I first came across Tuval & The Heights at the 2014 Drill Festival. The three piece, who have only been together about a year and a half, radiated talent and played a sound that lives long in the memory mixing an early Bombay Bicycle Club with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jeff Buckley. The man behind the music, Tuval Schneerson, is also in another band called Object Object with his drummer, but this solo project gives us all a glimpse of what the 19 year old is capable of as well as what is to come. I met Tuval for a drink to find out more about him and his latest EP Obscure Salvation.
Where did you grow up?
I lived I London until I was 5 years old when my family moved to Brighton. My family is from Israel so I go over there to visit quite often.
I’ve heard Israel has a great music scene?
Definitely in Tel Aviv. I have made some friends over there so we always see some music in grotty bars, similar to Brighton but with a strong middle-eastern twist. I definitely get something from going over there and hearing the music.
What music where you brought up on?
Where I come from in London there was a lot of Reggae music. Also lots of different styles of music, especially Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd which I still really love. My dad is a bit of a synth wizard as well.
Can you remember the first album you owned?
It was probably from one of my dad’s old music folders – there was a Led Zeppelin collection, Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced. One of the first albums I brought was ACDC’s Highway To Hell. From the age of eleven I was obsessed with ACDC and Iron Maiden.
Can you remember the first time you picked up an instrument?
Probably when I was ten years old. I went up into the attic and there was an old acoustic guitar with two strings. I used to just bang that guitar until my fingers would bleed, trying to figure out songs on those two strings. I was then introduce to an electric guitar, which my parents found next to a dust bin.
How do you attack the writing and recording process?
A lot of the songs start with me on guitar and then I’ll sing over it. It is mainly just me playing all the instruments so I try and picture the whole arrangement; adding textures, synths and guitar layers. Simple ideas usually move into something completely different as the life of the arrangement comes together.
Has your music always been in a similar style?
When I was about thirteen I played a bit of Metal which then moved on to playing Dub/Reggae and Drum & Bass – both a million miles away from what I play at the moment. I was in a band called Mellowphonic which played Funk-Rock, kind of Red Hot Chili Pepper esque but with a more Jimi Hendrix twist. That was certainly different to my music now, but not too far away.
When did you start Tuval & The Heights?
I first release a solo EP on my own last year as Tuval called Slide, which was a bit like James Blake production wise with electronic drums performing with a looping pedal. I kind of envisioned how it could come together with musicians, and met Edward Myers (drums) and Liam Toller (bass) at Northbrook College (which I was also going to for music) to do a one off gig. We all jammed really well – the songs have a studio identity, but live they would take a different form.
What would you say are your main influences?
There are a few musicians that have stayed with me as well as a few newer ones. Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Buckley are the more obvious ones. Heavier stuff like Dinosaur Jr and Nirvana. I’m really into Flying Lotus and the stuff he does with Thundercat, also St Vincent. I’m also influenced by a lot of beat poetry as well as various literature and philosophy. The Doors are probably my favourite band ever.
What inspires the lyrics?
At the moment, most of my songs have been about my own experiences. I like to conjure up images which have been a kind of an expression. I haven’t quite got to the point where I can write a story about something else yet.
Tell us a bit about your latest EP Obscure Salvation?
There is a dreamy and surreal feel to it. It is almost the first peak into what is to come, as I have a lot of new songs in the pipeline to go towards an album. ‘In My Head’ is the only song on the EP that has The Heights playing on drums and bass, and it gives you an idea of the direction we are going in.
What has been a musical eye-opener?
Definitely something like The Doors was eye-opening – ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ is the first track on their debut, and it made me want to see what was on the other side. One of the great musical experiences for me was when I was twelve years old at Glastonbury Festival watching Neil Young perform ‘Hey Hey My My’, it was just such a strong experience. I am constantly having eye-opening moments, each month. For instance, Kendrick Lamar’s new album To Pimp A Butterfly absolutely blew my mind.
What would be your perfect line-up of any 3 acts for a concert and where would you put it on?
I would have Led Zeppelin opening up, followed by The Doors, with Jimi Hendrix headlining – maybe at the Green Door Store. That would be the gig of all gigs in my eyes.
If you could work with any artist, who would it be and what would they bring to Tuval & The Heights?
There are a lot of people from the past that I would love to work with who are my obvious favourites. But ideally I would want to work with Flying Lotus – he is doing some amazing collaborations, blending elements of Jazz and Hip-Hop. That would be something which would be a great experience.
What are your future plans?
I’ll keep gigging, performing and meeting as many people as I can, as well as working towards the album. I might be doing a collaboration. I will try and travel a bit as I like to get influences from everywhere, maybe South America to get some Latino grooves in me.