Local band, Hearts Like Lions, start to roar cross-country, but it isn’t easy…
By EMILY RASMUSSEN
Hundreds, if not thousands, of teenage garage bands have their roots right here in Long Beach. Everyone around the city knows someone in a band, or at least knows someone-who-knows-someone.
But what separates the bored teens who bought a guitar because they could play Rock Band on expert, from those who want to make music a career? Well, according to Luke Schoepf, bassist of local band Hearts Like Lions, it’s all about dedication.
“All of us know what we want and we want to do this for our career,” Schoepf says. “There’s a lot of bands who just play for fun, they play a lot of local shows, get their friends to come, and that’s all they can get. Not saying they’re horrible or not talented, they’re probably really good at what they do. But they have school, or have work. But for us, we just know what we want. We’re just willing to sacrifice those things to really push forward to make it work.”
Hearts Like Lions is an indie-alternative band, that started in 2011 with just a few friends from Lakewood High School, hanging out and making music together. Stephen Ramos sings and plays guitar, Nick Sturz on drums, and Schoepf on bass. And once high school was over, the three band members decided to give it their all.
“Our first tour was in 2012, and that was just Stephen, Nick and I. We just toured in a Ford F150 truck and it was pretty janky – playing at random parks, a mall, and super small coffee shops,” Schoepf says.
For the next couple years the band kept writing songs and practicing, also playing at local venues like Di Piazza and the Federal Bar. They picked up an additional member along the way, Michael Grasseschi, as an additional guitarist.
In 2014, their hard work started to pay off when they got signed to Tooth & Nail Records. The Seattle-based record label, which has signed bands such as Anberlin and Underoath, released Hearts Like Lions’ first EP the same year. “These Hands” has six songs, which Schoepf says sounds like many of the indie-emo bands from the early 2000s.
Right before the EP was officially released, the band sent a copy of their songs to KROQ Locals Only show. It was about a year later, in fall 2015, that they finally heard one of their songs on the station.
“It was really trippy, because we grew up listening to KROQ hearing all our favorite bands being played there, and then our songs being played on KROQ,” Schoepf says. “It was kind of surreal.”
Their song “Stranger” lasted on the Top 5 songs for the KROQ Locals Only Playlist for about two months. After their song made it to radio, their fan base began to grow rapidly.
During 2015, Hearts Like Lions went on over 10 tours across the country. As time went on and they started to get bigger, Schoepf was impressed by the growing crowds.
“The more we come back to these cities and places, we look out into the crowd – and the crowds get bigger and bigger, and people are singing along to our songs. It’s funny to think that we were just a local band, playing our music,” he says. “Of course our friends would sing the songs, but now I’m playing shows in Nebraska and seeing people out there sing along, and I have no idea who they are but they’re singing along to songs that we wrote.”
Noah Mensink, the band’s tour photographer, says that he is confident that the band will grow bigger.
“I didn’t know them before their EP, but they’ve already matured with that EP alone, musically and it just keeps on growing and growing, it’s really cool to see them evolve in that way,” Mensink says. “They’re growing as musicians, in the technical aspect, maturing in a way of finding the right placements to put each part of the song.”
Mensink has been on three tours with the band, and has also noticed the growing size of the fan base. He says their EP sounds a lot like From Indian Lakes, but as they continue to write new songs, he can hear influence from bands like The Killers. Although, Mensink says, they do have their own distinct sound.
“They definitely have their own sound, and their own energy too. Like if you watch Luke jumping around like crazy, and Stephen will sometimes just feed off the crowd going into their next songs,” Mensink said.
Although Hearts Like Lions is getting more attention, it is still difficult for the band members to make a living. With the band on Spotify, YouTube, and SoundCloud, Schoepf says that the internet has helped gain fans for his band, and other local bands, but it also comes with a downside.
Spotify says it pays labels and publishers between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream, according to Business Insider. And according to the Guardian, they suggest the payment a signed artist with a label, gets only $0.001128.
“You’d have to play our album 240 times for us to get $3. It’s great for the consumer and fans of music, because it gives you access to so much music for really cheap,” Schoepf says. “You can’t really pick and choose what we do for money, because we just want people to hear our music. That’s really all we care about, connecting with people through our music. If we’re not on Spotify we’re missing a huge chunk of people who can listen to us, become our fans, and become our friends.”
With constant touring and only being home for a few weeks at a time, it’s hard to find a job that will support that much time off. Luckily for most of the members of the band, they make it work. Ramos works at Steelhead Coffee and an after-school program, and Sturz works at Easter Seals helping disabled adults; meanwhile Schoepf is learning ropes becoming a photographer. But to every member of the Hearts Like Lions, the band is their day job.
“It’s just sticking it through and not being like ‘Sorry guys, I gotta quit, I have bills to pay.’ But saying ‘Alright, I can go without a phone for these next two months,’ because I know that it will pay off in the end,” Schoepf says.
The band is released their new album, ‘If I Never Speak Again’ with 10 songs. Mensink has heard some of the songs from the new album, and expects the band to get more noticed after its release on Feb. 17.
“They have a few songs I think that could easily be put on the radio, it’s very catchy stuff,” he says.
Schoepf says the album has influences from bands like Young The Giant, Bad Suns, and the Local Natives.
“The new album is the next logical musical step for Hearts Like Lions – musically, lyrically, and emotionally,” Schoepf says. “We’re maturing as a band and you can tell we did with this new album.”