The heartbeat that sparks the third song on 1, 2, 3’s debut LP isn’t just a flutter effect meant to set a melancholic mood. It literally symbolizes the start of a new life. Or in the case of Nicolas Snyder and Joshua Sickels, a crucial state of rebirth—the next logical step after the “classic rock ‘n’ roll casualty story” of the duo’s last band, the Takeover UK.
While that project took more of a straight-laced approach to pop music, 1, 2, 3’s songs are as stubborn as their name. In other words, good luck reducing New Heaven down to a tidy set of buzz words.
Or as Snyder puts it, “That’s the general idea with this band—that it doesn’t belong to any specific genre, and that there aren’t any preconceived notions about the name or who we are.”
Take the aforementioned “Heat Lightnin’,” for instance. Once you make it past Snyder’s fragile vocals, a disembodied whistler, and several unidentified flying objects, one thing emerges—a liquified bass line that seems to be…talking. And then there are the many striking, speaker-panning elements that reward repeat listens elsewhere: the shimmering synths of “Lonesome Boring Summer,” the swooning strings of “Wave Pool,” the sucker punch percussion of “Work,” the lethargic blues licks of “Just Like Heaven (is gone),” the restless riffs of “20,000 Blades,” and, well, we’d go on but that’d take away half the fun of digging through 1, 2, 3’s sonic detritus.
If there’s one unifying factor throughout the Pittsburgh band’s first full-length, it’s the lingering sense that Snyder—the band’s primary songwriter—watches a lot of movies. How else to explain why New Heaven unfolds like the rabbit hole-riddled narrative of an art house film?
“I spend more time watching movies than just about anything but sleep,” admits Snyder. “Stuff like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, any Sergio Leone film, even Who Framed Roger Rabbit?—it’s all had a major impact on me.”
As for how Sickels fits into this equation, the drummer has known Snyder since middle school, back when they bonded over skateboarding and punk rock. So when he heard the early stages of 1, 2, 3, he didn’t have to think twice about rejoining his longtime friend and bandmate.
“I’ve spent the last 10 years telling everyone how great NIck is at songwriting,” says Sickels, “So I was gonna follow him into 1, 2, 3 no matter what.”
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