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Having faith in Heavenly Beat

by Samuel Hernandez

John Peña, performing in a beat up t-shirt, holes in the side, or completely put on the wrong way, but tucked in, labors over each song, spending the kind of time new parents spend with newborns. Heavenly Beat may have started off as just a side project but is now Peña’s attempt to find perfection in his music.

Samuel Hernandez: How have early live performances compared to where the band is at now?

JP: Early performances were disappointing on a personal level. It was just an iPod and a microphone. It was a truly dehumanizing artistic experience. The harshest reviews I have ever read all came after those first shows. Reviewers were quick to ask “who the fuck does this guy think he is doing his karaoke up on stage.”

It was kind of hilarious how offended people got.

SH: What do you think about the more obsessive or dedicated fans?

JP:  I remember how excited I got when bands I liked were putting out music. Now it’s hard for me to gauge who even likes Heavenly Beat. The process is usually me sitting in my room playing on my guitar. Who could possibly be interested in what I’m doing. It’s incredible to know there are actually people waiting for something to come out.

SH: Did the move from Texas to Brooklyn change how you made your music?

JP:  My environment is not something that I take that much inspiration from. Most of my inspiration comes from looking in. It’s not really hermetic so much as what I want to do. There are moments when I’m out drinking with friends and 100% of the time I’d rather be at home alone working on music.

In that same regard, I hate artist bios. I spent five months deeply entrenched in this music. Summing that up every time that I play it. More reviewers and critics are going to spend more time with the bios that are written than actually listening to the music.

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Live show seem to be a source of pleasure for Peña, as he thrashes his guitar around the stage, thoroughly enjoying and criticizing each movement, one chord struck at a time. The ecstasy is profound and highlighted by the sharp harmonica that brings a blues motion to already diverse music.

SH: So much effort is clearly put into the production of the vinyl records, from the strong pink of Talent to the gold of Prominence, where does that come from?

JP: Aesthetics are really important to me. The attention to detail comes from being appealing to the casual viewer. I really like simple designs that don’t say much.

SH: From iPod performances to playing with a live band, where is Heavenly Beat headed?

JP: I want to be dedicated to my music. I’ve spent the last 14 months getting good at my craft.

SH: Did growing up Hispanic influence your music at all?

JP: Being Hispanic has definitely influenced everything about who I am as a human being. It’s inescapable, my parents both spoke Spanish growing up, it’s just who we were. It has definitely shaped me as who I am as a human but I don’t think my ethnicity has really come into play directly with the music I’m making.

I would love for someone who is Hispanic to look and be inspired by what I’ve been able to accomplish.

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The upcoming album, Prominence, out October 15, takes on a different direction. Before where the music floated on a carefree sex appeal, darker themes have seeped into the infectious beats. Heavenly Beat makes room for melancholy moments. They’re a band on the rise, with something to prove.