“Proving once again that downtown New York City is still the world’s greatest incubator for awesome rock music, along come dynamic duo known as Naked Hearts. The twosome of Amy Cooper (guitar and vocals) and Noah Wheeler (bass, drums, and vocals) have done things the good old-fashioned way–by playing lots and lots and lots of shows in tiny clubs and bars all over the city. In less than a year after forming, the band had already managed to establish itself as a formidable live act and a songwriting force to be reckoned with. Two-piece bands might be all the rage now, but Naked Hearts put a fresh spin on things, crafting songs that are equal parts tough and sweet.”
Recently, I spoke with Amy Cooper of Naked Hearts. Here’s what she had to say:
How did Naked Hearts start?
I had been playing songs and releasing CDs under my solo name, Amy Cooper, for a while before I had met Noah. He was in a couple of other bands but, met at Piano’s in New York. I was on tour at the time but when we met we really recognized that we had a similar approach, and we just had a connection. We hit it off after seeing each other play. He ended up coming on tour with me and playing drums and harmony. On that tour we started writing songs together. It just happened, and we were like “cool, we’re doing this now”. It just came out of him playing with me and we had chemistry, musically. So I moved back to New York, at the time I was living in LA. We just started doing Naked Hearts and performing, the two of us together.
Both of us are really interested in recording so that’s the first thing we did. I have a four-track and an eight-track. We started experimenting with them and making demos, and showing them to people and getting gigs, meeting other bands with the same kind approach and, that’s how we first started getting into the scene. We played at Cake Shop, I knew Andy Bodor very well. It’s owned by cool people and that was our somewhere to start. So we played a couple shows at Cake Shop, and we started building through that and we kept working. It takes time with figuring out how to record, who to record with. We just had these four-track demos and then we recorded an EP with one of friends in Brooklyn. And we just recorded a full length album. We’ve been in a band for 2.5 years.
How did you get your start in music?
I guess I was always around musicians, all my friends were musicians, and I loved going to see music. As a child I played piano and in high school I started playing the guitar and immediately afterwards I started writing songs. I was doing it for fun but I had a friend in San Francisco, and he was like, “wow, these songs are really good,” so I recorded a demo and he showed it to a musician in San Francisco with whom I ended up recording a record. And after that I was just hooked. I love making records, I love playing music. So I decided to pursue that.
How do you get your name out?
There isn’t a business formula for it, you’re just doing what you do, and following what feels right. You play with bands that you love, and make every show count. It’s not just about playing all kinds of shows. You have to play shows with people you like and at clubs that you think are run by cool people. People just see you there. “You’re great. I want to introduce you to this person.” It’s a matter of putting yourself at the right place at the right time. But you can’t really do that so, do what you think is good. You never know who is going to be there. We’re playing a Vice Magazine show in Mexico City in May just because there was a girl in New York who happened to see us play live and now she’s taking us down to Mexico City. It’s just a matter of people seeing you
Do you have a manager?
No, we don’t.
How does that affect you as a band?
Until we find the right person, it forces us to make decisions for ourselves and we have to work harder. But, in the end, it adds to what we’re doing. We have been approached by managers. But if we don’t connect with them or if they’re in it for the wrong reasons…we have to make sure that it’s the right person before we commit to that kind of thing. We’re talking to someone who could pan out. We’re at the point of feeling each other out. He say us play when we opened up for The Raveonettes show in Philidelphia.
I got in contact with you through Janelle, at Green Light Go Music Publicity. What does she do for you?
Janelle’s working press. She worked with a friend’s band called Star Fucker, now they’re called Pyramid. They really enjoyed working with her and they said she’s a fun person to work with. She’s doing the online, press stuff and magazine stuff.
Do you have a booking agent?
We did have a booking agent, but we decided not to work with him anymore, not for any reason other than we just thought that at this point, we’d do our own booking until we find someone who we think can move us to the next step.
Do you guys have day jobs?
The both of us work. We’re not at the point of just making money off of music. But music’s our passion; it’s what we put all of our energy into. I work at a photography school. Its something I’m really interested in and that I’ve been doing it for as long as I’ve been doing music. Noah teaches music lessons.
Is there anything about the prospect of fame that drives you?
I don’t think I can entirely say no, but it’s not the reason why I’m doing it. Obviously, I want to share my music with as many people as possible. But that’s something that goes along with fame and in our culture, that’s how it’s seen. If it’s possible not to be famous but to share my music with a lot of people, that would be cool too.
Where do you guys play?
We play at the Glasslands in Brooklyn, Union Pool, Mercury Lounge, Knitting Factory. We’re living in Greenpoint so we play in Brooklyn a lot. Cake Shop and Mercury Lounge are where we play pretty regularly in Manhattan.
Other than playing live shows, how do you guys spread the word about your band?
Online is definitely a major way. That’s how people hear our music if they haven’t seen us. At this point, Facebook is really big. Twitter is cool too, we do that as well. And YouTube.
But, being in New York, being out and about and going to shows, and meeting people, it’s a great way to spread the word about your band.
We’re about to release a new video, we haven’t had a music video yet. And our new record is being released on May 11. That’s what we’re looking forward to right now.
What was it like making a music video?
It was really cool. We were in California, and we were using Super 8. I have a couple of friends that filmed it. It was so much fun, it was awesome, we were outdoors and on the beach. It was really natural feeling.
What song was it for?
Call me—it’s actually up on MySpace.
We got some footage from a live show we did in Panama last year so we’ll be putting that up too.
How people buy your music?
People can buy our music on iTunes or Insound.com, our EP is on vinyl.
Have you guys toured?
Last summer we toured the west coast with Powerful Powers from Seattle. We’ve also done some regional touring, up and down the east coast. We’re gonna do that again this summer, in July, with the These Knees.
How do you plan a band without a booking agent?
We’re setting up a tour with a band who’s toured before, so between the two of us we have several contacts. If you’re a good band, people remember you. So, you just keep contacts with the people whose venues you’ve played at, especially if they were responsive to your music and said that you’ve got to come back. So you go back to where it seems like people were responding to you the best, and between us there are enough towns. You just have to give yourself enough time [laughs].
You were in a 2009 issue of Interview. How did that happen?
That was so awesome. The same writer just recently wrote up something about us on Soundgirl.com. His name’s T. Cole Rachel. He’s an incredibly awesome guy and super cool writer. He heard about us through a friend of his, and checked us out and just loved us and just wanted to include us. We’re good friends now.
Anyway, to be in a magazine, especially that one, it was really awesome for me, because there’s so much history with it. It’s such a huge part of New York and it has represented so many amazing artists. It’s always been a cool magazine and I always read it. I always read it. It felt great. It’s something you show your grandma. We were actually just written up in The New Yorker. That was really cool too. We got calls from people all of the US. That’s how you hope your music is. You hope that you can reach people from all over the place.
Most memorable memory?
Most recently, it was The Raveonettes show at TLA. It was the first really big stage that we’ve played on and we were received really well. It was so cool to have the audience packed to the front, ready to hear you play. It was such good energy, it really makes you shine when you have people that excited and ready to hear what you’ve got to say. That was a real rush. The people that run the club are really awesome, too. It was a really magical day and night.
Hopes for the future?
I hope that we’re able to still continue to make records. The main hope that I have is to be able to tour Europe; we would love to do that. We would just like to live being able to tour four to five times a year, and to plan our lives around tours. We’d record when we’re not touring. I think it’s totally possible. You just really have to keep doing what you want to be doing. There are a lot of ups and downs, and if you really love something, you just continue doing it and things will happen the way they’ll happen. I have faith that you’ll end up doing what you want to do for sure.