York prog-alternative rockers Haertstrings’ sonic diversity is something to behold

By Dom Smith
By October 6, 2023 Features, Interviews, News

Following a diverse and powerful set at the recent Fulford Arms Battle of The Bands, we check in with Haertstrings to discuss their music and inspirations. 

KJ: Hella excited! Sore throat and quit my job, but I couldn’t feel better.

Luke: Good. Ecstatic.

Archie: A little worse for wear, but still buzzing.

Ewan: Fucking brilliant, had a great time and we played our hearts out!

Tell me about your attitude to live performance?

KJ: I don’t know what kind of energy I’m going to put out on stage until I get there, so I try to remember that God is Love and that we’re all here because we love music. We’ve only played twice live, and want to keep impressing.

Luke: I get overly anxious before getting onstage but enjoy the hell out of it once up there.

Archie: Slowly learning to enjoy the stagefright, but I think there’s a very important aspect to music in seeing other people react to what you’re playing and sharing the ritual aspect of performance with other people.

Ewan: I just love being on stage, and playing.

How do you define success as artists?

KJ: Professionally? I don’t want to leave the game the same, and want to get brought up in every debate. If our music can make a positive change in the life of even one person, everything we do would have been worth it. I can’t forget the struggle I come from. I want to use our platform to promote and work with humanitarian initiatives to help people who grew up like I did.

Luke: Getting gigs. Seeing people let loose in the crowd.

Archie: Trying to find a way to express some fundamental truth. I think as soon as you feel you’ve done that, it’s art. No matter how grandiose that truth is. It’s something, nothing… science could ever find. It’s what separates us from the mathematicians-

Ewan: Truth comes down to calculations.

Archie: There’s no fundamental truth. All art is a conversation between the observer and creator, which is why I wouldn’t create music if I didn’t have an audience!

Ewan: I think if people are there for our songs, not because we asked them to be.

Who, or what, are some of your musical influences and why?

KJ: Sam Gopal, St. John Green, Kendrick Lamar and JID. Vocally, Jimi Hendrix. I heard Voodoo Chile for the first time and I knew I wanted to sing how his guitar sounds.

Luke: The Beatles, John Frusciante, Tame Impala, MF Doom. Lamb of God.

Archie: Joy Division, Talking Heads, King Gizzard, Brian Eno, Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead.

Ewan: Everything I play on drums is inspired by the drummer of Porcupine Tree. King Gizzard. The Beatles. Rage Against the Machine.

All: Rage Against the Machine (except KJ, who’s only listened to 2 of their songs).

What inspires you outside of music – think people, places, movies, and more, for example?

KJ: A lot of my music is set within a narrative universe I’ve been working on. This project in turn is directly inspired by the poem of a friend who died in 2018, Ruth Selina (see below). Rest in Peace, Ruth. I hope I’m making you a little proud. I’m inspired personally/aesthetically by Jimi Hendrix. Magical realism. I also love cyberpunk, manga (Berserk, Baki, JJBA) Brutalist architecture, Arcane, anything space related… as for place? My experience as a black man here; my backyard at home in Luton. I have so many fond memories of the Moon peeking out beyond the smoke and dark of our run down suburb; hi-tech, low life. I felt so close to the night there that my style of magical realism is nothing without it.

Luke: Dogs!

Archie: Everything we see around us influences our art in some way. I draw a lot from Romantic era poetry and Gothic literature. Filmmaking often influences the craft of making music, the flow of a song, the album. The flow of imagery and symbolism in modernist film. In that regard, films by Charlie Karthman, David Lynch, and Park Chan-Wook. Speeches and political dissemination of information influence the way I approach lyricism, alongside the flow and pacing of ideas. Don’t ever ask when Hærtstrings got political.

Ewan: No comment, to be honest. My friends! <3

What is your message to all the people who have supported you, and will continue to do so?

KJ: From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I’ve gone from embarrassment, to mosh pits. As we move on up, we’ll lift you guys up too. We’ve got some awesome ideas. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Luke: Thank you. You tickle our heartstrings. 🙂

Archie: Thanks to the people that have supported us, we can’t wait to grow with the people who are hearing our message; see you on the picket lines soon, and the frontlines eventually.

Ewan: Thanks for being along with us for the ride. It’s not been a long one so far but you’ve been on it every step of the way; so keep it coming; because there’s more and better coming. Whaaeeegh!!!

What’s next for the band, how can we find you?

We’ve been a little busy with BoTB practice, but we’re on Instagram, @haertstringsband. KJ is the process of writing 100 songs and is over halfway there – we’re trying to distill the best ones and get them practiced so we can put them out there. We want to play more local gigs, start volunteering for a good cause, and get a tour set up as soon as possible!!

Is there anything else you’d like to add before we finish?

Did you know that you can put a lightbulb in your mouth, but can’t take it out?

Thanks for your time!!

No, thank you!!!

Down Before Dawn

Ruth Selina


Dawn, with rose-red fingers

Tinted my window.

The words “Tell me, what you want to do”

Were printed on her silver lining.

I thought of days of grey

Condensation on the glass, my breath,

My breath, which could too easily rise,

In and out.

When I held my breath in

And said I was afraid

I could not say,

The carpet was all that spoke to me, low

And low,

Her rose-red fingers tilted me

To face the carpet.

The silver of my chest

I had been saving for a better day

She threw to the fire of her sunrise

And said, “This is it then, for you,

Down it, down the low.”

I said I was afraid

To down it,

I am down, dawn,

I can’t down it, dawn,

Another day,

Dawn, another day.