June 14 2011 09:51 PM

Heavy Glow explore the boundaries of hard rock—and the music business

Jared Mullins (right) put out the band’s new record himself
Photo by Angelo Loukas

Heavy Glow offer an intriguing case study in the ways talented, little-known bands navigate the complicated waters of an ever-changing music industry.

The local blues-rock trio is about to release a new album, Midnight Moan. Asked if they’ve found a label to release it, singer / guitarist Jared Mullins seemed a bit unsure.

“That’s a good question,” he says with a laugh. “There is one label out in L.A. that is currently revising the contract for us. It will be distribution and the full thing. I don’t want to jinx it.”

If the deal works out, Mullins says, the label wants the band to go out on a series of two- to three-month tours with short breaks in between. There’s also talk of going to Australia and Europe.

That is, of course, if the deal works out. If Heavy Glow end up releasing the album on their own, Mullins says, the band plans to limit the U.S. tour to the Midwest. Mullins has friends in the region and believes that their sound would go over well in the part of the country that spawned bands like the stripped-down blues-rock powerhouse The Black Keys.

So, what’s it gonna be? Mullins sums it up: “My whole life is up in the air.”

But fret not for Heavy Glow. They will be fine. They have flipped the traditional artist / label relationship on its head. In the past, this consisted of a band signing to a label and the label taking control of all the band’s recording decisions and costs. The band was indebted to the label until it sold enough records or CDs to pay back all the production costs. Heavy Glow represent a new wave of bands that are getting smart with their product.
“I’ll just put it out myself,” he says. “We own everything either way. Even if the label picks it up, it’s still my record. I still own it. I still made it. I funded it. I don’t owe anybody money to do it. We already have enough contacts with licensing and publishing. We own our own publishing company. We’re fine as far as making money back goes.”

The obvious next step is discovering whether the raunchy Heavy Glow sound will strike a chord in a musical climate dominated by American Idol pop clones on one end and Pitchfork indie wimps on the other. If you’re new to the band, a good starting point is their 2008 self-titled EP, which was produced by Stevie Salas (a legendary San Diego guitarist who’s played with the likes of Duran Duran and Mick Jagger) and recorded in Velvet Revolver’s L.A. studio. The record focuses on super-charged blues-rock, but the band also incorporates other music styles.

“We all come from very different parts of classic rock / blues, ’60s / ’70s stuff,” Mullins explains. “Joe’s [Brooks] bass playing is James Brown / The Meters inspired stuff. [Drummer Dan Kurtz] will take a beat and turn it up on its head, turn it all the way around and then turn it back—and he will do that three or four times in a song. I’ve never had another drummer do that before. My inspirations are everything from Delta blues to heavier hard rock like Black Sabbath to Queens of the Stone Age. A lot of times, it’s the mixture of four or five different music styles at once.”

The band released another EP, The Filth and the Fury, after the debut, and the new full-length continues to build on a blues-rock foundation, offering another punishing collection of guitar-fueled mayhem. The core song structures seem to bask in a Soundgarden style, while the delivery is vintage power-trio a la Cream. More often than not, vocals take a back seat to screaming lead guitar.

Further cementing their e-savvy, at their CD release party, Heavy Glow will give away a download code for all their releases in exchange for an email address.

To survive, one must adapt.   

Heavy Glow will celebrate the release of Midnight Moan with The Tuggs and Just Like Jenna at
The Casbah on Sunday, June 26. heavyglowmusic.com