Artist Spotlight: Lande Hekt

    With Muncie Girls, the indie punk band Lande Hekt formed as a teenager in her hometown of Exeter, the singer-songwriter has been as open about the frustration of living in an unjust world as she has been about the crippling uncertainties that come with growing up. Her lyrics are both direct and relatable, but the music’s vulnerability never undermined the uncompromising force of her political conviction – in fact, it often had the opposite effect. From the group’s acclaimed 2016 debut From Caplan to Belsize to its intensely personal follow-up Fixed Ideals in 2018, Hekt learned to lean on that vulnerability even more, before coming through with her debut solo EP, Gigantic Disappointment, in November 2019.

    Her first full-length solo album, Going to Hell, released last Friday via Get Better Records, sees her revisiting a lot of the same themes and styles while expanding her scope. Written while Hekt was in the process of coming out as gay, the album centers on her typically diaristic lyrics and clear-eyed performances as she discloses familiar feelings of anxiety, doubt, and internalized shame. There are a lot of unanswered questions running throughout the record’s 10 tracks, but none of them negate the sense of relief that comes with laying it all out. “You can find me under the table, I’m not coming out,” she sang on 2016’s ‘Gone with the Wind’, “I’ve had too many beers and I’ve got nothing to be happy about.” It’s obvious a few things have changed since then, but Hekt’s voice is as loud and clear as ever.

    We caught up with Lande Hekt for the latest edition of our Artist Spotlight interview series to talk about her earliest musical memories, the process behind Going to Hell, and more.

    What role did music and songwriting play early on in your life?

    I started playing bass when I was 10 years old and started a band with my friend back then. And then I think maybe when I was about 17, I started writing songs, and that’s when I started my band, Muncie Girls. But I’ve always been massively into music. I think as soon as I started playing music when I was like, 10, it kind of took over my life. I was only interested in music and skateboarding.

    I’ve got older siblings, and when I was younger, I used to borrow their CDs and listen to bands, like loads of punk rock and emo, when I was eight or nine. I remember being really into like, like ska and pop-punk and stuff when I was kid, and I remember just getting really obsessed with certain songs. And so obsessing about bands is kind of something that made me want to be in a band.

    You’ve talked about how growing up, you didn’t always feel like there were enough queer role models in the music that you listened to. Were there any artists that you feel like had a positive influence on you in terms of your identity?

    Yeah, I think so. I mean, my favorite band of all time is Sleater-Kinney, and they’re a queer band. So they’ve always kind of had that. I’ve always felt that that’s the kind of platform to work towards. And I think artists like Patti Smith and Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna, those kinds of bands are super feminist and just do exactly what they want. And that’s really inspiring, especially when I was about 18 or something. I think it was important to have those kind of – I wouldn’t say role models, because I didn’t necessarily want to be exactly like that. I still had my own kind of thing going on. But I think to be able to hear bands like that when I was a bit younger was really helpful.

    Do you have any specific memories of when you first came across these bands?

    I remember when I was 18, me and my friend went to New York on a little holiday to see some bands play that we really liked from there. And when we were looking around some really old book shops, there was like a book on riot grrrl, Girls to the Front. I’d never heard of – I was familiar with Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney, but I hadn’t really looked into that whole scene. And although I don’t tend to really idolize riot grrrl as a thing now, because I know that it actually turned out to have had a lot of issues with it itself in terms of its community back then. But at the time, I was really into the idea of this kind of secret society of feminists, and they’re making zines and having secret meetings. So I remember reading that book and then getting way more into Bikini Kill and that being a really exciting time.

    You released your debut solo EP in 2019. Why did you feel like this was the right time to make and put out your debut solo album?

    I had enough songs, is the main thing. Because it’s quite hard to get enough songs together to make an actual whole album. But it was kind of down to timing, really, like I’m normally playing all the time with Muncie Girls. We just had a year off from really touring and I had all these songs that just so happened to be all written around the time that I was coming out. So they kind of all had this theme that didn’t really represent the band. It represented me, but it didn’t really represent the band because that’s not the whole band’s experience. So it kind of made sense to record all of those songs at the same time. And at the beginning of last year, while I was in Australia on tour, my friend basically just has a recording studio and was like, “Oh, why don’t we just do the whole album?” And then kind of everything went from there.

    With this album, I’m kind of trying to be more outwardly a queer artist, because this is the right time for me to do that. And I wasn’t ready to do that before with Muncie Girls. And plus, like, Muncie Girls aren’t a queer band as a whole. Like, that’s not been what we’re kind of trying to do with our project. And a lot of the songs are quite personal, and then Muncie Girls, songs are really political – not all of them, but a lot of them kind of have that undertone.

    I was wondering if you could talk more about the album’s title. What has the phrase Going to Hell come to mean for you, particularly in the context of the album?

