Tomorrow is the incredibly-popular and highly-anticipated return of Cruel World – this time with Siouxsie Sioux, Iggy Pop, Billy Idol, Adam Ant, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Gary Numan. The festival once again invades Pasadena and we cannot wait!
The new wave and alternative event brings us names that we adored in the ‘80s, including Modern English, ABC, Animotion, The Vapors, and The Motels, but also some new names that will become our favorites for the years ahead. OC Music News was fortunate enough to chat with one of those bands, who we think you are going to love. Cruel World fans, meet Urban Heat!
Created by Jonathan Horstmann, Kevin Naquin, and Paxel Foley in 2019, the Austin band won me over with their songs “Have You Ever?,” “A Simple Love Song,” “Trust,” and “That Gun in Your Hand.” Their cover of “Goodbye Horses,” originally done by Q Lazzarus and featured in “The Silence of the Lambs,” is phenomenal and would easily replace the original in the movie. Their music has that goth, synth sound that many of us loved in the ‘80s, but an injection of current energy that we can take into future decades.
Traci: Hey guys! According to your Insta, you are in Las Vegas?
Jonathan: We are!
Traci: I saw you lit a piano on fire this week.
Jonathan: Yes. We were in Joshua Tree on Saturday and then we had the Vegas show today. We decided to come early to Vegas. There’s a videographer that I really wanted to work with, so we shot two music videos with him and got a rehearsal space and started working out how to do the new record live. Then we’re going to be incorporating some of the new songs in the Cruel World set. We’re going to warm them up tonight in Vegas, make sure that everything’s nice and tight, and then if it goes well, we’ll bust them out to Cruel World.
Traci: Jonathan, from what I’ve read, you started the band. Tell me how that happened.
Jonathan: I guess the myth goes, my first daughter was born, things became really clear for me as far as my sobriety, my lifestyle, the band I was with at the time, and just kind of changed a lot of things. I’d always been messing with synth stuff, but really it was when my daughter was born and I started making music in my headphones and started messing with sample-based production and synthesizers and more drum machine sounds that we sort of started finding the Urban Heat sound. I honestly think the sound, we’ve been evolving it because there was a certain sound that I had, and then once Kevin and Pax became involved, I call them my cool filter because I kind of go all over the place with sounds. But if they give it the thumbs up, then it’s kind of like an Urban Heat sort of sound, if that makes sense. So we didn’t really have an Urban Heat sound until both Pax and Kevin became involved.
Traci: Pax, did he just call you up one day and say, “Hey, let’s do this?”
Pax: Kevin called me up and was like, “Hey, we’re starting this new thing.” I was already doing some other things, so I was not in that frame of mind. He’s like, “No, come check it out.” He was insistent. So I did and I was like, “Oh, yeah, this is cool.” At that time, it wasn’t a definite; I don’t even think there were any real songs. This dude (points to Jonathan) can make, 10 songs in a day! (all three of them laughing)
Jonathan: I feel like we’re still finding out what exactly our vibe is. But maybe that’s just a constant sort of process. It’s like being alive – always learning something new about yourself and growing and changing.
Traci: Kevin, were you reluctant to jump on board too, or were you like, “Yeah, let’s do this!”
Kevin: I was down almost from day one because me and him [Jonathan] had worked on some stuff on another project that we both had, and we had played shows together for years. I think we both intuitively knew that the projects we were working on were kind of dissolving and fizzling out, so we were trying to get ahead of the game. The three of us have always had to have something happening creatively, so I think we were like, “Let’s start this, while our other projects are slowly fizzling out.”
Traci: I do not feel I am creative at all. I can write facts, but I cannot come up with a song. Because of that, songwriters and their methods fascinate me and I marvel at that type of creativity. Jonathan, what is your process when it comes to songwriting?
Jonathan: First, I want to address something that you said. You said that you’re not creative at all. Facts and writing facts. I think that is a misconception about creativity. I think that creativity isn’t like a left to right brain thing as much as it is a creativity is like problem solving, right? The problem that I solve is that there’s empty sound and space and I want to fill it with something. But you solve problems. You have to think outside of the box all the time. You have to be creative in how you’re putting things together. So maybe you don’t write songs, but I wouldn’t say that you’re not creative. So that being said – this is going to sound esoteric – but it’s the truth for me. I think the more that I try not to think about what my process is and just let it happen, the closer that I get to what it is that I’m reaching for creatively, I think I can set an intention and then just let the things happen. When I put too much of myself into it and try to consciously make creative choices, obviously there are choices that have to be made, but the sort of spirit of a work has to come from someplace else. And so I think my process is just trying to be an instrument of the greater universe, trying to make music. I think things come from us, but it all comes from somewhere, and our jobs as creatives, at least the way that I see it, is just to be an instrument of the universe experiencing itself through music, through art.
Traci: See, that IS fascinating to me! So you guys form this group in 2019, and basically explode in 2022 and here we are in 2023 and you are playing Cruel World! That’s crazy fast.
Jonathan: The pandemic really helped; we had a couple of shows and then pandemic, so then it was like, go into the lab, focus on sound, focus on making connections with people through social media and just really get this thing ready. Every musician was chomping at the bit for things to open back up, so when things opened up, it was an explosion. We were sitting there, tuning our fucking engine, getting fucking ready. Then you see the light go red, yellow, green, and you’re just like, let’s go!
