Later this year H.E.A.T. will headline the final Firefest festival in Nottingham as the world’s premier AOR and melodic rock party calls time on more than a decade of colourful bills and chorus-driven sets.
It’s testimony to the flamboyant Swedish band – who hail from the same Stockholm suburb as genre giants Europe – that their name is atop the glittering farewell poster. It simply wouldn’t be a fitting Firefest send-off for without H.E.A.T..
However, fans in the North East have had to be patient when it comes to savouring the Scandinavians’ legendary live experience. This month’s show at Newcastle’s O2 Academy is H.E.A.T.’s first gig on Tyneside and founder member Eric Rivers can’t wait to make up for lost time.
“It will be our first time in Newcastle and it’s always special when you play a new place,” said guitarist Rivers. “We’ve played many parts of the UK but never made it to the North East. We’re all really excited about finally making it there.
“I guess in the past we just haven’t been able to fit the date in with promoters and venues. I know it’s a city we’ve talked about playing many times before and we know all about Newcastle’s reputation as a rock city.
“As the band has grown and we’ve faced more demands on our time it’s been even more difficult to squeeze the show in. I suppose we’ve been guilty of focusing on London and the Midlands like a lot of foreign bands but we want to spread our wings. This is a wonderful opportunity to do that.”
Four albums in and already an established headline act back home, H.E.A.T. have a major label deal, hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide and a former Swedish Idol winner, Erik Gronwall, fronting the band. However, breaking the UK and America is the biggest challenge facing Rivers and his band mates.
“I truly believe the new album, Tearing Down The Walls, can take us to the next level,” he added. “It’s got the potential to take us further than we’ve ever been before. It’s the first album where we’ve really concentrated on creating a theme that runs through the whole record – with the lyrics, the music, the album title and even the artwork. We’ve been able to create and influence the whole package and that wasn’t necessarily the case before.
“As a band we’ve had more input than before at every stage. Over the years we’ve learnt how to make a really good album but we’ve often been disappointed with some of the other aspects of the release. Between the first and the second album we certainly experienced some pressure and we weren’t that comfortable but we learnt some invaluable lessons.”
Growing up in the shadow of chart-busting quintet Europe, in the sleepy suburb of Uplands Vasby, could have proved a pressure too far for Rivers and co. but H.E.A.T. have always taken inspiration from their hugely successful fellow countrymen.
“Where we live everybody knows [Europe singer] Joey Tempest or one of the guys, or knows somebody who knows them, and we’re very proud that we come from the same part of town,” added Rivers.
“What could be better than knowing a band from your suburb has made it and gone on to have a 30-year career at the top of the rock ‘n’ roll tree? They’ve proved anything is possible.
“Europe are an inspiration and we’re not afraid to say so. But of course we have to stamp our own identity on the music business. We’re a very different band in so many ways but where we do seek to emulate them is by putting on a great live show. That’s how we’ve earned our reputation as a band worth watching back home.”
:: H.E.A.T. play Newcastle O2 Academy on Saturday May 17.