As an artist, a clear vision yields an even clearer impact. That said, Relic Hearts know exactly what they want to do with their music.
“We always had a plan of attack,” exclaims vocalist Jonnie Baker. “We meticulously organized everything, and we set out to write songs that would be large in scope and feel, energetic – and absolute bangers live. They’re heavy, but there’s great melody to their heaviness.”
The State College, PA quartet—Jonnie, Aaron “Boss” Bossinger [guitar], Nick Walters [bass], and Dirk Taylor [drums]—had all cut their teeth in touring bands, performing on Warped Tour and beyond, in the years prior to forming Relic Hearts. In early 2014 however, Relic Hearts came to life with defined direction. Instead of blindly running out and touring, they honed a sound that artfully nods to a myriad of influences encompassing an eclectic musical palette ranging from Thirty Seconds To Mars and The Beatles to Imagine Dragons.
They organically started to build an audience by release singles on YouTube, alternating a cover and an original on a set schedule. Their cover of “Royals” quickly racked up over 150K views followed up by slamming, striking, and spirited reinterpretations of Nico & Vinz and Taylor Swift. Simultaneously, Relic Hearts tirelessly wrote originals.
“It was about creating a solid starting point,” continues Jonnie. “We built something that could be collectively developed and evolved. We didn’t want to release an album until it felt absolutely right to do so.”
It felt right in the summer of 2015. Heading west, the band retreated to High Vibe Recordings in Salt Lake City, UT in order to cut their independent full-length debut, Volatile. Co-produced by studio owner Stetson Whitworth and Jesse Lawson [ex-Sleeping With Sirens Songwriter/Guitarist], the ten tracks properly introduce their style. It begins with a bang on “Transjenner.” Merging propulsive percussion, thick guitars, and a hypnotic chant, the track immediately transfixes.
“It’s a reflection on relationships that you might hold onto longer than you should,” explains Jonnie. “Everybody deals with that at one time or another. There’s also a flipside. Sometimes, it makes sense to muscle through those bad patches that make you think you should give up. It’s a balance. You pledge that you can grow for that other person who should be growing as well, or maybe you’re just afraid to admit you’re in a downward turbulent cycle. You really have to step back and analyze to see how you truly and objectively feel about it, and that’s not easy to do.”
Then, there’s “Bridges.” It careens from a punchy verse into another unshakable hook. “A really good and close friend of mine was trying to convince me to stop doing music and start focusing on other talents of mine, like video production for example,” sighs the vocalist. “I don’t think you should ever advise against someone else’s dreams. Those are the kinds of bridges that you can burn, because they aren’t helping you achieve them – they don’t believe in them like you do.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the title track “Volatile,” builds from a resounding cinematic piano melody into one of the record’s most stunning vocal performances.
“We wanted to showcase our more delicate sensibilities when it comes to writing music,” he smiles. “Aaron really wanted to write something on the piano. He sat down and came up with this drawing from a more classical influence.”
Relic Hearts’ name proved to be a happy accident, though a serendipitous one at that. “I misheard M quoting Tennyson in Skyfall,” recalls Jonnie. “Instead of ‘heroic hearts,’ I thought she said ‘Relic Hearts.’ The line before—‘That which we are, we are’—hit me. We grow and change, but in any moment, what we are is all we are. That’s how we feel in this band. We’re doing what we love, and we cherish that. It’s like a physical object—a relic.”
Now, these Relic Hearts will be shared with everyone.