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This article is from Issue 60: Nov/Dec 2012

The Heavy

How four Brits are going to save American rock and roll.

It's a sweltering August night in New York City, and the gentlemen of The Heavy have just finished prepping for a set on The Late Show With David Letterman. It’s a decent gig for any band, but it carries special import for these Brits, since their first performance on the show in 2009 landed them with the unique honor of being the only band ever to receive a request for an encore on the air from Letterman. No sooner had the boys finished a genuinely spine-tingling performance of “How You Like Me Now?” than Letterman, positively gushing, asked them play it again.

It was an understandable request. The Heavy may hail from Bath, England, but the music is about as American as it gets: swampy, funky, roots-infused rock that sounds like it’s being piped from a runaway train haunted by ghosts of the South’s savviest gospel choir.

“How You Like Me Now?” played as well with the rest of the nation as it did with Letterman, and The Heavy—comprised of Kelvin Swaby on vocals, Dan Taylor on guitar, Spencer Page on bass and Chris Ellul on drums—found themselves overnight stars, their music popping up on what felt like every other movie trailer, commercial, television show and soundtrack from 2009 till now.

On this August night, the band has just released its third album, The Glorious Dead, which digs even deeper into the guts of the Gothic South with crunchy guitars, funky horns and head-banging beats oozing from every note of every song and Swaby’s thrilling vocals laced over all of it—vocals that can swing from Sunday morning crooning to Friday night yelps at the drop of a pistol shot.

One might think a man about to attempt the re-dropping of Letterman’s jaw would be a nervy, distractible mess, but Swaby is as engaged in conversation as he is on stage.

And a few hours later, the band performed The Glorious Dead’s rollicking first single, “What Makes a Good Man?“ for Letterman ... who asked for another encore. Here’s Swaby: