Nothing speaks to the indomitable spirit of youth like the determination to start a band. For the Minneapolis rock group Heart to Gold, that determination has manifested into its rising success as a band.
With guitarist and vocalist Grant Whiteoak, drummer Blake Kuether and bassist Sid Johnson, the three formed the punk band after sharing similar tastes in music and growing up in the same hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
After two album releases and a handful of tours across the U.S., Heart to Gold continues to progress and work toward creating a future and a name for itself within the underground music scene. As they made their way to a Monday show in Lincoln, the band spoke with The Daily Nebraskan and elaborated on its history, band dynamic and individual artistry.
The Daily Nebraskan: Could you tell me a little bit about your history and how you guys formed Heart to Gold?
Grant Whiteoak: So how it happened, I had known Tom for a really long time throughout my childhood, and then Sid and Blake went to high school with Tom, so they were all way more acquainted. Then, through Tom and other mutual acquaintances, I had got to know Sid a bit more and he told me that he had just started playing bass, and he knew I played guitar. And this was probably like early high school. At the time, we were really into The Ramones and The Germs and just, like, The Sex Pistols and Nirvana, just really basic punk rock. After a while, we were hanging out with a big group of friends and we had jammed a bit, and I walked into the basement that they were all hanging out in, and I looked at Sid and I was like “Yo, I have this weird epiphany that there are certain people that I have a musical conquest in and you’re one of them, let’s start a band.” After a few different drummers and some time, I was introduced to Blake and we all jammed, and it was perfect.
DN: What would you say your dynamic is? What’s a day in the life of Heart to Gold?
GW: Well, we all work our jobs, and, actually, Sid and Blake go to the same school called Hamline University in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, so they see each other a bit more than I do. We probably see each other at least half of the week, depending on if we have a show. We are all really good friends. We never have any problems. We are all good at figuring out issues right off the bat if there are any issues or if anyone is uncomfortable. Our dynamic is cool; we have kinda kept the same thing going ever since we got started. We haven’t really ventured outside of what’s comfortable for us.
DN: What has the recording process been like? How has it changed and how have you progressed musically?
GW: We actually got to record for the first release (2016’s “Still Stuck” EP) with Erik Paulson (of Minneapolis-based, Epitaph Record band Remo Drive). He gave us an amazing rate that we could afford. And then for “Comp,” we recorded with Erik again and it was in a bit more of a professional setting but it was pretty much the same. He knows our music, and we are comfortable with him because that is one of our great friends and he cares about our music. The recording has really been the same, maybe a different tier, but that can only get so far until you start adding dubbing and some different guitar and setups. That was probably a little bit more prominent on our second release. We have definitely upgraded our game a little bit since we got Blake because Blake has a certain style of playing that makes everything sound very big and whole, and we have had to adapt to that.
DN: Is there a particularly potent memory you guys have had together or on tour? Has there been a sort of cinematic moment for you guys?
Blake Kuether: We got to see the ocean when we went to the East Coast, and that was cool. For me, for just any memory, it was when we got to play with Greentop (Minnesota folk-rock band), and it was sold out. I stepped out to take a picture, and people started screaming, I felt like I was on top of the world. A tour memory that was great was our first tour. It was really inconsistent, but every show we played was significantly better than the last, and we got to really see that progress.
GW: I agree with that, that tour really brought us to the next tier in our music. It was that moment that we had where we were a small band that no one really knew, and then all of a sudden you look out and all these people are in the same place as you and they know you. Like, people would barely see our faces backstage, and they would just start screaming our names. It wasn’t necessarily a moment that we were captivated by, but it was something cool to look back on and reflect. We are very grateful to be such good friends as well as to be able to be taken seriously as a band at that time.
Another memory I have was last summer, we spent a few nights camping on tour when it was just the four of us. The shows on that particular tour were kind of a low point for us, but the experience made us a lot closer because everything we did was our own. We weren’t forking over hundreds of dollars at a hotel and then waking up in the morning. It was just us. Being in New York City was also an amazing memory. When we were there, I was being annoying and I had my skateboard and I was just skateboarding around. It just changed the way I felt about where I lived, the people I was with and what we were doing in New York. We got to play a lot of cool shows in New York … every crazy show, it really just brings back the feeling that we had when we started — like that this is the best thing we can be doing.
DN: Where would you attribute most of your musical inspiration?
GW: I think that a lot of our influences, for me personally, are from skateboarding and skateboard culture. I know that Sid and I share a common interest in bands like Weezer, Nirvana and Green Day. Some of, like, the top tier alternative bands of that nostalgic era and stuff. I know Blake was really influenced by Rush at one point in time. Overall, though, I know that we listen to just all sorts of stuff at all sorts of times, and that influences us.
DN: If you could describe your sound with one word, what would that word be?
GW: There is also a lot of emotion that goes into our music, so I would say emo. Blake says it would probably be simple, not in the sense that we aren’t playing hard stuff but in the structure of our songs and art — it has a nice flare to it. Tom says stress because the whole thing is stressful.
DN: What are your hopes for the band’s future?
GW: Well, we are hitting the road and we want to play in as many new places as we can. We want to be important to people, we want to sell out Madison Square Garden, and we want to go on tour with Fall Out Boy and Green Day.
DN: Do you have anything you want to tell readers in Nebraska?
GW: Don’t waste your time on jealousy. The race is long, sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind but in the end, you’re only with yourself.