The Heavenly States: Interview
Fluke Starbucker and the Pork Lips
The Heavenly States are one of the most energetic bands on the live circuit
today, fronted by one of the most entertaining lead singers around, Ted Nesseth.
If you don't know the Heavenly States yet, you better get on board, because
they're gonna be big. We got the chance to interview Ted via phone during the
band's massive tour of the US, and it's definitely been a long time since we've
laughed so hard. We pretty much just let Ted take our questions and run with
them, and here's what resulted.
TMT: So, Ted, how's the tour been so far?
Ted: The tour has been awesome. Tonight we're playing in this little town
called Madison, Ohio, and I think it's our 34th show, and we've got like, 22
left, and it's been such a great time. But I'm seriously looking forward to the
Midwest, since that's where I'm from [Owatonna, MN], where the people are the
sweetest, and the pockets are the deepest. No, just kidding. I'm just excited to
go home because my mom's gonna be there, and we've got family there, we're
playing with Driftless Pony Club and Vox Humana who are friends of ours, and
then we're playing with friends of ours in Minneapolis. So I'm looking forward
to this whole week.
TMT: I've heard that you have a big tour coming up next year in
Australia- that's really far from home.
Ted: Yeah, definitely. About two or three months ago, this guy just
emailed me asking to send him a record. I was like, “oh, ok,” so I sent him a
record, and he called me back and said he wanted to put it out. He was like,
“what do I have to do to put it out in Australia?” and I was like, “uh, get us
out there to tour!” Yeah, I'm definitely excited about it. It's going to be
their summer, too, so you people back in the Midwest in February are going to be
mighty jealous. Although you won't have 30 different kinds of snakes that can
kill you at any moment, and a spider the size of a toenail that could also kill
you. Seriously. It's gonna be kind of scary. My friend Ian told me that when he
was there he went in the outback, and they were driving down this road and there
was this 30-foot snake like, a foot in diameter, and the snake looked at the car
driving by and grumblingly slithered off the road, then whipped around and
smacked the car as it drove on by, and the whole car rattled and shook. That's kind of scary! It's like going to CMJ.
TMT: Did you guys play the CMJ music showcase this year?
Ted: Yeah. Just hundreds of snakes, killing you. But it was good
preparation for Australia.
TMT: Do you think you'll get some good crowds in Australia? Has this
guy been promoting you like crazy?
Ted: They have been, yeah. They've just released a single with an
exclusive B-Side, and they're doing three CD singles before we get out there.
They said that people are really getting into it, so we're excited. I mean, we
are the best band in the universe.
TMT: When did you guys get together as a band?
Ted: I'd guess a year and a half ago, maybe two years. [Drummer] Jeremy
and [violinist/keyboardist] Genevieve are brother and sister, and that's been
the core of the band as we've gone through eight different bass players. The
band's core for a long time was us three. I met Jeremy through my roommates. So
he was kind of, you know, not in a band, and he's this amazingly great drummer,
and I was going through- I was cleaning house musically, and Jeremy was the
perfect guy to take over. Then Genevieve just moved out here through a series of
coincidences, and it just made the most sense. We had been trying out these
awful keyboard players. If you ever have to try out a person for a band, you try
out the drummers, which is tough; you try out guitarists, that's insane because
they all want to give you their hot solo. But the keyboardist tryout is the
worst of all tryouts. First of all, they take 42 minutes to set up their eight
keyboard stacks, and it's insane. After countless yahoos trying out for the
band, it just made sense to take someone who was classically, I mean, just a
perfect fit for the band. She was just- her presence was just missing, and
finally we said, why don't we just have Genevieve! It was sitting there, staring
me in the face.
TMT: Where did you get your name from?
Ted: Well, this is actually great. We were Fluke Starbucker. I used to be
in a band called Fluke Starbucker, so this band was just gonna continue on as
Fluke Starbucker because, you know, that was my thing. Then we started working
with people and they were like, “you gotta change your name. You don't own it
[as the copyrighted name of a character in a short film], it's a terrible name,
you don't own the name, if somebody comes after you you're gonna be screwed.” So
we finally just bought into it and said, if people are gonna come after us we'll
end up owing them money or whatever. So one of our friends just came up with the
Heavenly States, and we were like, that's a really cool name, you can take that
so many different ways. Though some people were like “it's really religious,”
and we were like, yeah, because we're such believers, it would be perfect.
Finally we have a name that clearly helps us celebrate the word of the Lord.
TMT: You're like a crossover band.
Ted: Yes. Welcome to this glorious hour of witness with the Heavenly
States. Anyway, so then, people were like, “why did you change your name?” So
finally we just started telling people, you know what, the people who own the
name wouldn't let us use it anymore, since essentially that's what we were
afraid was going to happen. But then the people who own the name got wind of it,
and they emailed me. They're the people who created this short film called
Hardware Wars, which is like this cult film that's a spoof on Star Wars,
with flying toasters and a tin man, C3PO, whose name is actually 4Q2, R2D2 is
RDDeco, it's just this super funny little short film. He's also the guy that
created the counting series for Sesame Street. This guy, Ernie Fosselius, he did
the animation for [singing] “one two three four five six seven eight nine ten
eleven twelve,” you know what I'm talking about? Well, it turns out that he was
totally flattered by the name and was begging us to not change it, a year after
we changed it, so we were really bummed out about it. But now, the same guy,
he's directing and creating our next video when we get back.
TMT: What song is that going to be for?
Ted: It's going to be for “Car Wash.” He's doing these hand-carved
marionettes of the band. We went to his house, and he's just this amazing,
brilliant artist guy and he took photos of us, and he's doing these foot-tall,
hand-carved marionettes, and we're gonna do this really low-tech, spoof video.
It's gonna be really fun.
TMT: Is there going to be a car wash in it?
Ted: I don't know. It's all up to him. He's got a brilliant mind, you
know. He also did a short film called Pork Lips Now, it's a spoof on
Apocalypse Now. It's this guy who is a used car salesman who quits the used
car business to start a butcher shop in Chinatown in San Francisco. He starts
selling meat at unreasonably low prices, and the whole concept is that this guy
is hired by the USDA to have him killed because his prices are insane. And then
they do a scene by scene recreation of the climax, which took [Francis Ford]
Coppola like, 40 days, and they did it in like 40 minutes. It's definitely
TMT: You guys have just released an album [Self titled, August 2003].
Do you have a timeline for writing new music or putting anything else out?
Ted: Well, we have about two albums of material ready to go. We're
recording in December. After the tour, right before we go to Australia. Then
we're going to do another 25 shows. We're going to try to stay in the south to
stay out of the cold. So we're gonna try to stay in the south, and then
hopefully when we get back from Australia, we'll be able to do another full
60-show US tour for the new record.
TMT: Wow, you guys are out of control touring.
Ted: Well, it's one way to stay unemployed. But yeah, the grind is kind
of a bummer. It's been fun, people have been really supportive, we've had a lot
of really great crowds, drew a lot of people in places where we didn't expect to
have anybody there.
TMT: Alright Ted, thanks so much for talking to us!
Ted: You rock.
*picture taken from