    I hadn’t that title I’d planned out for ages. I had the whole record recorded and everything. And then I was trying to think of a title for the album and I knew I wanted it to either be a lyric or the title of a song, just because it’s kind of the easiest way to do that. And then I think it just made sense because that’s the only phrase within the album that kind of encompasses the idea of a few things that might be really going through my head at the time that I wrote it. Like I was saying, it’s about coming out as gay, so this whole thing about going to hell was in a way kind of over the top, you know, in terms of, like, imagery. But at the same time, I think a lot of people kind of forget that coming out is a really huge thing for some people. I’m not personally involved in any religious communities, and I grew up in an atheist family, so I don’t have any religious pressure or anything like that. But I did – I can’t remember why, but I did end up thinking about it, because it’s obviously a completely different story for people who do have those pressures and those really uncomfortable situations with their family or their community.

    As well as it being that, I thought it would be kind of cool, because if only queer people go to hell, then at least they’re not stuck in heaven with, like, only straight people. [laughs] So I thought that was kind of, you know – not so much reclaiming it, because I don’t particularly want to be associated with that. I’m not goth enough to get away with that. But after I chose it, at first I was like, “It’s kind of a cheesy name, I don’t know.” But I think the more I’ve sat with it, the more I think it suits the record.

    Moving on to some of the songs in particular, I love how ‘Whiskey’ sets up the whole theme of the album, how it builds and builds, and the series of questions feels almost, like, stream-of-consciousness style. It made me wonder whether you wrote that in one go.

    With songs that have quite a lot of lyrics in them, I tend to not be able to revisit them and finish them. So if I’ve written a song and it’s got one really long verse and a decent length chorus and then leave it, I’m not going to be able to come back and add more lyrics, because normally if I’ve got loads of words down it’s because I’m in a sort of headspace to just do that. And that song, I don’t even remember writing it. There’s a song that my band have which is called ‘Locked Up’ up, and in the same way, it’s just loads and loads of lyrics that sort of run along the same theme but also completely don’t at all. They’re just literally things that – you know when your head is just full of stuff? Sometimes it’s so helpful for me to just put it all down into a song and then be like, “Right, probably makes no sense, I’ll come back to it later.” And then, if I’m lucky, it makes a bit of sense. But it definitely is – not even a stream-of-consciousness but like, a stream-of-subconsciousness, almost, you know, just literally getting any words down.

    That makes me think of the next track, ‘80 Days of Rain’, which is like, a song about climate anxiety, but it doesn’t really start as one. Which I love, because it gets at how all these personal fears and insecurities can suddenly become enmeshed with an almost existential kind of dread. Is that a result of that process?

    I don’t know, I think it’s just a result of maybe being, like, millennial. I think it’s really hard for people in our generation to worry about one thing at a time, because there’s so much going on. And I don’t even know that people who live before us didn’t feel like this, maybe they did. But I think because of everything that we know, it’s impossible not to get completely overwhelmed. And for me, personally, it always comes at a time when I’m looking at my stuff and thinking about like, Okay, this is actually quite stressful right now. And then, as things kind of snowball, I’m like, Oh my god, and the planet’s about to burn into flames. And like, capitalism is ruining our society. And the more you worry, the more things add into your brain. And some people really have proper breakdowns over this kind of thinking. So I’m really lucky that I have songs to be able to put these thoughts into, because I think it’s really important to get thoughts down and figure out what you actually feel about certain things. But for me, definitely, once I’m worrying about one thing, like where I’m living or what I’m doing, then I’m suddenly like, wait, this is definitely the time to worry about climate change as well. [laughter] So I like to just pass on that worry, so I can worry about it a little bit less.

    With that in mind, what do you hope listeners take away from this album?

    That’s kind of a difficult question, because this album’s already completely surpassed what I thought was going to happen with it. I was literally just going to put it online and then ended up making friends with Get Better Records and now they’re putting it out. So I’m already surprised that anyone’s even listening to it. But I guess if I think about that now that I know that a few people are listening to it, I think what I really hope is that, because of the prevailing theme of coming out and entering into being a queer artist and really, really liking it – like, this is exactly what I want to be doing – I think that I just want anyone who is in a similar situation, who hasn’t got to the point where they realize that being queer is amazing, like, coming to terms with that. I think I just would love it if someone needed a bit of affirmation in that area and they found that in this record or in the things that I’m talking about, just because – they might not, you know, or the right person might not listen to it or might not take that from it. But I think that’s my intention for being kind of open about what this record is about. Because if more artists were that vocal when I was younger, and I was kind of starting out writing songs and like, just being in a band even, if I just heard more about what it was like to be gay, and just to be happy about it, and to be in a space musically where you’re actually loving it, then I would be like, “Oh, no way, being gay is really cool!” And maybe it’s not this terrible thing that I was taught when I was younger. I think that would have been really helpful for me, so that’s probably my biggest hope for it.

    This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

    Lande Hekt’s Going to Hell is out now via Get Better Records.

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