To me, "Heartbreakers" is truly the birth of The Ivins.
It was Summer 2012. I had just graduated from college and was about to fulfill a longstanding dream of mine and move from my hometown of Richmond, VA to New York City. The Big Apple. The Big Time. I was doing what so many budding artists had done before me and was moving to see what kind of noise I could make in the "concrete jungle where dreams are made of." It was an exciting time. Inspired by this move and inspired by the incredible rock n' roll music that had come out of New York, I knew I wanted to take my music in new directions. And one day, having recently heard an incendiary new Noel Gallagher song with a great, sexy "late night" vibe called "Freaky Teeth," I was sitting on my bed and suddenly out came this old school-sounding riff and BOOM! off I went. This was another song where everything happened insanely quick, and it was quite exciting. I have said this before and I will say it again, but when I went to the well to come up with melodies, I asked the question, "What would Adam Levine do?" As far as I'm concerned, he's the best in the game at catchy melodies so I took inspiration from classic Maroon 5 like "The Sun" to come up with the melodies for "Heartbreakers," and I think it worked out pretty well because I love the melodies in this song.
Lyrically, I was inspired by Bono in that not all of Bono's lyrics are insular. He tells stories in his songs. I had never done that before. Ever. Every lyric I had ever written up to that point had been 100% personal and about an experience that had directly affected me, so it was exciting to challenge myself to see if I could write a "story song." If I really was going to do a course correction for my musical life, I would need to dig deeper and cover new ground in all ways so I came at it full on.
Given that the music had a sexiness and that "after midnight" quality to it that I had never previously explored, I wanted to write lyrics that complemented that feeling. What happens after midnight? One night stands. Not all have sinister intentions. But this one in particular pertained to the "heartbreaker": the one who gets off on the chase; finding out as little as possible, getting in, getting out, and leaving the other person in their wake. This is a much more interesting character to write about. So in the story I created, you have the female perspective in the first verse, and the male in the second. Only what you find by the time you get into the man's story is that both people think they're the sharks feasting on the night's prey, while little do they know that they are playing the same game. What happens when a double-crosser is also getting double-crossed? Maybe when, the next morning, they aren't overcome with the feeling that they have accomplished something, that the other person cared just as little as they did, and that ultimately they too do not matter, one might feel a little empty; like the wind had been taken from their sails. Maybe not. But in this story, as revealed in the bridge, that is what happens. However, which one is it? The guy? The girl? Both? Up for interpretation. As the chorus says, heartbreakers feed on the loneliest lows and only see what the lights don't show. They're ones that we all encounter, male and female. So even though this is a "story song," I felt it could still universally relate.
I remember playing it for the first time like it was yesterday. I came at my NYC move very naively and kept trying to casually secure an apartment while I was in Richmond whereas, given what I know and what anyone else who lives in New York knows, this is a pipe dream. So early in the summer I had booked a few shows for times where I was sure I would be living there but as time went on and I couldn't get an apartment, my move got pushed back. But I still really wanted to play a New York show, so I kept the ones I had booked and drove up to do my first one with my move still a few weeks away. August 19, 2012 at The National Underground, a bar in the Lower East Side owned by Gavin DeGraw, located about three blocks from where I would end up moving a year later. It really was a great "Welcome to New York, bitch!" introduction because I ended up getting heckled by a drunk rando that night, who walked up to me in the middle of my set, essentially told me I sucked and inquired if I knew any Muddy Waters. Jarring first experience aside, I remember playing "Heartbreakers" and really surprising the people I knew at the show so I felt it was a positive direction to be moving in.
Fast forward a year to fall 2013 and we were off to Virtue & Vice to record with the great Rocky Gallo. What's great about the recording is 1) Those very Beatle-esque "ah's" in the choruses I believe totally came from Rocky and 2) The song is a rare instance on the album where I don't play all the guitars. Cullen MacDonald, our guitar player at the time whom I knew from back in Richmond, was actually quite instrumental in shaping the sound of The Ivins. His ambient, pedal-heavy style was something that was always very attractive to me and something I wanted to explore so getting him in the band really freed me to write stuff that I just wanted to hear him play. When we were learning "Heartbreakers" to play as a full band, I hadn't written anything for lead guitar parts, so I told Cullen to run with whatever he wanted and I loved what he came up with. There's some footage of this recording process in this short clip I made for our then-mailing list subscribers:
Will always love this song. Always gets people's heads bobbing at shows and it has the unique ability to fit literally anywhere in the set. We've opened with it, closed with it, played in the middle, it just works. I'll play it every night until I'm dead if I have to.