Tree and that was more his full vision. After that experience, we were like, “OK, for this one, let’s insert these dark looking images and then make it kind of funny, spooky, haunting or something,” because I feel like that’s the mood of the song. There are different levels of fright. So we wanted to be able to see that on the screen and go along with that vibe. So we would sit down with Justin and be like, “OK, what about this first scene? What about this?” And then he had the thread pulled together himself, but we just shot him with random little ideas.

SF: It’s very creative animation too; we had a guy just whip that up and it was amazing. That’s my favorite part.

Have you thought about what it means to be a Southern California band? Some of the Hearty Har sound has echoes of the Laurel Canyon stuff, a dreamy ’60s kind of sound also found in bands like Love, The Byrds, The Doors, and even the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Nowadays the Allah Las have some of that going on too. Do you think about that in the context of your own music and what you’re going for—incorporating it into your sonic identity?

TF: I think just living in California, we both really like to be out in nature, and there are just so many places out here—you can go to the mountains, the beach. The sunshine puts you in a mood, and some of that music too has a lot of the 12-string jangly guitar, which, you know, who doesn’t like that? It’s like the best thing ever, you know. You combine those two elements and that’s probably what you’re hearing.

SF: I think it comes in and out of, at least my consciousness. LA and the sunshine and water and everything, and just knowing the history of Laurel Canyon and that scene and just loving all of that music. So yeah there are times when I wonder, what would my LA song sound like? Or how would I make it more Californian if we were trying to be ultra-southern Californian? I’ve thought about it because people talk about the southern Cal, the Laurel Canyon sounds, like there’s something special about it. I definitely think about that a lot, and I like and appreciate that kind of music. So we love the jangly guitars and great sounding acoustics and 12-strings. And just that open, free spirit.

How do you feel about sound effects in the recording studio? You mentioned using a mellotron and modeling a song in the style of some ’70s material, like the Steve Miller Band’s Fly Like an Eagle and Book of Dreams sound effects. Your own song “Waves of Ecstasy” is a great composition, but it’s so much more dynamic than just a singer-songwriter piece—just a person on a guitar. It’s such a studio-sounding song. Do you feel like you thrive in a recording studio when creating your own songs?

TF: I couldn’t imagine being in another studio now. It wouldn’t feel right, because although it’s changed and morphed over the years, everything in here is in here for a reason. And I know how to, you know, “milk it” or something, to get out from it what I want. The “Waves of Ecstasy” thing—I was talking before about the next album—I had this idea with sound in general, making a record called Wilderness and then having all of the orchestration be like elements in nature or something. “Waves of Ecstasy” is in the midst of that, but not realizing that it fit that mold. So I think that’s definitely some sort of conceptual thing that I want to try.

How do you feel about vinyl records?

TF: I love vinyl. I probably have over a thousand. I’ve got a really nice hi-fi set-up.

SF: We have listening parties over at Tyler’s place, and we gather around and listen to records. We haven’t really been able to do it much since Covid happened. But we look forward to those nights, and they’re always great. Usually Autobahn comes on at some point during the night. A staple in the rotation.

Do you craft playlists or play whole albums?

SF: Usually whole albums. Sometimes just a side.

Can you speak to the creative relationship that you have with your dad? How would you describe it? Is he involved in your musical projects?

TF: He’s just really in his own kind of dimension. He’s really funny. Like when something’s good or bad, if it’s good he’ll say like, “Oh, I love that.” Like, it’ll be the most subtle thing.

SF: He keeps to himself, and he’ll say little things here and there; and he’ll come in while we’re mixing something, and he’ll just say one or two words like “the drums…” or something, and we’re like “OK, we get it. We get it. It’s not there yet.” But he keeps to himself; he’s pretty good at letting us do what we do in our studio and he does his own thing.

When speaking to musicians who happen to be descendants of musicians, and some of them known figures, a first question is sometimes, “How are you influenced by your dad or mom?” But in truth most of these musicians are just as influenced by elements from their own lives, like albums that came out when they were young at certain years and stuff. Like, you’re influenced by your dad and his history, but also by your own personal history and all these other newer records that came out in recent years.

TF: Yeah, I’d say if anything, the influence from him would be being around music and seeing how bands operate and seeing how it works. And just keeping your head level under those circumstances. I think that was the big thing.

SF: Yeah. Performance.

What’s up next for you? Do you have plans for recording the next Hearty Har album?

TF: Yeah, we have I’d say like six or seven tracks that are pretty far along. I think some of them just don’t really have vocals yet, but we’ll probably just keep writing and then keep recording. And then from the batch select what we think. I’m also thinking too of us just starting fresh and taking it in a new direction. It’s kind of like we’re at the crossroads—I don’t really know which way to take it. To keep recording is the best bet because then you can piece it all together eventually.

SF: We’ve been recording ever since we finished Radio Astro. Whatever it’s going to be next, we don’t know. I mean, there’s stuff on there that might not make it onto whatever’s next. But we have been moving forward and we’re ready to get the next thing out there. We’re working on some new stuff. Once we can get a full band in the studio we can start recording.

Radio Astro, the debut full-length release from Hearty Har is in stores now.

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