The afternoon sky is overcast in San Francisco’s Mission District as indie rock and pop quintet Heartwatch gathers at the home of guitarist-keyboardist Eric Silverman to rehearse. The band is gearing up to play in front of another huge crowd: BottleRock Napa Valley. It’s potentially their most-significant performance since playing Outside Lands the previous summer.
Since then, Silverman, vocalist Claire George, guitarist Rowan Peter, bassist Nate Skelton and drummer Kern Sigala released their first album. The self-titled debut, released in February, boasts just six songs, but it has gained momentum nationally. The band’s fan base is growing throughout the Bay Area and beyond.
It’s also their first release under the Heartwatch moniker. The band formed approximately three years ago as The Tropics after George met Silverman while playing in another project. Silverman, meanwhile, knew Skelton from Santa Clara University. After a few years apart, the two jam-band lovers bumped into each other at a concert at the famed Fillmore theater. They invited Peter, who had just moved south from Portland, and Sigala, who had previously played in another band with Skelton.
They changed their name to Heartwatch to avoid confusion with English electronic/chillwave musician Tropics. The change was announced midway through a local show that had some fans believing they were breaking up.
“It was very emotional at the time and then I kind of moved forward,” George recalls. Adds Silverman: “It’s the one-year anniversary of us announcing that (this) Saturday. It came up on my Facebook memories thing.”
Going to BottleRock? Catch up with Heartwatch below before seeing their set Friday.
RIFF: How does being from San Francisco influence who you are as a band?
Rowan Peter: Being from San Francisco has been really good for us. There’s a small music and art community here right now because of the tech boom, but what is here is really tight knit. We’ve gotten a lot of support from the community and from the different studios around town, and the venues. I love the other bands in this city.
Q: What are some of your favorite local venues to play?
Nate Skelton: I love The Independent.
Claire George: For sure. It was one of the biggest venues we first played. We did our record release there, which was a big deal for us.
Kern Sigala: We got to do the Fox Theater with MSMR. That was a big one.
Skelton: That was a bucket list one for me, because I grew up in the Bay Area and had gone to countless shows at the Fox. Being on that stage was awesome.
Eric Silverman: I guess Golden Gate Park was a pretty big venue (laughs). I’d play that one again.
Q: Did you get any live performance or industry advice from Lizzy Plapinger (of MSMR, who also co-founded Neon Gold Records)?
Peter: Lizzy was fantastic. Just watching her be a professional taught us how to be professional musicians.
George: It was more observational. The way she carried herself and her stage presence was a big lesson for me and my personal work.
Q: Why did you decide to release, Heartwatch, which you call a mini album; longer than most EPs but not a full-length?
Peter: We wanted to put our best material out there. These days it’s just so expensive to go into the studio. You’ve got to figure out what you want to do and do that. You can’t record a double album. It would be awesome but it’s hard to maintain that kind of thing.
Q: What’s on the horizon in terms of touring and recording new material?
Silverman: For the next few months we’re going to try to write a new record and figure out a good time to put that down. We’re definitely looking into some West Coast touring again, and some more touring September (to) October. We’ll be out on the road for a while. (We are) just starting to make some plans and figure out the best thing going forward for the next year. Definitely a lot of writing and recording and seeing how we can fit that in.
Peter: We also have a single we’re going to release at some point in the next few months.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Peter: It’s similar to … “Heartwatch.” It definitely captures the feeling of us all having input and working together at its best. It was a song we wrote, all together, in a room. It came really naturally and I think that shows. It’s a song that we’ve had for a while, but we didn’t put it on the mini-album. For whatever reason, it maybe just didn’t just fit the flow of the entire album, but we still really want to release it.
George: We actually reworked it a bunch, too, and we kind of rewrote a little bit of it. It’s a new version. I think it actually fits more with our sound now.
Q: Claire, you have a newer solo project right now. Is anyone else considering starting their own thing?
Skelton: You just don’t know about it yet. (laughs).
George: I’ve been playing out some shows. I’ve been getting into producing on my own, which is really fun; using Ableton. I don’t play an instrument in (Heartwatch), so it’s kind of like a different outlet for me. I started kind of playing keyboards. (It’s) more experimental and just for me to test out what it’s like to play on stage, which is totally different than playing with a band.
Skelton: I’ve been playing in, I guess, you would call it a family band, for a long time. My dad was a professional guitarist. My whole family plays music and so does my girlfriend, so we’ve been doing that. Nothing serious, but it’s just a lot of fun.
Q: Are you excited to be playing in Napa for BottleRock?
Silverman: We’re really excited to do BottleRock this year. We’ve heard a lot of really great things about it the past couple of years. It seems like the festival is getting bigger and bigger. It’s gonna be a very fun weekend.
Q: Who would you like to share the stage with over the next two years?
George: MisterWives is a band that we’ve talked about before. Our friends, Waters, played with them. They’re from here and we love them.
Skelton: Grouplove would be awesome.
George: They’re playing BottleRock as well.