Having gone largely unnoticed by music fans for a while, Richmond, VA band Heartracer are starting to make waves after touring with Third Eye Blind, Future Islands and Lord Huron, among others. Influenced by the likes of Michael Jackson, Roxy Music and The Killers and with plans for an EP in the pipeline, frontman Chris Cosby kindly agreed to this interview to chat songwriting, dream shows and what he’d class as the ultimate success.
PW: Please introduce yourself.
Chris Cosby: Hello, my name is Chris Cosby, and I'm the lead singer of Heartracer. We are an Indie/Synthpop band from Richmond, Virginia. My brother Chip Cosby is the lead guitar player and we formed the band together and released our first record In Flight in 2013.
PW: How would you sum yourselves and your music up in a few words?
CC: Time-infused and -tested pop. One thing we hear the most is that we sound very 80s. This is somewhat intentional on our part but in many ways not. When we write a song, our goal is just to write the best melody and lyrics we can, and the production is secondary. I think this sets us apart from many other synth/electronic artists. Our goal as a band is to create music that you can enjoy not only now but five, ten, twenty years down the road. In today's global internet climate, it's easy to get lost in a sea of information, but, if I had money to put on a last band standing for new artists, I'd put it on ourselves.
PW: Which bands and artists did you grow up listening to, and how did they influence you? Have such influences changed over the years?
CC: The trick to staying relevant as an artist -- whether it's acting, music, dance etc. -- is to continuously find new inspiration. Artists that inspire us are ones that have withstood any niche or fad and who have songs that you can still sing along to and relate to ten to twenty years later. A lot of what you hear today will be gone tomorrow because the music is constructed to target a certain audience or market to make quick money. Because of this you may relate to the music at 15 years old but most likely not 30. This was not the case for many legendary bands like Led Zeppelin, Rush, Yes and others that you could enjoy for an entire lifetime. Along with these artists, we are inspired by Michael Jackson, Tears for Fears, The Chameleons, Tangerine Dream, Roxy Music. More recent artists we are fond of include Hammock, M83, The War on Drugs, The National, The Killers, St. Lucia, Mitch Murder, FM Attack.
PW: When did you first realize you wanted to be part of the music industry?
CC: I'm still not sure we have realized this. I think, for us, it's more about doing what we love, and creating music really is a cathartic healing process for the soul. People without passion frighten me. They must be bored out of their minds.
PW: Is there a band or artist out there you might say you're similar to?
CC: We try to draw on as many of our favorite influences as possible and, like any artist, we sort of throw them into a big boiling pot and stir them around until we find a recipe that is uniquely ours. I think we have similarities to several artists, but I'll leave it to the listener to decide who.
PW: Tell me about your latest single, "Hollow". Is there a story behind it?
CC: Yes. From what I can remember, I was recently single after a five year relationship, and there was sort of a feeling of detachment that comes when you suddenly go from spending five years with someone to not seeing them at all. To me, the feeling wasn't really good or bad -- it was just unfamiliar. I think this is where I began to explore the word 'Hollow" that, to me, sort of stood for emptiness at first but then gradually became more about letting life happen and pass and not getting to attached to any one emotion or feeling.
PW: Are there plans for an EP/album in the pipeline?
CC: We are gearing up currently to release the music video for our single "Dream Girl." After that, the release of our EP will follow, and, with that, we are hoping to play out a bunch this fall and winter, and, hopefully, we can make it down to Austin for SXSW. I feel that, with these new songs and the good team we have working with us performance-wise, we can really put on a live show that people won't forget.
PW: How easy/hard do you find the songwriting process, and who/what most inspires you?
CC: The songwriting process, itself, is the easy part; the hard part, like you mentioned, is to stay inspired. There is a lot going on in the world that isn't inspirational -- although, sometimes, that's inspiration in itself. As I've grown and become more contemplative as a songwriter, I've come to realize I have a disdain for music with no discernible meaning or message. This is primarily why I can't listen to mainstream radio and also never took pleasure from jam music or EDM. Being pleasurable to the ears is one thing, but having some integrity to your songwriting craft is another. It's better if you have both. I think, with Heartracer, we are trying to make music that is pleasurable not only to your senses in a physical sort of way but also in a way that stimulates your heart and mind. If we can do that with songs like 'Hollow", I think our dream is halfway realized.
PW: Which song, in your opinion, is the greatest ever written and why?
CC: This question was quite difficult for me, so I pondered it for a while over a glass of whiskey last night. It really for myself came down between Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah” and Simon and Garfunkel's “Sound of Silence”. Unfortunately, Disturbed's version of “Sound of Silence” is so terrible that is has almost ruined the song for me for the time being. Therefore, I'm gonna give my tip of the hat to “Hallelujah”. It's really difficult to quantify why a song like Hallelujah is so great and that's primarily because it's kind of transcended music itself -- it's more of a religious sermon.
PW: If you could play one venue anywhere in the world, which would it be and why?
CC: The first one that comes to mind is the Royal Albert Hall, primarily because a lot of our favorite bands are British, and that place has an incredible history.
PW: You've toured with Banks and Third Eye Blind among others, but, if you could share a stage with three other bands or artists, who can be living or dead, who would they be and why?
CC: Current -- out of any current artists, I'd love to share the stage with The Killers more than any others. They are one of few current bands in my opinion that has a timeless classic sound. Living -- I would love sharing the stage with someone as inspirational to synth-pop as Bryan Ferry from Roxy Music -- also Pet Shop Boys, A-ha, The Cure, Depeche Mode. Dead -- Pink Floyd. Definitely a band that pushed the boundaries not only in their song-writing and melodies but in their performance which became an art piece in itself.
PW: What are your upcoming tour/performance plans?
CC: We are currently hoping to make it overseas and also to the west coast at some point this year. If you know a good booking agent, let us know.
PW: What are your thoughts on social media, and do you agree that it's a necessary tool for bands and artists today?
CC: I think social media, much like the internet in general, is great in that it lets you reach millions of people simultaneously. The problem is, because of this, our society has become very narcissistic. I think it's a great tool for bands trying to reach an audience, but, in order to find a band like ourselves these days, you have to sort through about 20 million cat photos, ten thousand Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber covers, and at least 300 Jeff Goldblum memes. Thanks to you guys, hopefully we can have one fewer Jeff Goldblum meme before you find Heartracer on the internet.
PW: What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
CC: It's hard to say really; it's a very tough climate for an indie band such as ourselves primarily because of a lot mentioned above. For every two hundred emails we send out to various management agencies and booking agencies, we probably get two responses, and it's usually that their roster is full, usually by people doing Taylor Swift covers or something far worse. Our goal really is to try to get as many people to hear us as possible whether it's in a live setting, radio, or television. One of our goals is to get on the festival circuit in the next coming year.
PW: Finally, then, what's your ultimate ambition as a band, and at whose career would you most like to emulate and why?
CC: This is a tough question because many of our favorite bands didn't have storybook endings. Obviously, every band has had its ups and downs, but The Killers are inspirational to me mainly because they haven't killed each other or ended up in rehab, and their music is still relevant though they've been around a good while. One of my dreams is to play somewhere gigantic and have the entire audience singing along. It's a beautiful thing when that happens, and, in many ways, if you listen to the song "Heartracer", it's about that transcendent feeling that happens in special moments.