Talks to Fanbase Music Magazine About The Band’s Existence And Latest Track Namely Snakesd In Suits
Interviewed by Duzzy Clayton
Handpicked Heathens, the slightly deranged quartet hailing from the depths of Johannesburg, South Africa, emerged at the tail end of 2022. Fuelled by the unbridled desire to create meaningful and heavy music, and to day – drink on Sundays. The band consists of Harry (Vocals), Ockert (Drums), Paul (Guitar), and Ruan (Bass).
Harry, Ockert, and Ruan had crossed paths on countless blurry occasions before, whether on stage or at a sketchy bar. Ockert’s been hitting the drums like they owe him money for years. Ruan, known for his stint in a local death metal band, Envious Despair, had already dabbled in selling his soul to the chuggas. Meanwhile,
Harry was void gazing and smashing beers in The Bangover. But their fate took a dark turn when they met Paul Eloff, who, true to his nature, couldn’t muster excitement for anything, least of all his soulless dealings at the University of Pretoria, but he could find some solace in music.
As for their new music as Handpicked Heathens, well, it’s an unholy cocktail of extreme genres – they mash together metalcore, deathcore, pop, and EDM like an apocalyptic DJ spinning record at the rapture, screaming “SKRAA!”. The resulting cacophony embodies the spirit of a collective shrug at the futility of life. Their debut track, “Mind the Carpet,” delves into the mind’s madness. An exploration of the bleak depths of
human consciousness, it’s a reminder that, while things could always be worse, they could also always be better. The accompanying music video serves up a visual feast of Dante’s Inferno, because why not liken our struggles to a poetic journey through the circles of hell? After all, what’s more fitting than walking hand in?
hand with Virgil while contemplating existential dread? Handpicked Heathens; life is fleeting, hope in it is a distant memory, and all we have left is the relentless sound of screaming into the void. Welcome to the shitshow. Would you care to take a look around?
Hi guys, welcome to Fanbase Music Magazine. Handpicked heathens is quite an interesting band name, can you tell us how that name came about?
My mates and I have a tradition of getting together on Christmas after we’ve spent some time with our families where we’d exchange gifts and get a “little” messed up. The tradition came to be known as Heathen Christmas. For the most part, we’re all Afrikaans dudes, but I’d say we’re as far from traditional as you can get and by most folks within that sphere we’d probably be classified as heathens. In their defense, I’d say it’s an apt assessment, so I figured it’s a fun term of endearment I can use to describe the homies! The handpicked heathens I’ve accumulated throughout my life, and so the name was born! We had quite a few options for a band name though, but ultimately democracy prevailed.
Can you tell us who is in the band and what each band member does in the band?
The band consists of:
Harry – Vocals + Guitar
Ockert – Drums
Paul – Guitar + Backing Vocals
Ruan – Bass + Backing Vocals
How long has the band been going and how did you all meet?
We formed in November of 2022 and we’ve been practicing, writing, and recording music ever since! I have known Ockert and Ruan since high school and we’ve played together in several bands over the years. Paul and I met at University and we’ve been good mates from that point onward. We’ve always jammed guitar together and eventually, we decided to formalize the unholy union with Handpicked Heathens! Shortly after I coaxed Ruan and Ockert out of an early retirement when I let them know I’m putting together a crew for one last job. I can’t recall their exact response but it was something along the lines of: “You son of a bitch, I’m in!”
How would you describe your sound and genre?
We’ve had this discussion amongst ourselves on multiple occasions and it’s been tricky! Most people would probably classify it as metalcore, but we incorporate elements from electronic music, pop, and deathcore in our songs. I’d say our music embodies a collective shrug at the futility of life, and in general, it’s the sound of screaming into the void. Our manager and friend Jacques summarized it as: “Music your mother would hate”. He’s not wrong!
Who are some of the band’s influences?
I think we all have different influences that create a super cool dynamic when working on music together. Some of them include Lorna Shore, Chelsea Grin, and Darko US and we’ve always wanted to make heavy music, but we also draw inspiration from other genres like trap, pop and blend that with the heavy stuff as a bit of a palette cleanser.
Your first track ‘Mind the Carpet’ is very cool, can you tell us the meaning behind that track and how it came about?
Paul and I wrote it over a weekend when we were in a pretty depressed mental state. The song covers the depths of the human psyche and the journey of spiraling into despair. It also mentions the lengths we as humans will go to when we’re in the grip of a depressive episode, just to not feel anything. It’s a reminder that sometimes there are things people dread more than death.
Where do you record your music and what is the process like?
I have a small studio setup at my home in Randburg and I’ve been focused on learning to produce music over the last year or so. Generally, we’ll start by getting a rough idea of the song’s instrumental parts, record it as a demo, and use that as our starting point for practice, and to refine it further. This is also when I’ll start putting the lyrics together. Generally, there are a few revisions before we’re 100% happy with the structure and content, and then I get the lads in to track their parts, after which I polish my vocal parts and move on to mixing and mastering.
Your latest track ‘Snakes in Suits’ is equally a great track, Can you tell us what that song is about?
Snakes in Suits is a commentary on late-stage capitalism and the general state of the world we find ourselves in. From a young age, we’re taught how to think and act, which dreams to pursue, and which choices to make in order to be “safe” in our old days. The issue with this is that those who raised us prepared us to succeed in a world that no longer exists and quite often we find that if we do our best to check all the boxes society deems as important, we’ll still fall short and never see our dreams achieved anyway. It also talks about the frame of mind corporations operate in where humans are reduced to a number, a means to an end, and just another cog in the profit machine.
Can you tell us your writing process from the lyrics to the music and how the band puts it together?
The music is always written first. Generally, we’ll start with a cool riff or two, and construct the rest of the song around this. After we’ve polished and revisited all the parts I usually start writing the lyrics. I find that it’s more natural when you know what space you have to fill with vocals. I take a pretty theoretical and structured approach to lyric writing, much like writing an essay or short story. First I establish what I want to convey, and how that fits the music. Then I’ll decide on overarching themes within the topic that work well together, doing my best to put them in a logical progression of thoughts.
Will you be releasing new music soon and will you be working on an album?
Most definitely! We’ve got 3 more songs in the chamber, with the next release set for late November, after which we’ll start writing new material. Our initial plan was to put out an EP sometime next year. While this isn’t completely off the table there’s been a fair amount of discussion about the place albums have in today’s media landscape. We feel that social media and short-form content might have led to a decrease in the average person’s attention span, making it incredibly hard to get your stuff out there. Musicians today aren’t just competing with other musicians, but really any form of content people consume. It’s a consistent battle for your potential audience’s attention. Disappearing for a long time just to put out a 10-track album seems like a counterproductive way to approach this. For now, we’ll just keep writing songs and putting out singles, and we might consider an LP in the future.
Being a relatively new band, you haven’t gigged yet, what are the plans on playing live, or is it still early days for that?
We’re definitely excited to start playing live, but it’s not something we want to rush into. We’ve got a pretty good practice regiment at the moment and we’ll keep perfecting our craft until we’re happy with the level of performance we’re able to offer in a live setting. We’ve signed up for Wacken 2024 however, so that’s definitely something we want to work towards over the next few months.
Thank you for doing this interview, do you have any last messages for our readers?
We’d like to say thanks to all our friends, family, and anyone else who’s checked out our music so far. We appreciate all the support and we’re really excited to put new music out in the coming months!
To Listen To The Interview With Harry Vermeulen On The Anything Goes Podcast Listen