Traci: How did you get tapped to do Cruel World?
Jonathan: I think the promoters have their ear to the ground and realize there is a groundswell of this goth adjacent, synth wave, dark wave, post punk sort of thing happening right now. I think it makes sense to take some of the modern bands that are coming up right now and pair them with some of these legacy acts, because we don’t know how long some of these acts are going to still be touring and kids are discovering all this stuff for the first time, like The Cure is popular now or even more. It’s a really exciting time. I don’t know what the conversations [between the promoters and our booking agent] were like over cigars in the dark room, because there’s so many fantastic newer, modern goth, goth adjacent bands that they could have put on, but we were lucky enough to be one of the ones.
Traci: Speaking of the younger generations, in 1990, I saw Depeche Mode at Dodger Stadium, and then last month, I got to take my teenage son to see Depeche Mode. Here are these bands we love, and now these younger generations are finding them and love them and the genres, but they also get their new bands like you, where it sounds familiar, but not carbon copy.
Jonathan: What’s interesting, too, while the layperson might say this is an ‘80s sound, I actually think that this is one of the more eternal sort of genres and eternal sounds in rock music. When you think about ‘70s psych rock, it’s difficult to do “modern psych rock,” but I feel like it’s always very grounded in and the aesthetic is. I feel like the fact that you could see Depeche Mode 30 years past and it’s still Depeche Mode, and it’s not…
Kevin: They didn’t have to conform to any modern kind of sound.
Jonathan: Yea, this genre just feels very eternal, very timeless.
Kevin: It’s really interesting because we were on tour with Vision Video and we saw so much of that at shows, especially all ages shows, where mother was bringing their daughter, father had his son or father had his daughter. We saw so much of that happening at those shows that it was really refreshing.
Jonathan: Dusty said the Vision Video shows were like a Goth PTA meeting. (laughing)
Traci: Pax, who are you excited to see at Cruel World?
Pax: Billy Idol.
Kevin: I mean, Siouxsie Sioux is going to be incredible. I want to see Modern English. I want to see Echo & the Bunnymen. I want to see Boy Harsher and Molchat Doma. To see those acts positioned in what I’m gathering is going to be fairly modest productions of some of these acts just because of the nature of how the festival rolls. I want to see so many acts. I’ve seen Iggy Pop, I’ve seen a handful of these acts before. but to see them all in one place and possibly have better access to see them is definitely exciting.
Jonathan: I haven’t seen any of these bands before, and I think while I am definitely excited to be side stage with some of the legacy acts, I’m really interested in what the future of this genre holds and how it’s going to grow and what sort of influences we continue to bring into it. And so I’m really pumped about seeing Boy Harsher and Molchat Doma and some of the modern bands. I just want to watch what they’re doing, watch their stage presence, watch what they pull in. You can see more influences when you watch a band than just listening to them. There’s a lot of performance influences you can see as well.
Traci: After Cruel World, you guys have a few shows lined up. What else is on the horizon that you are allowed to tell me about?
Jonathan: There’s a lot of stuff that hasn’t been announced, but the rest of the year we’re basically on the road. I’m really looking forward to [multiple] goth nights. I’m excited about the different things, like being able to see the ways in which the scene sort of manifests itself in different regions of the country. Really excited about that. The fans of this genre are just so open and awesome and supportive and just happy fucking people. And we’re looking forward to making more friends, being able to play more songs. We’ve got this new record that we’re trying to figure out how to release and starting to play more of those songs out, and there’s some videos coming out. We’ve had our nose to the grindstone since this year started, and we’re going to be able to start seeing some of that come into fruition. And that’s just really exciting.
Traci: You just seem like such good guys, writing excellent songs, standing up for what you believe in, and having a fantastic time while you do it, and I think that will come across to the people that are looking at your social media.
Jonathan: I’m really happy to hear that from a third person perspective because you never really know. You just don’t know how it’s coming off. I think we have this tendency with social media where you’re constantly comparing yourself to everything. Now that we’re being able to see some of our dreams as artists come to fruition, if there’s artists that are [comparing themselves], or anybody who needs it, I want to send a message: Just keep going.
Kevin: You hope that it comes across that way and doesn’t come across too pretentious or anything. Be inspired, because if we could do it, anyone could!
Jonathan: Keep doing what you’re doing. We work really fucking hard and we got lucky and there’s no telling how long this lasts and there’s no telling who’s next. Just work hard and be prepared for when opportunities rise so that you can take advantage of them.
Thank you to Urban Heat for the entertaining Zoom and hopefully you guys stayed out of the casinos to head to Pasadena!
Tomorrow at Brookside at the Rose Bowl: Siouxsie (first US show in 15 years!), Iggy Pop, Billy Idol, Adam Ant, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Human League, Molchat Doma, Gary Numan, Gang of Four, ABC, Boy Harsher, Modern English, Animotion, The Vapors, The Motels, Riki, GVLLOW, Urban Heat, The Soft Moon, Aurat, Twin Tribes, Ela Minus, and Glass Spells. Don’t forget your sunscreen!