It took a while for Teenage Movie Soundtrack, the sophomore LP from the Charleston-based grungy pop-rock trio Heyrocco, to come out. The band — guitarist/vocalist Nathan Merli, bassist Chris Cool, and drummer Tanner Cooper — began while its members were in high school and quickly won a dedicated local following on the strength of their debut effort Comfort, a collection of demos that the band wrote and recorded while in their teens. The songs for the follow-up came quickly after, but the group aborted a few recording sessions and carefully shopped it around before signing with UK/Europe label Vital Music Group, Dine Alone Records in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and Old Flame Records in the US.
"We're going to try and put [the next one] out right away and not get caught up in a bunch of label bullshit and all these timelines and release dates. I think it's all pretty silly," Merli says now, although he's quick to point out how happy he is with all of the band's business relationships. Once Vital Music Group signed Heyrocco, a management group and European booking agent followed, as well as a U.S. label, and the group has managed three overseas tours and gained an envious international profile.
"The [overseas] shows have been pretty sweet," Merli admits. "We've had fans coming out from long distances, even coming to two or three different shows. It almost felt like we are a jam band or something."
He also describes fans clamoring for a vinyl copy of the new album, something which helped shift his perspective on the long-gestating record. "I'm a little bit of a crazy person sometimes about my own material, but I guess that's pretty normal. I go back and forth about whether I'm in love with it or not, but since it's been out and totally available I've really dug it," he says. "For the longest time it was really frustrating because we had this record that was about a bunch of teenage problems and I was 19, then 20, and then what the hell? I don't even care about this stuff anymore. But now that it is finally out and you can physically hold the record, that's been so cool."
It's clear that Merli has reveled in the critical reception of the album, which has won praise for its thematic consistency, marriage of '90s grunge and pop-rock, and endless supply of emotionally earnest hooks, but he is also looking ahead. As a young band, Heyrocco seemed to forthrightly wear its influences on its sleeve, but that might change going forward.
"I don't really even listen to music as much anymore to be honest," he says. "For a long time it influenced me so heavily. I'd get a record and listen to it 100 times and be like, 'OK, this is what I want to do.'"
On the new material, Merli promises a sound that's "pretty heavy musically."
"Lyrically it's getting lighter, a little more carefree though," he says. "The stories on Teenage Movie Soundtrack are pretty much just one thing, and it would be really difficult to interpret it in any other way. There's a lot of double and triple entendre in some of these new songs, and I can't wait to get off the road and piece it together."
And despite his frustrations with timelines and release dates, Heyrocco hopes to stick with many of their existing business relationships going forward. They also intend, in whatever way they can, to shine light on the South Carolina music scene they've come from, something Merli says they do wherever they go.
"We haven't played there as much recently because for the longest time we were trying to get out," he admits. "It's really easy to get caught up there and stuck because it's one of the most beautiful places you can live. But we hear from people all the time that there's not a ton of music out of here that has even made it over to the U.K. and Europe and stuff. People don't even really know Hootie and the Blowfish stuff. So we're like, 'That's cool,' but we try to rep it."