In a city that loves its indie music scene as much as it loves its coffee, its rain and its fashion, it is strange that a band as talented as the Heartfelt Apologies has slipped under the radar for this long.
The trio has been making music together for a year and has cultivated a loyal core following, but many in the gay community are just now hearing of them for the first time.
Consisting of siblings Melissa and Andrew Barton plus percussionist Kera Doherty, the blues-folk band gave arguably the best musical performance of Pride at Rhizome Café this summer.
Although only singer and chief lyricist Melissa identifies as queer, the band has made a conscious commitment to writing inclusive, queer-positive songs.
“For me, it’s hard to write about love from my point of view because I have such a unique experience,” says Melissa. “I write more about friendship, that’s something I can understand. When you’re queer, friendships tend to be really important, especially if you are alienated from your family or anything like that and that’s really influenced my song writing.”
Their second studio album, Polish and Rust to be released in late December, covers a wide spectrum of sound, from ballads to rock, and represents an amalgamation of previous demos as well as new music written specifically for this record.
The end result is a robust and joyous record reminiscent of many great folk rock bands of the past, with its banjo, acoustic guitar, tom tom and sparkling harmonies.
“We had a bunch of songs we had previously recorded, so when we made this album we didn’t pick the ones we all thought would be hits or the ones we liked the most, we picked the ones that would fit the best on this album,” says guitarist Andrew Barton. “We have a lot more material and I can’t wait to record those ones, too. As it is right now, it’s solid. For me, it’s my second baby.”
The brother-sister team have been making music together for two decades.
“When we were four or five, we used to take a recorder and do the Andrew and Melissa show and we would play Beatles music and say it was us, a band called The Winners and we would sing along,” Melissa says.
“I have this tape somewhere of us singing about how great we were and how sometimes we get flushed down the toilet and then Andrew would hold the recorder up to the toilet and flush it and we would laugh hysterically.
“We would interview our cousins who were really shy. We thought we were a great tandem.”
Stepping into a situation where a brother-sister team has been creating music all their lives can be intimidating, but Doherty says the transition was easy.
“When I first met Melissa, she had sent me the link to her website that had all of the band info on it and I immediately thought that this was someone who was really cool,” the percussionist says.
“We ended up having a lot in common. Our whole friendship was a natural progression. I got to know Andrew and it became apparent that these guys had something really great.”
Due to family commitments and the pressure to simply stay solvent in a city like Vancouver, the trio has kept touring and performing to a minimum, but once Polish and Rust is released, the Lower Mainland will likely have a chance to see the Heartfelt Apologies for themselves.
“The beginning of fall is when a lot of folk fests take place,” Melissa says. “If we can get the demos in, we could try the Island Folk Fest, maybe the one in Maple Ridge or the Golden Spike Days, but we need to know in advance. Andrew has a kid and Kera runs a business and I’m taking a few courses in school, but we can play around doing some shows. I don’t think any of us want to be rock stars, but I think it might be nice to perform more. I feel such a rush performing for people.”
With over 100 original songs, 40 of which are stage-ready, the group hardly goes a day without creating new material, either for themselves or for bands with a completely different sound.
“I wrote ‘Green Eyed Girl’ thinking about Clay Aiken, which doesn’t really work now but he could still sing a song about a girl if he wanted,” Melissa says. “I never kid myself into thinking I have the best voice for all of my songs but I record them because I want them to be heard. That’s what every song writer wants, whether they record it themselves or not. That’s the real validation. It’s not the accolades, it’s simply knowing that people are listening to them. That’s the big payoff, at least for me.”