Their bodies are clothed, their hearts are totally nude.
While cutesy boy-girl duos armed with saccharine tunes may run amok across magazine features and blogs, The Naked Hearts’ take on that well-worn pop formula is bringing gritty rock back to the mix.
Guitarist Amy Cooper and bassist Noah Wheeler met a few years back and hit it off immediately. The duo drafted drummer Jim Orso and quickly formed a three-piece band. But three members soon became two, a move which Wheeler says was a goal from the beginning. "We were thinking of a way to be a duo, so once we figured out how to [play] live, we just really liked the intimacy of having the two of us on stage and keeping it simple" Cooper and Wheeler played their first gig as Naked Hearts a few years back at The Delancey amongst a small group of friends, and the experience of playing live sealed the band’s fate. "It was awesome to just kind of debut the new project," Wheeler says of the band’s first show. "For us, Naked Hearts was the first time we had deeply collaborated with someone else and just wanted to keep doing it—and here we are."
Debuting with the Bees Knees EP in 2009 and a full album, Mass Hysteria, last year, Wheeler and Cooper are now nearly finished with a new collection of music that they’re both eager to hit the stage with. The band created its latest effort at a friend’s home in Northern California, which Wheeler reveals influenced the new batch of jams both technically and stylistically. Compared to the recording process for Mass Hysteria, a series of pleading love songs with powerful guitar riffs and thumping-drums recorded at Brooklyn’s Vacation Island Recording Studio, this new album has a spacious, atmospheric feel. "We’ve been in the woods basically, north of San Francisco," says Wheeler. "So, being around less people and being surrounded by nature has definitely changed our music."
The upcoming album will also move in the direction of a more danceable, poppy vibe. Recorded on an 8-track—a move which allowed the two to be extra-creative and gives their new sound a "raw and simple" quality—the soon-to-be finished record is being self-released, which Cooper and Wheeler say will show a broader musical range.
The writing process for Naked Hearts is one of an impulsive and synergistic nature. "We apply different approaches, and that’s why we like writing with each other," Wheeler affirms. "We both bring something different to the table, and with some songs we’ll be spontaneously playing and kind of jamming out and collaborating in that way, [while] with other songs one of us will write the bulk of a song and the other one will help smooth it out and fine tune it." Both of the Naked Hearts agree that they look up to a variety of songwriters, including Neil Young and The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs, but while Wheeler finds inspiration through the pop-oriented spectrum of songwriting, Cooper looks up to rockers like Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith.
Subsequently, Naked Hearts’ music is filled with raw, edgy tones that showcase alt-rock-heavy rhythms and tender moments, featuring mellifluous boy-girl harmonies and softly strummed instruments. Grinding guitar riffs and a pulsing percussion can be heard throughout Mass Hysteria, with striking bass lines peppering tracks like "Call Me." Boisterous moments of thrashing instruments and mellow vocals—what the band does best—are apparent on "Like I Do," which boasts sweet lyrics like "Any time you turn away/ I just want to hear you say/ Don’t believe what’s in my eyes/ Try and make this feeling never die."
If Mass Hysteria is any indication of what the more pop-driven musical future will hold for the Naked Hearts, then we have a feeling things are just getting started.
>> The Naked Hearts
May 19, Glasslands, 289 Kent Ave. (betw. S. 1st & S. 2nd Sts.),
Brooklyn, 718-599-1450; 8, $10.