A band with a love/hate relationship with music, the record industry and most of all each other
Made up of singer Nick Wheeldon, guitarist Joel Robson, bass player Coline Presley, keyboard/organ player Kieron Wright and drummer Bruce Sargent, The Jesus Loves Heroin Band love and loathe most things. Bruce, Joel and Nick met through school and Sunday football matches and Kieron came on board via Joel’s gig nights in Sheffield.
“And there’s Coline as well,” laughs Nick. “We found her with her knickers round her ankles outside a gig.”
“She said she’d get us a French tour,” reasons Bruce. “So…”
Borrowing their button-pushing name from an old Flaming Lips song, ‘Jesus Shootin’ Heroin’, Nick admits, “I tried to rip it off, but I got the name wrong!” It’s also worth noting that the singer, although amply scratchy and vibrating in his vocals, was initially a reluctant frontman. But as the main songwriter he takes on the role of band dictator with some relish.
“We are his slaves,” moans Coline. “He arrives with a song and says you play that, you play this.”
“And then they play it wrong,” says Nick.
Coline: “He’s a tyrant!”
“It started off like that,” admits Nick “but I think everyone’s doing more of their own thing now.”
The band take their influences from Gene Clark, Gram Parsons, Reigning Sound, Calexico, The Felice Brothers, Roy Orbison and ‘odd ‘60s garage stuff’, and have been recording solo and in various guises since 2007. Songs like ‘Death Waltz’ and the grating garage shuffle of ‘To Be Your Man’ mix low-fi aesthetics with big prog tinged hooks.
Coline joined the band at the last minute following the departure of bass player Douglas Davenport as Kieron set up the band’s first gig in February. Then disaster struck as the bailiffs came calling and Coline got hit by a car. She went to hospital and received stitches for a head injury but went ahead with the gig anyway.
“She had a huge crack in her head,” exclaims Joel. “She bounced her head off the curb.”
“Show her the scar,” says Bruce, nudging Coline in prompt.
“How did I get through the gig?” asks Coline. “I was stoned! Plenty of drugs, they worked quite well.”
When not traffic targets, the band have a dizzying array of side projects. Joel records solo and as Miracle Suite with drummer Pete Devine, Kieron has his eponymous Kieron Wright Band, Coline is in French surf rock band ‘Elvis…’ and Bruce drums in The Hipshakes. Nick also plays with Hipshakes singer Andrew Anderson as The Creep Outs, but things have been put on hold since Andrew moved to America to study.
“I hope we can do some Creep Outs one day,” says Nick. “We’ve got another album to record. We’ve got all the songs ready, so we need to get together again.”
Back in JLHB land, a self-released debut album, ‘Slow Fever’, is already out there and there are plans to record a new record (called ‘Destroy Me’) in the next few weeks. The band are also about to embark on a tour of France over the Summer, true to Coline’s promise, it would seem. Mention of it sparks lots of bickering about the schedule and who’s driving.
“I’ve said I’ll buy the triangle and all the things you need to go abroad,” explains Nick. “Bruce is buying the van. Coline’s going to drive when we get over there.”
“I’m going to drive!” says Bruce.
“Can we fill the interview with stories about Bruce’s driving?” questions Nick before doing so anyway. “There was one time he was driving us to football, it was at night and he realised he hadn’t got his lights on, so instead of putting them on he just stopped in the middle of the road, looking for his lights. What are the other ones…?”
“There was the wrong lane on the roundabout,” offers Bruce.
Nick continues: “He went down the wrong side of the road, with cars coming towards him.”
“You went the French way,” says Coline “so you can drive in France!”
“We don’t actually know how long Coline’s going to be around for,” explains Nick. “We don’t want to put any pressure on her, but we really want her to go!” he jokes.
“Yeah,” she laughs “just leave me there, in the middle of the road after the last gig.”
As we leave the band to their squabbles, an argument about a recent party at Coline’s house strikes up. A beer fight took place; Nick retaliated and poured beer in Coline’s bed.
“It wasn’t that bad!” he insists to an outraged Coline who’s keen to point out it was three cans worth of booze. “What did I ever do to you?!” she asks.
After reviewing photographic evidence and an elaborate cartoon drawing of Nick hanging by a noose we leave them in a wrestling bear hug. It’s a fine line between love and hate and The Jesus Loves Heroin Band trample all over it.
By Kate Parkin
Originally published in issue 18 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. June 2010