The members of the Long Island, New York-based alternative rock band heavy on the heart are Nikki Brady on vocals, Costas Themistocleous on guitar, Nick Kolokathis on drums, and Andrew Nicolae on bass. Check out the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how it all got started?
Costas: I started writing music with Nikki in December 2020. Initially we were writing and recording pop songs to be released as a studio project. Around June 2021, my former band PRSNA broke up abruptly. After the band broke up, Nikki and I decided to form a band and we spent that summer writing for what would become heavy on the heart.
Nikki: I had reached out to Costas on Dec of 2020 to write and record a song for my husband. Through the short three weeks we worked together, something was sparked within me and I wanted to continue to write and record music. We started working on solo music along that road his former band had split and we had spoken about forming a band. I had become pregnant and took maternity leave. When I came back to practice Costas had found the missing pieces to the band and the rest is history.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
Costas: I took guitar and piano lessons as a kid for a couple of months. But for the most part I am self taught.
Nikki: I have been singing since I can remember. I was always a soprano 1 throughout my younger singing days. I was being classically trained when a chorus teacher begged me not to train with a vocal coach because it was changing my range and technique. I continued singing in local and state competitions. With a big gap in my singing career I didn’t know what I could sing anymore, until I started to sing with Costas on solo music and with heavy on the heart, did I realize I actually had a powerful lower rage I could sing as well.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘HEAVY ON THE HEART.’?
Costas: I credit blink-182 for me even wanting to pick up a guitar in the first place. I also credit Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! For wanting to develop and grow as a better lyricist. So much music of different genres inspires me but these 3 bands have most definitely shaped me. The name heavy on the heart. Came from the breakup of my old band and losing my best friend of 16 years in the process. I remember talking to Nikki in my backyard one day and said something along the lines of “this weighs heavy on my heart” and she looks up and me and goes that’s it! That is the band name. Heavy on the heart. I was like oh wow, that is huge, haha.
Nikki: Amy Lee had to be one of my biggest influences growing up. The fact that she was also an opera singer and then took her singing to evanescence. She Proved that I didn’t have to fit into this box where I had to sing “pretty” music for the rest of my days. I could sing music with real and raw emotion.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
Costas: I think each element of our music brings its own little flare. Each song is different, elemental wise while still keeping that rock core intact. I think each listener is able to pick out the element that stands out to them the most and run with it. Personally, our sound is a blend of our influences, life experiences and trial and error. I feel we blend our pop punk roots with alternative rock and try to relay the emotion the music makes us feel with the lyrics and melodies.
Nikki: I would describe our music as real. We put so much emotion and feeling into every single line we write and cord that we produce. Instead of singing about girls/guys, money and drugs we are making music about real life things, that happen to people everyday. Ups and downs in relationships, love, loss, anger, fear; we really do wear our heart on our sleeve.
5. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style, which is known as ROCK?
Costas: I believe originality comes from the heart and soul. We all start emulating our idols and influences but somewhere along the way, it’s almost like it just clicks and something becomes your own. Emotions and feeling can’t be emulated honestly. When you speak from the heart, there is no denying it. When you write from the heart, there is no denying that. We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. I don’t approach songwriting that way. I like to experiment, yes. But at the end of the day I want to get off what is on my chest in an honest and inept way.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative, and entertainment?
Costas: It’s funny, initially Mr. Know It All started as a jab at the Qanon conspiracies, haha. We changed it up to make something more personal. Maybe one day we’ll release an alternate version of Mr. Know It All, but who knows. I think everybody is entitled to their opinions. I don’t have to agree and neither do you. I wouldn’t say we are politically charged, but I do believe in speaking up for what is right. Basic human rights are undisputable to me, personally. The current state of the world and the division within it is a real slippery slope and I tend to stay out of the crosshairs. But if I am truly passionate about something or I feel something is downright wrong, I will and have voiced my opinion. I will speak my mind. Sometimes it’ll be through a song. Sometimes it will be through voice.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
Costas: There’s so many ways to approach this. I think the beauty about it is the sky is the limit. Music gives me back so much. It is a literal high getting in the room with other people and connecting in a way that only few understand. It is rewarding watching a song come to life. It is fulfilling to listen back to final mixes in the car before it even hits streaming services or is released. It’s a different type of fulfillment hearing those songs on the streaming services. It literally makes my whole day when someone tells me what our music means to them. I’m not talking about “this is good” or “I like this”. I’m talking about when someone actually gets deep about what it means to them. Where you can feel, see and hear the emotion they are spewing. That is rewarding to me. If I can make one person feel that way, I did my job as a musician and a songwriter. Of course, at the end of the day we want to reach and touch as many people as possible. We want the stage to get bigger and bigger. We want the production to get beefier and better. We will always strive for more. We will always strive for perfection in an imperfect world.
