4/8/2022 · MM028
Heart to Gold is a band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. To be even more specific, they’re three guys from Fridley and Columbia Heights, two towns on the north end of the Twin Cities. These facts are important: the three members of Heart to Gold share an intimate and reciprocal relationship with their hometowns. They celebrate and support one another.
The band’s upcoming second full-length record, Tom, is a swaggering, scrappy punk rock love letter to their hometowns and all the glory, pain, conflict, and reward that come from being of a place and a community and seeing both through, even to bittersweet ends. (Plus, it’s got an I Think You Should Leave reference.) It’s named for and dedicated to their best bud, Thomas Vescio, though his is not the mug leering goofily on the record’s cover. “That’s our bass player Sidian Johnson,” says singer and guitarist Grant Whiteoak. It’s an intentional feint: “It’s kinda silly, we knew people would think, ‘Oh, that must be Tom.’ Nope.”
The music on Tom, which follows their 2018 LP COMP, was written by Whiteoak between early 2019 and early 2021 before he convened with Johnson and drummer Blake Kuether to track at various locations across the Twin Cities, including Tangerine Recording Studio in St. Paul, TreeSpeak Studios in Minneapolis, and Whiteoak’s house.
It’s a fitting process for a record that tracks the formative emotional rollercoaster of life between the Twin Cities and Red Wing, Minneapolis, where the trio went to college. Whiteoak says the central motifs on Tom are deeply emotional. “It’s about maybe feeling not good enough, or just feeling like not appreciated for whatever reasons, whether that’s in your internal emotional capacity or from something external,” he says. “It’s not an emo record, but it’s not a bubblegum pop record.”
It may not be either, but Tom steals from both ends of that spectrum, copping the chipper Midwest energy of The Weakerthans alongside the spacious, expressive emo of American Football and the thrashing, perfectly-ordered messiness of Hüsker Dü. Opener “Gimme A Call” blasts in with Weezer riffing and Whiteoak’s voice, belting and strained, crooning, “If you’re ever feeling alone…” before gang vocals respond, “Just gimme a call!”
Lead single “Respect” launches with vivid major-key crunch and bright chording, with Whiteoak’s furious, pitch-perfect howl: “I wanna bathe in the blood of those who deny that we all just really want the same thing the whole damn time!” A slide guitar lead soars behind the chorus, layering a familiar aesthetic with a humble, rootsy tinge.
Second single “Overwhelmed” is appropriately intense and dark, an anxious anthem for people who can’t control a racing mind. Whiteoak explains it's not so much a woe-is-me track as frustration with an inability to permanently fix things: “It’s more like, ‘I know how to help myself, and we know how to figure it out, but we still deal with these issues,’” he laughs.
Elsewhere, “Tigers Jaw” namechecks the Pennsylvania band over a fitting post-hardcore workout that melts away into a tense, tired outro, as a voice talks through an internal dialogue: “Who you think you are is entirely dependent on who people have told you you are.” Acoustic lo-fi strummer “Capo” showcases a Dallas Green-esque softness in Whiteoak’s vocal range, complementing the thunderous roar heard elsewhere on the record.
Finally, “Mary” brings things to a close. After a mid-tempo punk rock blast to start the six-minute-plus track, a quiet guitar riff and driving stomps lead in a choir of voices, shouting in harmony: “Mary I’m young and able, I wanna get this bread/So I can share it with all, with all my broke-ass friends!” Before a triumphant, volcanic outro, Whiteoak leaves us with the record’s last words: “I’m just a little kid.”
It’s a fitting send-off for a trio of childhood friends from different scenes across Minneapolis, who came up on the DIY aesthetic of The Germs, Nirvana, and The Ramones, the anthemics of Joyce Manor and Title Fight, and a deep love of hardcore. (“We wanna be a hardcore band, but we don’t know how,” says Whiteoak.) Once the band started working and playing around Minneapolis, Whiteoak knew there was only one option: keep Heart to Gold going. “I was basically like, ‘I wanna try doing this or I wanna die,’” he says. The band’s shows continue to draw wilder and more dedicated crowds.
Tom celebrates and bolsters this energy: it is the unmistakable product of an independent punk band putting on for, and being revved up by, their community.