Heaters are one of the most relentlessly efficient bands going right now. The Grand Rapids and Montreal-based psych-rockers have been on an-album-a-year pace since 2014 and like the mind-melting riffs that anchor their songs, they show no signs of slowing down. But for their fourth effort Matterhorn, out October 20, the band had to overcome its biggest obstacle yet: the departure of founding member, guitarist and co-vocalist Andrew Tamlyn, who left right before they were due to hit the studio and go on tour.
"We had this eight week European tour planned for a while, which started at the end of April. We had March and April blocked off to finish this album. It was kind a gnarly change when we decided to part ways," explains frontman and bassist Nolan Krebs over the phone from his home in Montreal. He adds, "Touring was hard for him. We've been doing it for three years almost non-stop." While the situation was initially tense, Krebs and his bandmates drummer Josh Korf and guitarist Ryan Hagan enlisted Krebs' then-roommate Ben Taber to flesh out guitar parts pushed forward to make the most ambitious and finest collection of atmospheric guitar rock they've done yet.
"Kingsday," arguably the album's centerpiece which Noisey is premiering below, is the song Krebs credits as a turning point for the new lineup. "It's a song where I had a couple parts in mind but Ryan came over with a metronome and we just sat on the couch and jammed it out. He had a couple of his own riffs and we stitched them together writing it on the fly," says Krebs. The resulting single is perhaps the most seamless sounding offering on Matterhorn with textured guitars cascading over a propulsive groove. On the track, Krebs ominously sings like he's yelling from a distant cave: "that even your dreams arise / then they're gone." Though Heaters' bread-and-butter are epic, psych-rock rippers, this one is an obvious standout.
With Tamlyn's departure, Krebs had to be ready to take the lead as the band's main songwriting force. "I think it was good for me because I've always had a lot of admiration of Andrew creatively, but for this one I had to do all the vocals and write all the guitar lines. It was a big challenge but I'm really pleased with how it turned out," he says. That shows not just on "Kingsday" but throughout Matterhorn: songs like the previously released closer "Seance" simmer with a drone-like intensity and the spaced-out unreleased track "Bronze Behavior" takes it time to unfold but is no less rewarding than the album's most frenetic cuts. Krebs credits the addition of Taber to the evolved, more precise sound: "He's this master shredder and a great dude. I really liked his perspective on the songs."
"This batch of songs had a lot to do with this new lineup—with Ben and Ryan—that went on this last European tour," says Krebs. He explains of the song's title, "Kingsday is this holiday in the Netherlands which basically their Fourth of July but a lot cooler than that. It was the day we started the tour and had this batch of new songs in our arsenal we were really proud of. That day was the kickoff for how this new iteration of the band fell into a groove." Now with the tour in their rearview and the band locked in, Heaters are ready for more: "We've toured the album like six months ago so it already feels old to us. It just feels natural to want to go back into the studio again."
Listen to "Kingsday" below, and preorder Matterhorn here.