Nikki: I personally think I get back from it was more. Sure it’s a lot of work, time and effort (especially as a new mom) but watching how people react to your finished product and seeing how much they enjoy it makes it worth all of the work. I can’t wait to see what the future holds with seeing how everyone loves what we are putting out there.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
Costas: The creative process comes in so many different ways, but one that is most common is it’ll start with me and an acoustic guitar. Finding new chords or riffs and playing till something sticks with me. Then a base melody comes in. I’ll go loop the riff get behind the drums and start piecing parts of the song together. Then Nick (our drummer) comes in and takes whatever simple beat I made and feeds it steroids. Once we map out the song structure full band, we’ll usually demo it out and Nikki and I will sit down and write lyrics and melodies for it.
Nikki: usually Costas will be strumming along of the guitar and play something and we will all just stop and say wait, that was amazing keep going. Everything unfolds from there. If Costas as written a melody prior to me coming over he will show me what he has come up with and he will usually ask me how the melody made me feel and we will start expanding off that. Sometimes it helps even when I am in an awful mood or even an overly happy mood and that will determine what song songs we will come up with that day haha
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
Costas: Life hasn’t been easy for me, haha. There has been plenty of moments throughout my life which felt like the most difficult. Personally and musically. But one of my favorite quotes sums how I handle these adversities. “Face Everything and Rise”.
Nikki: I would say the most difficult thing in life/my music career was when I was 18 years old a drunk driver ran a red light and wrapped my car around a pole. In the accident among many injuries I had crushed my larynx on the steering wheel of my car and I never thought I would be able to sing again. Through a long road to recovery I can no longer belt the notes that use to be so easy for me to once hit however I have finally found my love for my lower register.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
Costas: My former band had the privilege of opening for Third Eye Blind and Twenty One Pilots. That was kind of monumental to me being Third Eye Blind is one of my biggest inspirations. With this band, our debut show was opening for The Color Fred (Fred Mascherino, formerly of Taking Back Sunday). I remember during our set looking to the left of the stage and seeing Fred just watching us and the look on his face said it all. While we were packing up the van, he came out and found us and had such high praise for us. We ended up talking for a good hour about life, music, the past, the present. It was so rad and made our debut show so much more.
Nikki: I have sang in front of rooms full of people, even stadiums. Absolutely nothing beats singing original music infrint of people that want to be there with you and celebrate your music. I would have to say our first performance was something that truly hit home from me. The rush, the nerves, the excitement, the thrill it was something I will never forget. Even along with the few solo songs we put out before this band got fully off the ground and running. One of the solo songs was picked up for a tv series and one was picked up for a movie. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of tears and joy that hit me. It goes to show to never give up on your dreams and you will succeed.
11. With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters, and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
Costas: Haters gonna hate! Honestly, I pay little mind to it. I do catch glimpses and such. Depending on my mood will depend on my response, haha. Some days I will ignore it all in all. Some days I will kill them with kindness and other days I wake up and choose war, haha. But for the most part I tend to tune out the ones who got nothing of substance to say. It’s a sad way to live a life and I’d rather take the high road.
Nikki: I leave the social media haters to someone else. I have no time for them. You can’t make everyone happy. It’s as simple as that.
12. Creative work in a studio or home environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excites you most, and why?
Costas: They are 2 different beasts. They both excite me equally. It’s magical to be in a creative space watching something come to life. Songwriting is intimate. To watch it all come together in a confined space, capturing the moment and expressing the feeling is so beautiful and spiritual in itself. Then playing live, is just endorphins. It’s sharing those intimate and vulnerable magic you just created in the studio with an audience. A good crowd will give you goosebumps. To watch them connect with your creative blood, sweat and tears is something only very few could know and it’s beautiful. Literally head rush.
Nikki: that is a tough one. When we are in the studio the creative juices just start flowing and I find myself able to do things I never thought possible. Which is a magical experience. When we are on stage and preforming for people it’s a completely different high, there is literally no feeling better then performing in front of a group of people and you see them mouthing the words that you are singing to them. You truly feel like you are impacting your little space in the world one song at a time and it’s absolutely incredible.
13. Do you think is it important for fans of your music to understand the real story and message driving each of your songs, or do you think everyone should be free to interpret your songs in their own personal way?
Costas: I think a fan interpreting a song in their own way is what makes a song truly personal. It’s crazy, you could have 10,000 people singing the same song and that’s 10,001 different reasons, feelings, walks of life and reason for singing that song. Even songs where the artist has given his interpretation of the song in an interview or talked about it on stage, the listener will always have their own reasons. Maybe it’s somewhat relatable, maybe it’s completely relatable or maybe it’s not at all. That is the beauty of music. There is no right or wrong in this regard. The feeling, emotion, experience might have similarities to it but it’s the listeners own to relate to. It’s magical. It’s powerful. Music is a universal language for this reason.
Nikki: everyone should find a way to interpret our songs to help them in there own way/life. If you can relate to our exact situation then that’s amazing however if you can take something we say and it really hits a nerve for you, even if it’s completely different then how we mean it; I think that’s even more amazing.