By Simone Goldstone | Special to the NB Indy
[Editor’s Note: I grew up listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival, thanks to a girlfriend that had a collection of their albums and singles. I became a fan, and although I never got a chance to see them live, I did learn to play some their songs on guitar. When the NB Indy had the chance to interview CCR founder John Fogerty’s sons about their band and new album, we assigned music writer Simone Goldstone to the story. Hopefully once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the Fogerty boys can bring their band (and maybe their dad) to OC]
Tyler and Shane Fogerty have big shoes to fill, and they just might do it.
The brothers, 28 and 29, are no strangers to success. Before the album debut of their band Hearty Har, they’ve already played Radio City Music Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. Most recently, they accompanied their famous father, John Fogerty, a founding member of the legendary band Creedence Clearwater Revival, in playing Dodger Stadium. However, their newly minted record deal with BMG is a feat accomplished all on their own.
Leaning back in his chair at their Thousand Oaks home studio, Tyler is relieved to have the momentum of a label behind them.
“For years we kept putting songs out there and played around, but nothing was really happening,” he said.
Tucked away across from horse pastures, just shy of an hour north of L.A., the Fogerty home is both welcoming and sentimental. Handwritten lyrics and framed platinum records line the wall outside their home studio.
Tyler Fogerty, silhouetted by western boots and a colorful sweater, is at ease among the control consoles and recording equipment. Despite the memorabilia from their rock royalty father, the brothers have started the same way as any other band. For seven years, they played small venues around L.A., such as the Smell and the Echo, put music out on Bandcamp, and even launched a Kickstarter campaign.
They’ve grown exponentially since releasing their debut album in 2013, and in the process, mastered the art of studio recording to create their own signature sound. Despite some pandemic bumps, including the cancelation of their SXSW showcase, they’re reaping the rewards of their efforts—the cumulation being a psych-rock record that stands out brilliantly, complete with raunchy vocals, catchy, concise songs, and a unique sound that’s both fresh and filled with retro nostalgia.
Hearty Har is a much-needed vacation from our present-day turmoil into what feels like a 70s space arcade. While Hearty Har deviates from their father’s Bayou Blues, partly due to Tyler and Shane’s affinity for electronic synth music, CCR’s influence is undeniably there.
Spotting the parallels – such as how the songs “Radio Man” and “Fortunate Son” start with jangly riffs and mounting drum rolls – is both pleasing and deeply meaningful. A must listen for CCR fans, they’ll be delighted to hear the music they grew up with as it morphs and inspires the new generation.
Their father’s well-documented record label troubles don’t have any bearing on Tyler’s views of the music industry.
“I’d still be a musician even if my dad wasn’t,” said Tyler. “I feel like I’m capable of doing great things, and to see somebody else achieve those things themselves and have already done it is inspiring. I don’t feel pressured to follow the same trajectory.”
His brother, Shane, has been playing in his dad’s band since he graduated college.
“It made me a better musician, playing night after night,” said Shane. “It’s a certain tier of musicianship. It’s intimidating at first, but it made me want to be better.”
Of playing with his father, Shane noted that “you can tell when he likes it because he’ll give you the most subtle praise. If he doesn’t like it, he’ll tell you, which is cool. He’s really subtle, I can’t even imagine in his mind the standard of what’s good. He tries not to change the direction we’re going in, but if he has something to say, he’ll put it simply and sternly: ‘you should change or listen to that again.’ But when he likes it, he’ll hum it to himself. He doesn’t want to be the all-seeing eye.”
With almost retro arcade vibes, Hearty Har’s bright, upbeat 70s sounds showcase their excellent guitar work and their experiments recording on analog. The in-home studio serves as a stomping ground of sorts.
“You have people who record parts on their computers, and then you have purists like us, who are still fighting the good fight,” said Tyler, who cites their home studio as the inspiration for the album. “It’s more work but it’s worth it in the end. Having more control of our own songs really helped us evolve. At the end of the day, it’s really up to you.”
Finding their own sound on the guitar has been a process. The brothers list Jimmy Cliff and Spiritualized as their current inspirations.
“I remember the first time I heard “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones and that changed the direction of the kind of music I wanted to play on guitar,” explained Shane. “Before, I was listening to Green Day and the Offspring and Dead Kennedys.”
Shane paused as the family’s golden retrievers burst into the studio. Two of the dogs, Banjo and Creedence, sit at his feet.
“When I was younger, I liked 70s punk rock, like the Modern Lovers and the Velvet Underground,” Tyler shares, “I liked that they had that attitude of you can’t really touch them because they’re in their own domain.”
Highlights of their new album include the song “Radio Man 56’,” a bizarre story of an alien introduced to rock music that is filled with bright guitar riffs, fun harmonies, and soul-tuned vocals.
“Fare Thee Well,” one of two songs with a music video waiting to be released, boasts a catchy change of tempo. In songs such as “Scream and Shout,” you can find the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” inspired bubble effect.
“Canyon of the Banshee” is an instrumental Spaghetti Western that the band is particularly excited about. The song covers a lot of musical ground, including brass and memorable drumming, showing their versatility.
Hearty Har’s strength is in the little worlds created in each song. The band likes to write about a theme or imaginary character so they can talk about real things in a living entity that’s not them, yet at the same time is them.
Tentatively titled “Radio Astro,” the record shapes up to be a concept album of sorts.
There’s talk of a winery tour in August, but for now quarantine doesn’t get their spirits down. Tyler and Shane have been joining their dad on the Fogerty Factory EP, live streaming and recording CCR songs and covers such as “City of New Orleans.”
When asked about the most interesting time they’ve had playing with their dad on stage, they recounted playing for a private birthday party at the Kremlin in front of Vladimir Putin.
“At first, everybody was just sitting still, and nobody was dancing,” said Tyler with a laugh. “Then halfway through the show, Putin got up and started dancing, then everybody else did too. They were all waiting for the cue.”
After hearing stories like this, perhaps the most remarkable thing is that despite their father’s legacy, the band got signed on its own merit.
The combination of their fearlessness in trying new sounds, experimentations in the recording studio, and ability to put on outrageous shows (“like a spectacle”) gave rise to their own place in the music world.