Having kids changes everything. Sometimes it means putting off a career move or waiting to take that big overseas trip. For Kegan Heiss and Heather Shore, the married indie-rock duo behind Hemlock for Socrates, it meant taking a break from music.
“We got back to it once the kids got a little older,” says Shore, whose two children with Heiss are now 7 and 9 years old.
Now, eight years after their 2011 album Waveforms, the two are releasing Barometrics on Jan. 17 with a release party at Glitter Box Theater. The event includes a screening of a film shot to accompany the new album, which was conceived and produced by Shore, Heiss, and his brother, Alaric, who has a background in film and animation.
The film contains a series of stories that go with each track and, as Heiss puts it, features visual motifs that pair with melodic or structural pieces in the music.
“It’s quite compelling,” says Shore. “We had some family members over who had a 6-year-old, and she was enthralled. If you can keep the kids involved, it’s definitely going to keep the adults engaged.”
The album adds another milestone in their decades-long relationship, both musically and as a couple. Now in their 40s, the two have been playing together in various bands since they met in high school. In 2010, they moved to Pittsburgh from Houston to be closer to family in their native Connecticut. After trying to organize another band, they decided to remain a duo.
Radiohead and The Knife are among the band's chief influences, which are somewhat reflected in the haunting style of Waveforms. “We’re sort of maudlin, maybe,” laughs Shore.
Heiss and Shore's current taste in music is an eclectic playlist featuring LCD Soundsystem and the indie-pop duo AM & Shawn Lee, as well as Cibo Matto, a pair of female Japanese musicians known for songs about food, noted chiptune artist and film scorer Disasterpeace, and composer Philip Glass.
Their approach to making music comes off as a true collaborative effort. Shore contributes most of the guitar work while Heiss handles the bass. Both appear as vocalists and work on keyboard and drum programming.
As for the lyrics and songwriting, the distinctions are less clear, as the two bounce ideas between each other.
“It’s usually the most successful when we can’t remember who wrote what,” says Heiss.
For Barometrics, Heiss says they wanted to move away from the traditional sound of the alternative or indie record scene, where it’s usually “three young guys in a band playing shows at clubs.” Guitar and keyboard feature heavily, but they also incorporate Shore’s background in classical music and opera.
In addition to the music, they wanted the album to cover heavier themes.
“Barometrics really is a lot about the changes in the world in the last decade or two, particularly the media and ability to be aware of so much more, and simultaneously how people are more and more isolated and self-perpetuating,” says Heiss. “In politics and personal life, there are all of these vehicles now to self-reinforce and I think a lot of what we were trying to do, both with the music and film, is address that.”
Shore says the album also covers their own personal experiences, particularly how their lives have changed as they got older.
In a time when musicians constantly churn out content in an attempt to stay relevant, Hemlock for Socrates views their extended break as giving them more time to pour over the album, include mastering it themselves and making the film.
And if you like Barometrics, there’s more to come.
“Because it’s been so long between these two albums, we actually have two more in process,” says Shore. “We’re hoping to get one more out this year and maybe come up with something to make it interesting.”