San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Heaven’s Burning is ready to “Shake This World”
Excerpts from as published in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune
May 4, 2001

When I received Heaven’s Burning’s CD, I expected to hear just another “girl band,” using their gender to their advantage. Their bio describes them as “alterna-pop/noise-pop,” but their music is full of layers, kind of like them. Pasadena, California residents, Kristy Jones (vocals and guitar) and Angela Santiago Chung (vocals, guitar and bass), are young, vivacious, intelligent and determined, but they’re also wise and deep beyond their years.

But how did they get their name?

“You know how you looked at our lyrics and you said you can see a lot of double meanings?” asks Chung. “It’s something like that. We like play-on-words. We know that some people will take it one way and others another way. For us, we just wanted it to communicate the intensity of God’s presence.”
I asked them to explain their creative process.

“We usually write in pieces,” says Chung. “It starts with a riff. I work with it for a long time and then I hum a melody over it. But what I’ve been doing lately is piece together. I like this piece and this piece comes from . . . like a different genre and I make the thing fit together. And Kristy says, ‘It doesn’t sound right,’ and I’m like, ‘No, it’ll fit, it’ll fit.’ And you have this nice pop, groove . . . jazz thing. That’s my latest thing.”

“I write mostly things that are happening in my own life or that I notice happening outside of my life. Lately I’ve noticed they tend to be a little more nonsensical, but with meaning,” Chung laughs. “That’s kind of an oxymoron. Like there’s this one line in one of our songs called ‘Shake This World’ where I go, ‘there she goes staring at the flies again’ and really that just came from my dog. She was just sitting there in the sun watching the flies go around. But I know that that could be taken at another level, so I threw that in and mixed it with some other stuff.”

“I play guitar and Kristy came along and you know how sometimes you can get that competitiveness, but I had to concede that she is a way better guitarist than I am. You have to figure out what is your forte and appreciate what the others in your band can do. And that’s okay because then you complement each other.” The two trade off on the vocals. They have also been studying voice with Angelique Burzynski for the past three years. They giggle as they explain that Burzynski says Jones’ voice has “honesty,” while Chung’s is “sweetly honest.”

“She lets us have freedom,” says Jones. “But what she’s mainly trying to do with us is not link us to a certain style, let us have our own style, but help us change in a healthy way.”
No strangers to music, Jones and Chung started out early. Jones took piano lessons between the ages of seven and nine. “I never took to it,” she states. “I’ve always had an interest in music.” Jones also played flute for two years in high school. Following a family tradition, she went for band instead of choir and the teacher gave her flute to play.

“I don’t think I practiced more than I really had to. But when I turned 16, I was impassioned with pop music. I was like, ‘I’m going to get a guitar.’ My parents were like, ‘Uh-huh, sure, whatever. You didn’t like the piano, you didn’t like the flute, whatever.’ So I sold the flute and bought a guitar. And for some reason, as soon as I got that guitar out of that box, I was glued to that thing for the next two years.”
Jones is mostly self-taught, but her father’s friend taught her how to play by ear. Jones would try to play what she heard on her CDs and by using guitar tabs on the Internet. She took lessons for four months to learn lead guitar in addition to working her way through a book.

Chung took a similar path. “I’m like every Asian kid,” Chung explains. “They learn either piano or violin at five – mine was piano. My father liked it but I stopped at 11. I ran into a block; I didn’t take to it so easily. Then I saw some band on TV and they were all girls and I said to myself, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’ I told my parents, ‘I’m going to take guitar’ and they pretty much laughed at me. Kristy’s like a rule-breaker, but I’m very methodical. So I went and took lessons and I’ve been taking lessons since.”

Heaven’s Burning has played all over, but their perspective on the local scene has a familiar ring to it. “I think it’s sad that people don’t just go out,” says Chung. “Like the Internet is a good thing, but it’s also a bad thing. It’s kind of sad that people don’t go to clubs just to watch bands, they’ll only go if they know the band. Why do they need to go anywhere when they can watch and listen to music on the Internet? In order for that promotion to take place there has to be money and that’s where the record companies come in. It’s hard. There’s a few bands that I think are good, but unfortunately there’s a lot of bands out there that, well, we’re not quite sure of them, but the same thing could be said of what is playing on the radio.”

“I think everybody’s really just kind of waiting,” adds Jones. “We’re all listening to the radio thinking there must be something new just on the horizon. The radio’s kind of dead right now. To expand on what Angela’s saying, the question right now is every band comes in with their own built-in audience when they walk in the door, so when they leave, so does their audience.”

“Everybody seems to be for themselves even though we talk about a music community,” agrees Chung. “There are pockets of community happening, but like the venue owners, I understand they have to make money, but to sock it to the artist with pay-to-play, that’s just another form of using and abusing artists. There are artists that are so desperate that they’ll do it, it doesn’t make sense.”

As a two-woman band, they also have a unique view as musicians. Jones tells me, “When you walk into a club sometimes you do get people who are sizing you up and you get one of two responses– they either go, ‘Aw, they’re chicks, they can’t do anything’ and then they’ll walk out or sometimes it will work for you, ‘oh, it’s chicks, let’s see what they can do.’ It can either work for or against you, it depends on the crowd and depends on how you either try to use it to your advantage or not.” We all burst into laughter about how hard it still is for a woman to go into a music store and be taken seriously. This happens all too often, but Jones and Chung say that their problems have decreased as they become recognized as serious players.

Heaven’s Burning has just released their second effort. Their first, was a five-song EP. The new work, “Free Agents Soul’d Here,” is a concept album with a spy theme. “It came out as a concept album,” explains Jones. “We didn’t really plan it, but the whole thing just came together just without even trying.” “We’re really just free agents,” says Chung. “Or you could look at it on a spiritual plane; we’re not really enslaved or in bondage to things, so it has different meanings.”

By now, you probably think that Heaven’s Burning is a Christian band. “We’re Christian,” Chung states. “We do believe in Jesus Christ, but the problem is when you say “Christian band”, I think people automatically tend to come up with…”

“…They come up with a box,” finishes Jones.

Chung continues, “If people ask, ‘Are you a Christian?’ we’ll say we’re Christian. If people ask ‘Are you a Christian band?’ we’ll ask them to define what that means to them because, unfortunately, it does tend to come with a pigeonhole and nobody likes to be pigeonholed. They need to look beyond those borders. We would say we are a band of Christians.”
“Some people can’t handle not having everything in a nice little compartment,” says Jones. “If somebody happens to go beyond one small facet, they get scared and they have to put them in some kind of compartment.”

Heaven’s Burning could let all this traveling and recognition go to their heads, but instead their goals remain simple. “(We want) to go as far as we can go,” says Jones. “But I don’t think we have an end goal.” “We’re just like any other musician,” Chung answers. “You want to be able to buy more than five boxes of macaroni and cheese.” Jones adds, “And to pay your bills and not have to work five jobs at the same time.”

Chung gets serious, “For people to enjoy your music and find meaning in it. We like to entertain people, like if they come in feeling down, they leave with a smile on their face.” Jones follows suit, “I think for me and everybody who loves music, it makes you feel a certain way. It either brings to it a catharsis, or listening to music either lifts your spirits or brings them to a point in their life where they can become pensive and maybe figure some things out. I think, for me, that’s why music means a lot to me. We hope to contribute to that too.”

Somehow, I think they will.

– Naughty Mickie