We know you’re absolutely heartsick with Valentine’s Day coming up tomorrow and not having anyone with whom to share the day. But, fear not, we’re filling that so-called gap in your seemingly lonely life with an awesome remake of an awesome song by an awesome band worthy of your attention. Not ones to avoid a challenge, Lansing, Michigan group Heartsick have taken on a serious one with their new cover version of the Nine Inch Nails classic, “The Hand That Feeds,” originally released on the 2005 record With Teeth. It’s not an easy task to cover the mastery that is NIN, but Heartsick has redesigned the song, transitioning it from its rock n’ roll foundations towards a gruffer, more traditional metal version. The band has no doubt accomplished the lofty goal of covering one of Trent Reznor’s masterpieces and the stripped-down, bare-bones music video fits perfectly with the tone of the track.
Heartsick is the epitome of passion for their craft and hard work. They firmly entrenched themselves as one of the U.S.’s best unsigned metal bands with the release of their sophomore album Sleep Cycles last February (stream/buy now at Apple Music, Spotify, or Bandcamp) which acted as the follow-up to their 2015 self-titled debut. Musically, the quartet combines metal with hardcore and metalcore to create some haunting melodies and highly accessible tunes.
The group is led by lead singer Alfonso Civile, whose talents are not hard to miss when listening to this cover of “The Hand That Feeds.” Originally from Puerto Rico, Civile was raised in Miami, Florida and acts as the creative force behind the band, who helps power the songwriting and overall sound. He has developed a deep connection with Heartsick’s fanbase, frequently engaging with fans both on and off the stage. He is an inspiring voice has a unique, unmistakable vocal style, as evidenced by “The Hand That Feeds.”
A metal band covering a Nine Inch Nails tune was just too cool of a prospect for us to pass up an interview. This is Heartsick discussing both the song and video. Civile commented on how and why they chose to approach “The Hand That Feeds,” the fears of covering such a legendary artist, and the down and dirty music video.
I would think that the idea of covering any song written by Trent Reznor for Nine Inch Nails is likely intimidating, given the complexity of his music. Were you at all intimidated by the thought of covering one of his songs?
Alfonso Civile: “In some ways, yes, and in some ways, no. With NIN it really boils down to the song you choose. ’Closer?’ Yeah super intimidating because how do you do the song justice without incorporating all the electronics which I mean is like 90 percent of that song. ’Hand That Feeds?’ No. It is mostly a traditional rock song with elements of what makes NIN so unique, the electronics.”
“The Hand That Feeds” is likely one of the most traditional ‘rock n’ roll’ songs that Trent Reznor has recorded for Nine Inch Nails in that it’s a very guitar, drums, vocals song. Was this part of what drew you to cover this song in particular?
Civile: “It’s so damn catchy and the 4/4 measure is so consistent and it just really rocks in the most of simple ways. The vocals in this song really show how important a good melody is to the overall song structure. The song really doesn’t change much, however, the vocals are so palatable and that 2 and 4 snare hit drive the whole ethos of rock music. Simplicity is beautiful and when done right it achieves greatness.”
Being a heavy metal band, you covered the song in more of a metal kind of way. How did you decide on what direction you wanted to take the song?
Civile: “We as a band like approaching covers in the same way they were written. We get that you should make a song your own, however, there is a reason why these songs that get covered and blow up were popular hits in the first place. To try and reinvent a perfect recipe is in our opinion, futile. However, if you can keep the song mostly the same but add modern elements of today (high gain, booming drums, a little more of a biting approach vocally) and build that up to where you can really hammer them with a heavy part by the end, in our opinion is way more effective and in turn, makes the song your own interpretation of it. Listen, we aren’t musical geniuses like Trent, to try and achieve that is impossible. So we did what we felt was the most logical, let it be what it was and simply apply it to modern times and make it heavy.”
Just released at the end of January, watch the music video for “Balloons” off of Sleep Cycles:
Perhaps the biggest difference between your version and Nine Inch Nails’ version are the vocals. Why did you decide to go with the gruffer, throatier and slower vocal?
Civile: “It’s a dark song, however, Trent, in his wisdom, I think knew that having the contrast of darker lyrics but more upbeat vocal part would make it that much more interesting and unique of a NIN song. When we listened to the song and wanted to apply it to what we are doing in songs like ’Shadow’ and ’Slave Labor’ we felt that would help people identify it as an us thing. We aren’t a YouTube cover band, we aren’t a cover band at all and we’ve been doing this for over six years now.
The cover bandwagon has always been a thing and we try and steer clear of that whole movement, not because there is something wrong with it but because it doesn’t interest us in the way other things interest us. Do we want to put out a covers record with songs we love and maybe most people younger than us don’t even know? Yes absolutely! Are we looking to be the next breakthrough artist who put out a cover that hit everyone in the feels? No. It would be cool and we wouldn’t shy from it but that isn’t the purpose. Being true to us and our sound is important so the vocal approach expressed that.”
The music video for the song I think fits very appropriately with the sound and tone of the cover. Where did you shoot the video and who came up with the idea for it?
Civile: “We shot it in our rehearsal spot in Lansing. Our buddy owns an awesome building that is being refurbished, he as a GIANT favour to us let us rent some space there and it has become this home for us in which has really opened our creative pallet more. It is exciting to be in a place that is breathing new life into our local economy as well as being rebuilt literally in front of our eyes. I brought the idea up to the guys in the band and they liked it. It isn’t something you see bands doing when they do a cover song. They cover the song but try and make the visual piece of the song their own.
We thought why not flip that on its head and literally pay homage to one of the most influential, mysterious, creative, and intelligent influences in heavy rock, metal, and industrial music. It is in our opinion far better to be different and stand out than to be the same as every single band out there trying to fit into people’s little boxes, especially in metal. Hence why we did something that isn’t as traditional.”