Meet the band with a heart of gold and a cache of pop songs to match
Jackie Butler introduces a London outfit poised on the edge of greatness.
Hands up if you've heard of a band called Goldheart Assembly? Hmmn, five of you? I thought so. That's a real shame, but hardly surprising considering the London-based indie pop ensemble have never ventured down to play in the Westcountry... until now.
Their big, lush, sweet, harmonic, melodic pop sound deserves a much larger audience and it's true to say that the singing and songwriting core duo of James Dale and John Herbert have come very close to major success at times in the past six years.
Their debut album, Wolves and Thieves, was released in 2010 and they've been hotly tipped by Radio 1's Steve Lamacq and the hardest-to-please music press, played high-profile support shows and festivals all over Europe and in 2011 toured the US and sold out a headline show at the 1,000-plus capacity Scala in central London.
"We've seen a lot of bands overtake us in terms of record deals, but we are really serious about music as art and having longevity," says James.
Being the "next big thing" is akin to being always the bridesmaid and never the bride and it's about time Goldheart Assembly got wed.
I'm not thinking a flashy Las Vegas do, or a posh arm-and-a-leg mansion extravaganza; I envisage a swift register office ceremony followed by a party that lasts way into the starlit night in a country field marquee full of friends, family, cake and cava.
Band founders James and John – much acclaimed for their sibling-like harmonies – will certainly be in the right place for such an affair when they make their first trip to Exeter and Falmouth next month as part of their tour supporting the Magic Numbers.
They will be armed with the band's moreish new album, Long Distance Song Effects, and a plan to deliver its contents in stripped-back acoustic form – another first. How some of the epic, filmic moods of the record – mostly laid down in a studio by a beautiful Swiss lake at Lucerne – translate to just guitar and voice will be a real challenge, but one they are happy to rise to.
"We demoed 40 songs to start with, then recorded 24; originally we wanted it to be a double album, but we realised no-one was going to release one of those," admits James. "We just wanted it to be very ambitious and a decent body of work. We had no time constraints or record company to please."
Once recorded, the album was picked up by the New Music Club label and released through EMI.
James and John met at Royal Holloway university ten years ago and started out gigging as a covers duo when ardent music fan James was running a club night in London's Covent Garden.
His mother used to own a record shop in Chiswick, and his musical landscape while growing up featured a lot of early Atlantic vocal bands like the Drifters and the Coasters.
"We had a lot of old vinyl – lots of Phil Spector – and that's the stuff I remember enjoying the most," recalls James, 30. "I grew up with Britpop, of course, and then I got heavily into the Beatles and Bob Dylan, then Tom Waits and weird experimental stuff. It's been a long journey and I'm still on it."
His father, Paul, was a singer with a British heavy metal band called Marseilles. "He talked about the music industry a lot and it sounded intriguing."
James and John are equally prolific as songwriters, in a Beatles-esque partnership, and are already stocking up on fresh tunes.
"We want to put another LP out next year. If you go away too long, people forget who you are," muses James.
Hopefully it will be a case of once seen and heard, never forgotten down here in the loyal Westcountry.
Goldheart Assembly play two dates with the Magic Numbers next month – Exeter Phoenix on September 6 and the Princess Pavilion, Falmouth, on September 7.