Mister Heavenly

Formed in 2010, Mister Heavenly consists of Honus Honus of Man Man, Nicholas Thorburn of Islands and The Unicorns, and Jo Plumber, who's drummed with both Modest Mouse and The Shins. While they are all committed to other bands, don't call them a supergroup. Instead, think of them as a contemporary, alternative band that also appreciates older, R&B music.

In these early stages, the group gets the most attention for its sometime bassist, the actor Michael Cera. However, one listen to the group's debut album Out of Love and it's clear that there's more going for the trio than a high profile celebrity relationship. Here's our talk with their lead singer Honus Honus
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): You have a song called "Mister Heavenly."

Honus Honus: We do.

Songfacts: So the question is: did the song come first or the band?

Honus: The band came first, and we figured we needed an eponymous track. We like the kind of wink and a nudge about it, because in the song we sing that we're not Mr. Heavenly.

Songfacts: You decided you had to have an eponymous song to go with the name of the band?

Honus: Which, where in the song we sing that we're not Mister Heavenly.

Songfacts: Is there any kind of a spiritual influence, or is it just a great name for a song?

Honus: We were just trying to hearken back to 1950s doo-wop names, and definitely cooked it up - it's not really spiritual.

Songfacts: What doo-wop groups do you like best?

Honus: Well, actually, I'm a big fan of old R&B, like Geno Washington. But I'm a big fan, too, of early James Brown. I mean, "Please, Please, Please Try Me."

Songfacts: Ballads and stuff like that. He had so many different sides, because he had his funk side, but he could sing.

Honus: He could sing his ass off. And I was more into that stuff than the punk side.

Songfacts: Tell me about your song "Pineapple Girl" - what is a pineapple girl?

Honus: Well, the song is actually about Noriega.

Songfacts: Oh, really?

Honus: Well, in the '80s he had a pen-pal relationship with a 10-year-old girl from Michigan named Sarah York. You can look it up. She saw him on the Nightly News and she was really taken with his hate. So she wrote him a letter and he personally responded back, and they started a pen-pal relationship. And it ended with him inviting her and her mother to come to Panama. And when the U.S. government found out they strongly advised against it. But they still went and they had a good time. So we did our own version of it where the little girl is not attracted to his hat, but to his evil, dark nature. And the pineapple girl is a reference to the fact that his nickname was Pineapple Head, Pineapple Face.

Songfacts: Because of his acne and everything?

Honus: His scars and everything, yeah.

Songfacts: And whose idea was it to come up with that song?

Honus: It was my idea. When I was a kid my dad was in the Air Force, and one of the things that he was involved in was the extraction of Noriega. He was part of a huge amount of people that were involved on that.

Songfacts: So you're from a military family?

Honus: Yeah, I'm an Air Force brat.

Songfacts: You didn't go into the military; you didn't want to get into that like your dad?

Honus: No.

Songfacts: Music is a lot safer.

Honus: Well, it's a nomadic lifestyle.

Songfacts: Did you move around a lot as a kid?

Honus: Like, every three years. It's kind of ironic that I drifted into a similar occupation.

Songfacts: There's another song that you did, "Hologram."

Honus: The song title came first with that one. That's how Nick (Thorburn) writes some of the songs. He'll come up with the title first. And he sent me the title and I wrote a song in reaction to the title. It was kind of a jokey song, but then it turned into what it became. The nice thing about having another songwriter and a different point of view is that if I hit a wall, I could just hand off the baton, basically. And vice versa. But we wrestle over who doesn't get to do the choruses.

Songfacts: The chorus is the best part.

Honus: Yeah, that's where you have to write the hook.

Songfacts: Do you think of yourself as a supergroup? You all have other groups.

Honus: No. That comment makes me kind of wince.

Songfacts: A power trio?

Honus: Well, neither Nick nor I have any Top 40 hits. So I think we're friends who came together and on a whim ended up making a great record together.

Songfacts: Do you get tired of being asked about Michael Cera playing bass with you guys?

Honus: No, he's our friend and he's a great bass player.

Songfacts: Is he really a good musician?

Honus: Yeah, he's a great musician. And we brought him along for one tour. Little did we know that it would be so crazy. But he was our friend and we needed a bass player.

Songfacts: But then you get all that attention and people go to see him and not hear the music.

Honus: I feel like if we put out a bad record and the songwriting stunk, then I'd be concerned, but I'm not concerned. I think the songs speak for themselves.

Songfacts: You named your new album Out of Love, which is also one of the songs. What's going on there?

Honus: I think it's just a sensibility. The genre that Nick coined was Doom-Wop, so it's a double idea that a record was made out of love or to do something out of love, or I'm out of love, I have no more love to give anyone.

Songfacts: That can't possibly be true, right?

Honus: I think for Nick it means one thing and for me it means the other.

We spoke with Honus on September 4, 2011. Get more at misterheavenly.com.
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