The Heavenly States’ first record, a self-titled North American release featuring guitar, keyboards, violin, drums and bass is quickly establishing itself as a sleeper hit of 2003 with monstrous potential. The rock quartet from Oakland, CA that seems to have sprung from nowhere is the second project of Ted Nesseth. His first band named Fluke Starbucker in honor of the cult hit film Hardware Wars released two indie rock records before burning up somewhere between Minneapolis and Oakland in 1999. The generation 2002 version of the band released a farewell EP entitled Elephants from Ants on Berkeley indie Isota Records before changing the band’s name to The Heavenly States at the behest of producer Jeff Saltzman and Isota friends Joe Finlaw and Mike Saltzman.
Their current full-length release on San Francisco indie Future Farmer Recordings features eleven very different, uniquely crafted songs that are polished for radio but call for a radio renaissance. These as-if radio hits of an imagined radio world range from punk to classic rock balladry with post-rock touches. With all their melody and lyric attention, make no mistake. This is a band of rock, and to see The Heavenly States live not only confirms that but may give some disenchanted music fans hope that there is more to see and hear than the neatly styled, slickly oiled performances of so many of their peers. Much of that excitement live owes to Ted Nesseth himself, an improvising, savagely energetic savant whose upside-down and backwards guitar playing and off-the-cuff ranting are gifts equal to both his songwriting and to the quality of his voice. Nesseth’s performance is supported by sibling collaborators Jeremy Gagon on drums and Genevieve Gagon vox/violin/keys who help with the bringing of the rock.