“I'm feeling very excited about it! It feels like it's been a long time coming and I'm looking forward to sharing these songs.” It’s a perfectly normal response from someone being asked how they feeling about the release of their next record. After all, one would expect any artist of any calibre to be animated for the release of their next project. However, for Lande Hekt, Going To Hell stands as one of her most paramount releases to date.
The debut solo long play from the Muncie Girls frontwoman, not only is Going To Hell her first full length as a solo artist, it also stands as Hekt's most intimate, personal and poignant collection of work so far. A large claim given Muncie Girls’ exploration of the personal effects of widespread societal issues such as conservative rule, culturally integrated bigotry and rape culture, but Going To Hell documents a much more personal experience, one being the personal journey of accepting one’s sexuality in the face of deep rooted societal heteronormativity.
Across the eleven tracks that form the record, Hekt details the journey that is accepting one’s true identity after so many years of being forced to conform to a culture that is rampant with embedded homophobia, discrimination and blind bigotry. It’s an intimate and profound recollection of a journey that countless members of our society have trodden before, or are in the process of treading. One rife with feelings of unshakeable misguided shame, isolation and fierce anxiety due an internalised need to conform. One that questions why one can’t be happy with oneself. But through Hekt’s pacifying melodies, ornate layers and poetically experienced lyricism, it’s a record that resonates relatability all while pacifying and calming the wired mind. Interpolated with ruminations on uncontrollable climate change and loneliness, it’s hard not to find comfort within the record regardless of one’s current anxieties and joy within the celebration of self-acceptance.
“I think that every record or set of songs I've written has affected the way I write in some way. I always want to find new ways to write songs so that they don't sound too similar to the last ones."
Despite the record sounding like a snapshot of an inner psyche accepting itself and transitioning, according to Hekt the writing and recording of Going To Hell wasn’t an inherently intimate experience in itself. “It didn't feel any more intimate than most of the other topics I end up writing about,” she explains. “I needed to write about that because that was what I was going through at the time and so it was what was on my mind a lot. It was definitely cathartic because after I've written a song and played it through a load of times, I tend to feel as though I've had my time sitting with that feeling or thought and I can move onto other things.”
“I think that every record or set of songs I've written has affected the way I write in some way. I always want to find new ways to write songs so that they don't sound too similar to the last ones. All the songs on Going to Hell, apart from one, were written quite close to each other and I like the way that as a record, the songs, to me anyway, do sound like they're part of the same project and time. I will try and follow that formula again but I can't make many conscious decisions because I always end up writing when inspiration comes.”
Nevertheless, with the record’s central theme and the other topics within explored and detailed, many will assume Going To Hell’s respective cover art would have a poignant connection to its lyrical subjects. Over a lilac canvas, a hand drawn portrait is accompanied by sketches of a hammer, a sunflower, a clamshell record player, an amp and an unmarked cassette. But according to Hekt, these drawings don’t necessarily carry a level of importance or relation to the record’s themes.
“There's not particularly an importance to the objects on there, they just started off as pictures that I liked or liked to draw”, Hekt details. “Aside from the drawing of me with a reference to Daniel Johnson, they're all straightforward. Sunflowers are my favourite flowers and the record player, cassette and amp are just music stuffs. Although that amp is supposed to be my Roland Jazz Chorus, which has the best chorus sound I've played with." And the hammer? "A hammer looks cool and is dykey"
With the record documenting first hand the anxiety and frustration that is self-acceptance in an era where homophobia has become integrated within mainstream consciousness, it’s inevitable that Going To Hell will implore heterosexual listeners to ponder questions. The kind on how they can do their part in killing the toxic roots of bigotry that lie beneath the soil of society. With this in consideration, it’s likely many will reach out to queer friends and loved ones in an attempt to gain advice on becoming a better ally. However, in order to become a greater and more composed ally first hand research with betterment in mind is required, not bothering queer people into pressured giving advice.
“There are an insurmountable number of ways that straight people perpetuate those things,” states Hekt when asked how heterosexual people help with creating more inclusive spaces. “A few I can think of off the top of my head are; as a straight person not expecting queer people to teach you all that there is to know about queerness or especially homophobia. There's a wealth of knowledge to be absorbed online and in books and doing research will go a long way to becoming a better ally. Asking people's pronouns and not assuming peoples' gender is decent practice, and also making a point of not assuming that everyone is straight. If more straight people thought properly about their own heterosexuality and homophobia, then less queer people would be made to feel uncomfortable, left out and scared.”
“I want people to like the record, but I won't be too upset if they don't. If there is anyone listening to it who's going through something similar with their sexuality as I was when I wrote these songs then I hope that they find some companionship in it."
Given Going To Hell’s difference in comparison to her work within Muncie Girls – and it’s more intrapersonal themes, it’s understandable for the record to be released on a new label that holds inclusive ideologies at its core. With the record out now via the Philadelphia based Get Better Records, it’s conjecturable that many will see Hekt as a role model for clear and obvious reasons. Hekt certainly wouldn’t see herself as such a figure though. Grounded and earnest, Going To Hell is a personal celebration of identity and acceptance in the face of culturally induced self-doubt and oppression articulated with pacifying and poetic ambience. It’s a first hand account of personal transition, one created as a form of catharsis, but one that’s abound to be a source of comfort for many in the shoes that Lande once walked in previously.
“I was already a big fan of Get Better Records and was really happy when it worked out that they could release this record. They're a queer/trans run label and I feel very supported by them and proud to be a part of their roster. Above all of that though, they put out so many sick bands and operate in a way that I like.”
“I want people to like the record, but I won't be too upset if they don't. If there is anyone listening to it who's going through something similar with their sexuality as I was when I wrote these songs then I hope that they find some companionship in it. There are also songs about family, displacement and loneliness on there so maybe there's something for almost everyone.”