Mister Heavenly Is More Than a Celebrity Bassist

Nicholas Thorburn, leader of the indie-rock band Mister Heavenly, is one of those classic West Coast slackers. His answers to the simplest questions are all bathed in tongue-in-cheek sarcasm.

"I don't really live in Los Angeles as much as I reside here," Thorburn says over the phone from his, well, residence in Southern California. "This is just where I've been for a while."

Casual to the point of almost being catatonic, Thorburn livens up a bit when it comes to talk of his latest project, Mister Heavenly, which is considered a sort of indie-rock super-group. Thorburn, after all, fronts another indie band, Islands. And his cohorts in Mister Heavenly include Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse, The Shins), Ryan Kattner (Man Man) and, from time to time, actor Michael Cera.

"It's silly to call us a super-group," Thorburn says. "We are more of a superb group. Frankly, that term, 'super-group,' gets thrown around pretty haphazardly. It doesn't bother me to be called a super-group. What bothers me is making a record that doesn't sell."

Hopefully, Mister Heavenly's recently issued debut, Out of Love, will sell enough not to bother Thorburn. Judging by its contents, it should sell just fine.

Plus, with Cera's name associated with the band, the added attention can't hurt — even if Thorburn doesn't want Cera's occasional presence to be seen as some sort of publicity stunt.

"Michael is just a friend," Thornburn says. "We needed a bass player and I didn't think he'd be interested or available to do it. I was naively unaware that it would mean anything. And, besides, he's a great musician. He's probably a more technically proficient musician than anyone else in the band."

But Thorburn admits that having Cera in the live band from time to time (he won't be at Monday's show) can have its drawbacks.

"It can be distracting," Thorburn says. "Michael playing in the band did pull in some rubber-neckers, people who were there more for the spectacle. But we just kept our heads down and focused on the music."

With or without the publicity surrounding Mister Heavenly's bassist, the songs on Out of Love should bring the band the attention it so richly deserves. Filled with indie-rock gems that run the gamut of the genre — from the all-out assault of "Bronx Sniper" to the laid-back Hawaiian-themed "Pineapple Girl" — the album reeks of indie cool.

"The point of this band, from the beginning, was to do something different," Thorburn says. "We wanted to make this really bold statement that didn't fit into any genre of music."

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers