NYC group's excellent first single was recently named iTunes' Single of the Week.
"People always ask us about the whole 'Google' thing," says HAERTS singer Nini Fabi, "but it really had nothing to do with that."
Fabi is talking about the name HAERTS -- a misshapen six letters that's undeniably optimized for search engines. If Fabi and co. had not juxtaposed the vowels in their moniker, HEARTS would be an admittedly tougher outfit to locate online. Fortunately, the indie-pop group decided to put its own imprint on the English language when forming a little over a year ago in New York.
"We went through the lyrics and were looking for a name that had meaning for us, and was also a general concept," Fabi explains to Billboard. "The word 'hearts' kept coming up in each of the songs, and we just decided pretty spontaneously to mix up the spelling -- to make it personal, in a way."
HAERTS' debut single, "Wings," is at once universal and almost painfully intimate -- Fabi speaks generally about the unhappy dissolution of romance, but when she sings, "I broke my wings for you/I smiled as you untied our love for good," her voice cracks in a way that hints at an affliction that's not in plain sight. Awash with synth-pop dreaminess, "Wings" was named iTunes 'Single of the Week' in late November, nearly a year after being responsible for getting HAERTS a record deal with Columbia. Its official music video, meanwhile, has garnered 865,000 YouTube views to date.
Fabi and keyboardist Ben Gebert are the foundation of HAERTS: the pair grew up in Germany and had been making music together since they were teenagers. Eventually, Fabi and Gebert moved into an apartment in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood in 2010, where they unsuccessfully tinkered with their sound until they bumped into Jean-Philip Grobler (now known as the dance-pop artist St. Lucia) at a mutual friend's birthday party. Grobler invited the duo to his Williamsburg studio in mid-2011, and produced a handful of songs that will likely appear on HAERTS' debut full-length.
"HAERTS, the name and the band, really started a year ago, when we decided it was time to do something with the music and take it into a band context," says Fabi. She and Gebert had met guitarist Garrett Ienner through Grobler, and bassist Derek McWilliams had been friends with the pair for years.
With a full lineup intact, HAERTS posted "Wings" on Soundcloud in October 2012, not expecting much to happen. "We just wanted to get the name of the project out there on the Internet," says Gebert. The song provoked such a strong reaction that Columbia Records expressed interest in the band one month after "Wings" was posted, and a deal was hashed out before any other label approached the band (St. Lucia is also on Columbia's roster, in a joint deal with Neon Gold).
"'Wings' was one of those songs that took quite some time," says Fabi. "It started as a piano ballad -- Ben and I originally wrote it at our apartment in Brooklyn -- and I think the lyrics came pretty quickly with the song, and then it was the arrangement and everything that took a while. It… started with a certain sentiment, and then it just turned into this larger theme of a lost love and a melancholy feeling of parting with something. But I don't want to speak about it too much, so that it can mean something different to everyone."
After the Columbia deal was finalized, HAERTS performed at South By Southwest last March before touring North America with bands like Shout Out Louds and Washed Out. The group's debut EP, the four-song collection "Hemiplegia," was released last September, and includes more gems like the soulful mid-tempo track "All For You" and the tropical breakdown "All The Days." "Hemiplegia," which was produced by St. Lucia, has sold 3,000 copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"We're still working on the album right now, and… our plan is to put it out early next year," says Gebert, adding that the group has been working on a few songs with Patrik Berger, who co-produced Icona Pop's Top 10 smash "I Love It." In the meantime, HAERTS have released their debut remix -- a new take on labelmate MS MR's track "Think of You" -- and collaborated with Felix Cartal on the DJ's track "Slow Motion," which was named Starbucks' 'Pick of the Week.' Listen to the latter track below: