Not every band can claim to have Michael Cera as their touring bassist. Not every band can claim to have members of Modest Mouse, the Shins, Cold War Kids, the Black Heart Procession, Islands, the Unicorns and Man Man as part of their core lineup. Not every band can write a Krautrock and Dr. Dre-inspired pop-rock album and make it sound cohesive. Mister Heavenly can.
Mister Heavenly was formed in 2010 by Nicholas Thorburn (vocals/guitar), Honus Honus aka Ryan Kattner (vocals/keyboards) and Joe Plummer (drums). Thorburn is most notable for being the mastermind of Canadian art-rock bands Islands and the Unicorns, while Honus serves as the centerpiece of Philly-based experimental-rock band Man Man. Plummer, with whom I spoke over the phone earlier this week, has played drums for some of the biggest bands in the indie universe: Modest Mouse, the Shins, and, most currently, Cold War Kids. He has also played with San Diego cult favorite the Black Heart Procession, a Pall Jenkins-led indie-rock band most active in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s -- and who are, coincidentally, reuniting for a short tour that includes a Nov. 3 date at the Casbah.
“Ryan and I had toured together with Man Man and Modest Mouse, and so we got to know each other that way. We vowed to play together,” Plummer said about the band’s formation.
“It was a similar thing with he and Nick,” he added.
The band’s first album, “Out of Love,” came out on Sub Pop in August of 2011, just a year after they officially formed. Six years later, and the veteran collaborators have a new, tougher collection of songs to be proud of: “Boxing the Moonlight.”
“We all separately were listening to and celebrating various Krautrock bands. Nick was listening to Can a lot, Ryan to Neu, and I was listening to current Krautrock band Beak. But we always fall back to classic songwriting -- oddly, Billy Squier and Led Zeppelin … Ryan and Nick were feeling a Dr. Dre production on a lot of it,” Plummer said.
“We wanted it to be a little more energetic and angular. We were liking the stuff that was more angular and had a lot of space -- especially in the drums,” he explained.
And they seem to have channeled those influences and objectives well. The album keeps that classic Krautrock drive taut and streamlined without hypnotizing you out of the songs themselves. You can listen to it below.
While distraction from the music itself can be pretty easy with so much star-power in one band, they’ve largely avoided getting too bogged down with superficial press about their “supergroup” status and “Superbad” star bassist. In large part, that’s because Cera’s participation is not a gimmick at all but a genuine artistic relationship.
“Nick and Michael have been friends for a while. Michael was a fan of Unicorns and definitely Islands. He was just interested in playing bass, because Michael is just a great musician,” Plummer said.
If you are just looking to see Cera go all rock star, then you’re out of luck, because he won’t be at the Casbah on Friday, Oct. 20, with the rest of the band.
“He’s just busy right now, so we’re not sure how that’s going to work this year,” Plummer said about Cera’s future in the band.
But, if you’re actually interested in an energetic performance from some of the best indie musicians in recent memory -- not to mention a drummer who “played in Black Heart Procession forever and basically lived in San Diego” -- then buy your tickets for Mister Heavenly’s show here.
Rutger Rosenborg was almost a Stanford poet-neuroscientist before he formed Ed Ghost Tucker. Whoops. He now fronts the Lulls, plays lead guitar in LA band Velvet and makes music on his own when he's not writing. Follow his updates on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@RArosenborg) or contact him directly.