I HEART SHARKS
“THE WORLD’S NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE, BUT NEITHER ARE WE”
In the last days of summer of 2007, behind the thick concrete walls of Berlin’s techno mecca, Berghain, three young men from three different countries met by chance and had an idea. They wanted to make machine music with a human soul, to use guitars as synthesisers, and synthesisers as guitars, to prove their opinion that music that moves your feet can move your mind, and vice versa. The idea became I Heart Sharks.
Nine years on, the three boys – Pierre Bee (vocals), Simon Wangemann (guitars), and Martin Wolf (drums) – are now four, the set now complete with bassist Craig Miller. Two Englishmen, a New Yorker and a German. A lot has changed since those practices in dank East-Berlin cellars and weekdays in clubs, and the world is definitely ready for another dose of I Heart Sharks cynical optimism, keeping the dream of a Trans-Europe Express alive in a Post-Brexit world. Besides, they aren’t the only Brits to have sought refuge and inspiration in Berlin – from Bowie to Breton, Brian Eno to, well you get it – the city seems to be an adult playground with space for I Heart Sharks’ type of escapism.
“THIS IS OUR HOUSE. LET’S MAKE IT A HOME”
I Heart Sharks came from the bottom up, starting out playing in squats and club staircases, playing houseparties instead of a DJ, watching the venues grow around them from miniscule to massive, supporting Friendly Fires and Kraftklub along the way. From Berlin to Melt, Dockville to Southside, Europavox to Eurosonic, they’ve played every conceivable festival in Germany, and many outside of it. “People sometimes think we’re pretending to be English because we know every little tiny town in Germany” Why? “Chances are we’ve played there”. Big stage, small stage, no stage, the only things separating the band and the crowd are still air and opportunity.
In 2011 I Heart Sharks released their debut album, “Summer”, a collection of nostalgic songs sonically summarising the years on tour. The album was financed by fans who contributed to the project by purchasing memorabilia and memories ranging from lyric sheets to tickets to secret gigs. Their second album came in 2014, released on Island Records with the help of Hurts-producer Joseph Cross. Recorded between Manchester and the former GDR radio headquarters in East-Berlin, it was their first outing on a major label and one that meant more reach than ever before. Yet it was not to be; the band missed the freedom of times past and moved on.
2016 is a return to the roots – back to indie label AdP Records and the DIY approach – a breath of fresh air, out of the studio and into the practice room. The “Hey Kid” EP in January and a sold-out tour in Spring, and now on November 11th, their third full LP “Hideaway”. The self-produced album is a sun-drenched, synth-soaked collection of guitar tracks – somewhere between surf-pop and gritty electronica, between California and Berlin, between nostalgia and daydreams.
“WE WANT TO WAKE UP IN A CITY WITH AIR YOU CAN KISS”
The album starts with the title track, “Hideaway”, co-written with urban musician Sway Clarke, glistening with hope from a dark place, closely followed by “Walls”, a characteristic I Heart Sharks song with a melancholic synth playing a dance pattern, teasing with sharp guitars and a clear vocal hook. At times the playful surf-pop sound shines through on “The Water” and “Friends”, and carries echoes of the parallels of the fifties – a bright future coupled with fear. “Lost Forever” and “Walk At Night” reveal a penchant for The Cure style of songwriting and see Wangemann’s lush guitars take centre stage. The album wraps up with the Krautrock-esque “We Used To Talk” and the intimate “Easy”. And all the way through, behind the machines and computers, you can always hear the band.
It feels a lot less like a third album, and more like a debut: Audacious, self-assured and charmingly naive at times. More guitars, more live drums, more reality. I Heart Sharks want to talk about the generation Y that were promised the world and got empty words, not just escape and ignore it. Right down to the cover, the faceless baby-boomer generation enjoying themselves in the pool, there is a flip-side to the optimistic message of the songs.
Change is inevitable, to want to stop it is to want to stop the world from turning. Music has changed since I Heart Sharks started writing songs in an East Berlin cellar in the summer of 2007, and so have they. As they say: “The world’s not what it used to be, but neither are we.”