Heart & Soul Radio ~ thieves

Heart and Soul Radio group shot Pop punk indie band Heart & Soul Radio is getting serious recognition for their single Ain’t No Life Like The Low Life. The music video for the single, which pays homage to the Beastie Boys Sabotage music video, is also a hit with fans.

When I had the opportunity to interview with two of the three band members, Brian Johannsen and Schuyler Ankele, I asked them to tell me more about their hit song and video. Brian smiled and filled me in: “Shooting this video was a blast. Schuyler and I used to train together in kickboxing. We put a story behind the song, which was really fun. We had lots of accidental hits and kicks to the face. Turns out, fake fighting is a lot harder than it seems.”

Schuyler laughed when he explained: “I was being attacked in the video, so Brian took the brunt of all the misplaced shots. I accidently socked him in the nose pretty hard at least 2-3 times.” Brian added: “I karate-chopped Schuyler right in the teeth. It was awesome, a fun shoot.”

I also really like their single Thieves in the Night. When I asked for the back story behind that song, I learned it relates directly to how Heart & Soul Radio feels about their local Denver music scene. Schuyler filled me in: “We’ve had a lot of pressure from our local connections, who suggest how we need to do things. We talked to a big manager in town, and we walked away from that meeting feeling frustrated and convinced that they did not know what they were talking about. We continue doing things our own way. We were about half way finished writing the album, and we decided to write Thieves in the Night. The song is basically our answer to everyone’s suggestion about what we should be doing and how we need to direct our career. Something that’s really common in Denver is that people feel unless you’re playing with other bands that think they’re big, you’re not big. For us, it’s laughable, because we’ve toured the country multiple times.”

Brian Johannsen

Brian Johannsen

So, besides the Beastie Boys, who are Heart & Soul Radio’s major music influences? Brian told me: “I think some of the biggest ones are 90s rock bands, like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. We like guitar-bass-drums, that’s a huge thing for us. More modern bands like Foo Fighters are huge too.”

Schuyler told us about an awesome turn of events with one of their favorite bands Ruth Ruth: “Brian reached out to their singer Chris Kennedy and relayed to him how we are big fans. Brian sent Chris some songs and he was very receptive. He thanked us for the three songs and complimented some of them. To us, that was a huge milestone.”

Heart & Soul Radio was formed from the ashes of former Denver bands Amino and DORK. I asked how the Brian and Schuyler came together with drummer Jimmy Blair. Brian gave me the scoop: “DORK started in early 2000. They got pretty big pretty fast. They got a Warped Tour. I just finished my master’s degree in Sound Engineering, and I became a producer. I went to find the biggest band in Denver, and in my opinion, that was DORK. I asked them if I could record their album and they said, ‘No.’ They ended up coming back a few months later and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ We spent six months recording that album, and in the end, they asked me to join. We went on Warped Tour for two more years. After a few personnel changes, we went from being a five-person band to a three-person band. We’ve been around as Heart & Soul Radio since 2009.”

Schuyler was in the band Amino. He was also the lead guitarist in DORK: “Brian being hired replaced me as the lead guitarist. I became one of the songwriting core members. It caused friction at first between me and Brian. Truthfully, Brian is 10x the guitarist that I am. There came I point where I realized that it was good for the band to have this guy take over the spotlight with the guitar. You do what helps the greater good of the band.”

Brian Johannsen played music in high school: “I played bass in show choir in high school. I went to get a bachelor’s degree in Music Performance. I played classical guitar for a bit and piano. I then switched my major to Anthropology, and then got my master’s in Sound Engineering. Mostly, we’ve all just been jamming and learning on our own, since we were little kids.”

Schuyler Ankele

Schuyler Ankele

Schuyler received his first guitar for his thirteenth birthday: “I went to lessons, but the lessons did not take very well. My singing background comes from being forced to go to church. I was eventually kicked out of church choir, but before that, they taught me to sing harmonies. I would get in trouble for singing stuff that wasn’t in the gospel. I appreciate the skill of harmonizing that the church gave me.”

Video is a huge part of Heart & Soul Radio’s social media strategy. The band has over 40 videos on their YouTube channel that range from music videos to How To videos to videos of pets. What’s their video strategy? Brian explained: “In general, our strategy is just to entertain. Over the last couple of years through social media, we learned that we’re not just a band putting out music, we have to constantly keep people entertained. So, whether it’s webisodes or funny clips, we constantly roll out media for people to consume. We shoot all of our own music videos; we do all of our own editing. You can only come out with new music so often, but you can come out with really dumb clips way often, especially when you’re us. It’s easy to be stupid.” However, I think it’s a really smart strategy.

Facebook is also at the core of Heart & Soul Radio’s social media strategy. Brian continued, “We try to take anything that’s funny or interesting in our lives and get it out there, so people can understand who we are and connect with us on that level, as well as the music that we put out. There’s never a dull moment in our lives, and we try to throw that out on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube. We really like to do topical things; we pay attention to what’s trending and throw out our own view about what’s going on. You have to keep reinventing yourself, almost on a weekly basis.”

What advice does Heart & Soul Radio have for other indie bands? In addition to constantly flooding the internet with content, Schuyler added, “After being in all these different bands, we learned: Don’t be convinced that you already know what your band is going to look like when it’s successful. In our minds, I think the band that survived is much different than what the three of us envisioned. I know we couldn’t be happier with our current setup. We’re working harder than ever, but the rewards are higher.”

What’s up next? Brian told me: “We’re doing a big press push on our album. We’re going to be doing a radio campaign soon. On top of that, we’re getting a booking agent and start playing a lot of shows. So, hopefully, our songs will be on the radio and we’ll be in the venues.”

Schuyler added: “We’re taking a different approach then we used to. We used to get on the road, play some shows and then figure out what wasn’t working and what needed to improve. This time, we’ve rehearsed the entire show and different sets. We’ve gone into our last couple of shows already knowing how we want the crowd to respond. Our last two shows have been insane with the amount of energy we received from the crowd, so we’ve seen a noticeable difference.”

I had a great time getting to know Brian and Schuyler. I learned lots and look forward to our next interview. Their album thieves is available for sale on their website. Go out and buy a copy.

The Amused Now Featured Artist Series

Heart and Soul Radio performing Brian Johannsen and Schuyler Ankele, Heart & Soul Radio

Cynthia Kahn, Founder of Amused Now