You can’t stop evolution. Sure, you can try not believing in it. But eventually, it will catch up with you. As H.G. Wells once wrote, “adapt or perish.” Brooklyn noise trio A Very Special Episode decided to put their own spin on that with the title of their debut full-length, FIX YOUR HEARTS OR DIE.
It’s a fitting title for the cathartically dark record. Citing influences like Sonic Youth, Japanese Breakfast, and local heroes The Royal They, the band exists between the polar opposites of place-your-guitar-in-front-of-the-fucking-amp-and-light-the-drumset-on-fire and I-can’t-go-out-tonight-I’m-journaling. The record is a perfect snapshot of AVSE at this point in time - as musicians, participants in their community, and individual thinkers.
“FIX YOUR HEARTS OR DIE is a cautionary warning about hardening your hearts to people and ideas that you don’t understand,” says Kasey Heisler, the band’s primary vocalist and bass player. Guitarist Patrick Porter adds, “running away from self-reflection and introspection can fast track a person into a place of bitterness and defensiveness that is even more mentally damaging.”
Granted, if embracing change is the name of the game, then you can track the band’s growth through the record itself, although you may not recognize it. AVSE began tracking the album in 2019, and had around half of it done before the events of 2020 put a pause on its quick completion. When you put on FIX YOUR HEARTS OR DIE, you are listening to a band that took time for self-reflection and evaluation, and came back even stronger with an excellent record under their belt. With shows beginning to come back, the band’s exuberant confidence, unitary mindset, and consistently excellent songs prove that they’ve never fit into their skin so well.
However, it doesn’t matter if you’re a fan or if you’re new to the club - the band invites you to absorb the record however best resonates with you. “We believe it is important for people to connect to the mood and pathos of the music,” says Kasey. “I don’t necessarily connect to the lyrics in music that I listen to as much as I used to, so if people can’t personally relate to the lyrics or themes, that is okay.” That’s not to say the lyrics don’t mean anything, though, especially considering the album’s overall mission statement. “Some of the characters throughout [the album] really embody the message of needing to ‘fix your heart,’ such as the titular “Cowboy” and the guy who catcalled me on the subway and then shit-talked me to the other passengers when I ignored him - who inspired the song ‘Spent.’” says Kasey. “[The album title] became the glue that bound the tracks together,” chimes in Patrick.
And what an adhesive it is! There are times when FIX YOUR HEARTS OR DIE makes your blood rush as if you’re about to be kicked off the edge of a cliff (“Weather The Storm,” “Introspectre”), but there are other times when it invites you to sit with it and contemplate the positions you hold and the space you take in the world (“Evergreene,” “Fuck Everything”), and still, other parts where it holds you between those two extremes (“DFP,” "Cowboy”).
That said, FIX YOUR HEARTS OR DIE will certainly be making rounds through your friends’ music rotation, so now’s a good time to tune in. The band will be playing shows and touring in support of the record this year, and doing their best to support others with similar visions. “We go to a lot of shows,” laughs the band’s drummer Chayse Schutter. “Do you have a show coming up? We’ll come to you!” Since the band has been a major supporting force in the New York DIY music scene, it's their turn to give more than just their admission fee. And boy, are they giving us something special.
Photos 3 & 5 taken by Aimee Anthony, photo 4 taken by Carlo Minchillo