Could you make music with your partner? False Heights show the world how it’s done

False Heights are an indie pop duo who call New Zealand home. They’ve just released their debut EP No? Who…?they’ve been playing shows together for two years, and they’re also in a relationship.

Given the pressures afforded to touring musicians, it’s a system you don’t see around that often. We spoke to Ashley Pirie and April Nisbet to find out just how they do it.

false heights interview

How do you make a band and a relationship work at once? Ashley and April of False Heights interview one another to find out.

ASHLEY: Since forming False Heights, what has changed for you?

APRIL: Well, I am no longer a closet musician going to open mics once a week. I’m a ‘recording artist’, and we’ve been in the NZ charts. Oooh! I now play two keyboards! At once! To be fair it’s not that hard, but it looks cool.

ASHLEY: How did False Heights start?

APRIL: It was an accident. I’d been moaning about wanting to play my original music more and ‘follow my dream’, but I wasn’t really doing anything about it. I was just sticking my head in the sand waiting for the silver music career platter to be handed to me. Ash had given me the stern word after getting over my moping and brought to my attention that I was holding myself back. So when I saw a Facebook post for an indie festival looking for artists to play, I applied… and I kind of gave Ash no choice but to be in a band with me.

ASHLEY: What’s the False Heights playlist like at the moment?

APRIL: Lorde, The Maine, Angels and Airwaves, Tom Odell, Bring Me The Horizon, Kaleo, Our Last Night, Paramore, Julia Michaels, Imogen Heap, Jimmy Eat World… the list goes on and on, we are super eclectic!

ASHLEY: What is it like having your boyfriend in a band?

APRIL: Let’s be fair. Ash is pretty annoying… end quote.

ASHLEY: I am pretty annoying…

APRIL: No it’s great! We know each other so well, and our relationship is solid. I toured with Ash for the first two years of our relationship so I know we won’t kill each other on the road. Ash and I are super clear on our perspectives and goals. We respect each other, but have clearly laid out roles so we are almost always on the same page. I’d be lying if I said always! He’s my bestie and being able to share the same dream and ambition is awesome.

APRIL: Tell me a bit about your previous music experience.

ASHLEY: I was a garage musician for years until joining covers bands in Hamilton, which in turn landed me a gig with a great NZ roots reggae band called Cornerstone Roots. I toured NZ, Australia and Europe with them for around four years, playing great festivals like Glastonbury and Sziget, along with tons of awesome smaller venues and festivals. Then we started False Heights and I also tutor young drummers and musicians during the day. Sums it up I guess!

APRIL: We have an interesting set up; can you give a run down?

ASHLEY: Yeah we do! I got tired of setting up enough instruments for four people, and we couldn’t afford band members or roadies. So a dual keys/synth bass set up came first for you. Then I had fun creating a roll-away, stand up electric/acoustic drum kit and guitar station for myself. I use live looping and we get a super cool sound, and our set up looks great live.

APRIL: Let’s get real, how hard can it be trying to fund this dream?

ASHLEY: It can be tough, and I guess most bands are at least in a way self funded these days. We haven’t applied for any funding yet, but of course in the future we will. In a way, the EP was a test to see if the early ideas of our band could stand up with what we thought was album material. I feel like we have achieved what we set out to do, and we have a product we can now happily apply for funding and represent ourselves with. But the creation and evolution of our music for us doesn’t revolve around funding.

We record (and tour) on what we can afford, with people we trust and care about, and let the rest kind of happen from there. We both work full time so we have to be realistic at this stage. Jokes about musicians finding more guitar picks than coins in their couches have some truth in them at times! Funding ourselves whilst being a couple is good too because we have the same vision for the band, we are transparent with ideas and generally want to buy the same things haha. But dreams are always free, we keep on doing what we feel is right, setting achievable goals and knocking them down, so who knows what is around the corner!

APRIL: What music influenced you growing up?

ASHLEY: Almost everything. My radio DJ dad had me into music early. Live videos of Phil Collins, Dire Straights, The Police, even the Gypsy Kings. And say what you want, but even though I give my Mum no end of grief about her Cliff Richard Christmas album, if I’m not singing Mistle Toe and Wine by lunchtime Christmas day, something’s wrong. That’s an influence.

Then I found Incubus, Yellowcard, Fall Out Boy and the like. Of course bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle, Mars Volta, Mastodon and Avenged Sevenfold found their way into my drumming repertoire. Every artist has something different for me to admire.

APRIL: How do you feel about the colour theme of our band and website being purples and pinks?

ASHLEY: Well at least it contrasts the black clothes we wear all the time! The artwork we got from Sox Creations had a rad elephant and some green for good measure so I’m happy.

APRIL: Did you ever think you’d be in an indie-pop band?

ASHLEY: Not when I was younger playing along to heavy metal in my parents’ garage. I see myself back then as a bit naïve. After touring and watching all sorts of other types of artists perform, my perception of music is a lot more open, and I love exploring different genres.