Leyla ‘Lo’ Safai and Ben Pollock make up New York-based HEARTSREVOLUTION. From embracing the food truck era by turning an ice cream truck into their tricked-out bandwagon, to graffiti “he(art)” via stuffed animals, to the synth-punk-magic-pop music they create, how these two even found the time to speak with us at Vinyl Mag at South by Southwest this year is impressive (to say the least). We shared eggrolls and talked about things like their favorite track to perform and their fabulous ice cream truck creation and the Swarovski crystals that were donated from Michael Jackson’s Neverland estate (totally a real thing). Be sure to also check out their latest album Ride or Die that dropped earlier this month.
Vinyl Mag: What are you most excited to see or do while in Austin?
Ben Pollock: I mean, personally, and I think Lo would agree, because we haven’t been here in so many years due to working on music or the ice cream truck or just not being ready in general, now that we are here, we are really focused on just representing what we came for. The album is coming out, the truck is done and we’ve got this graffiti thing we’re doing now – it’s just a big year for us. It took so much work and so many man-hours to be in the position that we’re in; it just feels like the right time to be back.
Leyla ‘Lo’ Safai: When we were building the truck, we thought it would take about six months, but…it just takes as long as it takes. People don’t seem to understand that, either. The first couple of years that we came to South by Southwest, we got a lot of super early buzz and press; we got really lucky. There’s this magazine out of the UK called NME, and they wrote highly on us and put us on their top 10 acts to check out for South by Southwest, and it really seemed to jump start our career and trigger all of the other magazines to write about us as well. It was great, but the songs were unevolved, there was no album, there was no management, and the ice cream truck we had at the time was a beat up 1960’s pink truck with chipped paint. There was in idea that was there, but it takes time to flush things out. People were really unforgiving to that and chalked it up to us taking too long….because we live in a society of social media and instant gratification, people think that everything is immediate, but that’s just not the case. Think of trying to build something terrific and magnificent like a pyramid or a sphinx and looking in admiration like, ‘Wow! That must have taken 20 years to make,’ and us building this crystal ice cream truck is just like that…of course, funding was a major aspect of it all, and during the process Swarovski gave us crystals, and we ran out, and it just so happened to be the year that Michael Jackson passed away, and they gave us his Neverland crystals in order to complete our truck. I mean, a lot of crazy stuff happened to get here, and that’s one thing that people just always seem to overlook.
VM: How have the fans responded to your latest music video for “Kiss”?
LS: There was a huge issue with the Noisey release of our video, and somehow it got loaded on a back-ended server, and none of the views were actually accounted for. So as far as the numbers go, we will never know how many times it was actually viewed through there before I ultimately uploaded it on my own. But, I do know that Skrillex tweeted the link to the Soundcloud of the song, and that got like 95,000 plays. It was really important to us to make that video, though, because before Lady Gaga and Macklemore and all of that, we had been trying to make a boy/boy love story for like four and a half years. We paid an animator like 5,000 euros to make the world’s first gay animation love story; they took the money, made the characters that are on the front of our truck and then just never replied. And so now it seems to be very ‘in’ to do that, but we’ve been trying to do for years.
VM: What is your favorite track to perform?
LS: Maybe Vertigo…
BP: Really? We’ve only played it two times.
LS: Yeah, actually.
BP: We really like performing the songs off of the new album, but we’ve only played them a few times, so we haven’t had too many chances yet.
VM: Right, so you’re super into playing and performing the new songs right now, yeah?
BP: Right; we’re going to start playing them a lot more. There’s a lot of range of that album, and we’re used to playing short, high energy sets. So we’re pretty excited to start incorporating more range into our shows.
VM: Where were you [last night] when the tragedy at Red River and 9th occurred?
LS: We were in bed, although we were supposed to be out – in the truck – there, essentially. We’ve been out doing graffiti every night while out here in Austin, so we had planned to go back to the Mohawk and take photos and whatnot, but we decided we needed some rest. It’s really crazy – we were literally going to be right there.
VM: A favorite question of mine to ask this year: are you food truck people or barbecue joint people?
LS: See for me, when I made the first ice cream truck in L.A., I was like, ‘This is going to change the way our life is!’, and everybody told me it would never work. It was during the peak of the recession, so people didn’t have money to start businesses, and everybody just hated their life. When we first came to South by Southwest, there were no food trucks- imagine that. I was like, ‘You guys, it’s going to change everything!’. I started tearing up when we got back to L.A. and saw parking lots solely dedicated to food trucks. It’s not about credit, because there is this thing called the Internet, so you can Google who started it. We pioneered this, and now everyone is enjoying the perks of it, which I’m super happy about. That’s how I feel about our music – we’re going to change the world.
VM: How did the two of you meet?
LS: The first time I ever really noticed him was at The Strokes concert, but we worked at the same place in downtown Los Angeles. After the concert I was like, ‘Hey, we should hang out sometime,’ because the strokes were my favorite band, and they were his favorite band, also. Since then we’ve just continued to have the best time of our lives. It’s like the universe pulled us together, because he’s super normal, and I’m super crazy and mental, so we balance each other out.
VM: What is next for you once South by Southwest is over?
LS: When we get home, I get to see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – for lack of better words. For the past six months, we’ve been working on all of the tangible products of the release, and I’ve gotten to do everything that I’ve wanted to do with it. I had Crayola sponsor the CD, and the album artwork is a coloring book; it comes with an activity book that has three crayons- neon pink, yellow and green. We also had velvet record sleeves made in China that look like the old 60’s and 70’s covers. The vinyl itself is fluorescent pink and so beautiful. They really just let me make my sh*t, and it’s amazing. I honestly feel like I’ve given everything I had to give with this record, and now it’s about sharing it with the world and hoping they get to hear it.
Samantha Gilder is a native of Saint Simons Island. She attended Georgia Southern University for a brief stint where she studied Journalism, and although she became your statistical “college dropout”, she strives to pursue her goals with the best of them. Growing up, music and writing were the top two most influential things in her life; fast forward to the present and their roles in her life are just as prominent, with the only (major) differences being that now she is not only a writer but a mother. She has eternal love in her heart for her daughter. She bartends at a local coffee shop/café/pub where (lucky for her) the appreciation for music is equally shared between her employers and co-workers.