Big Heaven – Fort Worth Weekly
The charts of the present day are dominated by classical pop. So much so that as a teenager I developed a strong loathing for the genre as a whole, immediately mistaking almost anything that could be categorized as “pop”.
It wasn’t until I was older and developed a more insightful palate that I was even able to appreciate pop music. I delved into the sub-genres: pop-rock, power-pop, pop-punk, eventually finding myself more at odds with pop music as a whole. Discovering post-punk and 80s synth-pop was a formative experience for me. For this reason, I was immediately drawn to Big Heaven. Their music was everything I liked about bands like Joy Division and Simple Minds, but it was right here in my backyard.
I met Amanda Hand, the chef of Big Heaven, at a little restaurant just off Lake Worth. She arrived with a big smile, accompanied by three middle-aged children. She gathered her small herd of cats at their own table, then she and I sat down to discuss Big Heaven’s most recent offering over a plate of soggy nachos.
The two-song EP Last words to my lover consists of a Big Heaven original, “Last Words” and a cover of “Lover” by Taylor Swift. Last words to my lover was designed by Peter Wierenga (Pete and the Crying Teeth). Hand said working with him was an absolute pleasure. He had offered some ideas to guitarist Brock Miller and was very excited to work with Big Heaven.
“I just let him make the decisions,” Hand said of Wierenga, “I trust him completely. And he did a great job.
Parts of Last words to my lover were recorded in the studio at Wierenga, and parts were recorded at the homes of Hand and other band members: Sam Dobbin (drums), Peter Marsh (bass and vocals) and Miller. The finished product is the result of tireless trial and error and fine tuning.
“It was a bit like cooking,” Hand remembers. “We would throw everything in there and taste it and keep changing it until we got it.”
“Last Words” has a catchy and light feeling, something like what you might get if you crossed the bracelets with Echo and the Bunnymen. It’s up-tempo with an unbeatable triumphant synth sound. It’s a lyrically incendiary love song with a bouncy melody that keeps it playful.
“Last Words” has a lot in stylistically in common with the rest of Big Heaven’s work.
Big Heaven sums up the best parts of the ’80s New Wave and synth-rock and marries them with the pop simplicity of the 60s.
The EP’s cover art, “Lover,” wasn’t what Hand had initially planned to do, but she discovered through her solo career that she was someone whose distinctive rendition people wanted to hear.
“It’s not like I’m not a Taylor Swift fan,” Hand said. “I’m right here, and she’s… here, but it took people in my life to tell me I had to cover it up.”
Big Heaven’s influence completely transforms the song, with the intro specifically sounding like a Prince ballad. The main intention and emotion of the original remains, but the cover is fully immersed in the unique flavor of Big Heaven. It is a skill that is imperative for the success of any cover artist – giving a piece of music their own touch without changing it so much that the original feeling of the song is lost. It’s a delicate balance and Amanda Hand excels at it.
Without the ability to play live music during the lockdown, the folks at Big Heaven focused on maintaining their skills and connecting.
“We spent the whole summer practicing – every week for two and a half hours,” Hand said. “We got closer and got closer as a group. We have just learned to become a group.
All that extra time to practice their catalog and hone their skills has left Big Heaven eager to get back on stage, which they hope to return to very soon. Big Heaven is finally starting to write songs again, which Hand is very excited about. She also hinted to me that they were working on a handful of other covers of contemporary artists they are very excited about and hope to make their live debut very soon.