Interview: Heavenward release “Wish” ahead of ‘Staircase Music’—listen
Heavenward is a new project fronted by singer-songwriter Kamtin Mohager. Mohager has spent the last decade-plus traversing the music scene across multiple genres and projects. From his early days touring with 3OH!3 to scoring massive commercial placements under the pop-centered The Chain Gang Of 1974 – not to mention his whirlwind stint with shoegaze frontrunners Teenage Wrist – it’s clear that Mohager has built a name for himself in the pursuit of creativity and progressive art. Now in 2022, Mohager is ready to take his newest project Heavenward to the stars and back with music that he declares his most authentic and transparent to date.
Mohager says of the new song, “‘Wish” feels like a song that has been buried in me for quite some time but needed the perfect moment to come out. We all go through emotional ups and downs. The sad part about life is that even when you do find yourself coming out of a dark place, the human mind plays tricks on you and convinces your every being to begin worrying about something else. I felt that it was necessary for me to talk about those struggles because we all go through them.”
Feeling burnt out from his stint on a major label and parting ways with Teenage Wrist, Mohager was determined to create songs with no outside influences or expectations. Instead, his goal was to share a side of himself that he hadn't before. After a year of releasing a string of emotional, heavy-hitting singles, Mohager is set to release the debut Heavenward EP Staircase Music February 18th. 2022 year will also see him perform live for the first time with the new project and also continue to create the music that he loves for anyone who’s willing to listen. Mohager, who’s both kind and humble, isn’t concerned about how far this project will go, but if he continues to write songs of this caliber, he may need to prepare for another whirlwind career.
We caught up with Mohager to discuss his latest project Heavenward, which was chosen as one of the “22 Artists To Watch in 2022” in issue #402, to discuss the inception of the project, his whirlwind career, plans for the future and more.
You’ve been open about this project starting from a place of no expectations. Now as people are responding positively to your music and things are progressing, has that changed at all?
Yes and no, in a way. I have my other project The Chain Gang Of 1974, and I had a terrible album cycle with Warner Records and wanted to focus strictly on something new, which ended up being Teenage Wrist. It was extremely organic, and low and behold, our first self-released single was tweeted by Gerard Way [My Chemical Romance]. After that, things happened quickly. We signed to Epitaph Records, moved forward, but then it became a business.
Fast forward to when I left that band, I felt the urge to continue writing songs like this but wanted something fun with no expectations. It’s really rad to see that people care about it, but once you start to reach that point where people are noticing it, your brain will naturally start to be like, “Well, maybe the next song I write needs more hooks, or that last song structure was too unorthodox,” so you do fall into those traps, but I’ve done my best to keep this as fun as possible. Whatever expectation there is now, I use it as a positive reminder that I don’t need to fit the norm that industry tricks you into doing.
What are you trying to convey with this new project both lyrically and sonically?
When you compare projects, The Chain Gang Of 1974 is very pop-focused, but I am able to get away with more cheesy shit. With Heavenward, the motto of this band is noise, feeling and aggression. I listen to hardcore, I listen to punk, but I also listen to the ’90s shoegaze movement, like Catherine Wheel, Swervedriver, and this project allows me to create my own personal therapist. I can write about some really dark things that I am going through personally, and the second the song is on-record, I can listen back and say, “I feel great.” This project helps me heal the soul and whatever darkness is inside of me because I’m a pretty happy guy 99% of the time.
There is definitely a new musical movement happening with the nü-grunge revival and more progressive shoegaze groups gaining momentum. How does it feel to be at the forefront of that?
Whoever likes my shit, whoever wants to classify it as to what it is, I don’t care. I’m just grateful if one person listens to something that I created or if a song of mine has helped someone. If I’m gaining the respect of this new scene and these artists, then hell yeah, sign me up. However, this scene wouldn’t have been made possible without the OGs of this world like Balance And Composure, Citizen and Superheaven. I recently met Jon Simmons from Balance And Composure and thanked him for opening the door for this whole new wave to come in. I may be the old head who is a part of this train, but I’m happy to get any recognition from these artists that I respect.
You have just announced your debut EP Staircase Music. What can we expect from this release?
This EP was encouraged by the support people have been giving me, including Alternative Press. I went into it with something to say and things to get off my chest. This is some of my favorite stuff I have ever written. It’s just very me, and I think it was a really good thing for me to do this because now I know what a full-length will sound like, and I’m excited to get back in the studio to make an album.
To this day, Heavenward has never performed live. Will that change in 2022?
Definitely. I have the urge now, especially [because] I have enough songs to play a set. [Laughs.] I only had four singles out, but now the new EP is coming out, so I will definitely have enough material to play live. I have the itch, maybe not to tour, but to play some shows at least.
What are you looking forward to the most in 2022?
I think I’m just grateful that I’m 36 years old and still writing songs that make me really excited and can get personally lost in. I’m listening to these new songs on the EP on repeat. On top of that, and more importantly, I’m grateful that I’m still able to write songs that make people excited. I’ve seen a lot of shit in the industry. I’ve had great highs and awful lows, but I’m still here and still doing it. I am so grateful that I get to do this. I will definitely make a full-length record this year. No matter how old I get, I’m gonna love making and playing music. It’s so ingrained in me. Here’s to a good year, hopefully.