By: Jonina Diele

“Heavenly”: defined as divine, celestial, or sublime; of or in the heavens. To our ears, heavenly sounds evoke more of a feeling, one different for every person but somehow all the same—and they’re sounds that aren’t easy to create. Yet, Denver’s newest sweet soul duo is able to—and they aren’t afraid to own it.

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Photo Cred: Jon Shockness

HVN—pronounced “heaven”—is made of Jon Shockness and Daniel Iyere. And while the two giggle when saying they’re a “singer/producer in heaven,” their heavenly is quality undeniable. Fittingly, Shockness explains it’s where their name came from: “the sounds—the atmosphere that we’re trying to create—it felt very heavenly and expansive and open and wide,” he says, before continuing on about his bandmate’s ability to produce such a feeling. “I think what Daniel does really well is create music that isn’t as straightforward; it’s not something that you would hear just every day on the radio, ya know? It has elements that can sound familiar or relatable but it does push it outside of the normal textures,” he says. “It feels very heavenly.”

The duo met a year or so ago after Iyere moved to Denver from New York. Being new in town, Iyere says he “was trying to get to know everyone and who was doing what in town, and how [he] could contribute to the scene here.” That’s how he started working with Shockness, who contributed to a song on Iyere’s previous project Laykes. “That was one of the ways we really got to work in the studio,” he says. “It clicked from that song.” The chemistry of the duo is palpable, and their praise for each other is endearing. When speaking of Shockness, Iyere says he feels like he’s “working with a top tier artist.” Frankly, he is—Shockness is well versed in Denver’s artistic community—and beyond. He gained national attention as a vocalist of the hip hop band Air Dubai and made waves as his soulful solo act, Kid Astronaut. After years of hard musical work and success, Shockness feels like he’s right where he wants to be. “This is the kind of production I’ve always wanted to do as an artist,” he says. “It’s cool to find someone who wants to create these sounds with me.”

Those sounds are a creative and calculated mixture of afrobeat, soul, rhythmic pop, and gospel inspirations. The two feel that they have similar musical backgrounds, but much of Iyere’s influence from both growing up in Lagos, Nigeria and being a church musician is present in their music. Iyere is a fan of the complexities and scientifics of the musical process—he’s a self-proclaimed “sonic nerd” and audiophile, and enjoys the mathematics of pop music. Where Iyere’s focus is on the sonic, Shockness’ happens to be on the picturesque—he likes to create music and lyrics that have a storyline, and strives to write songs that the listener can picture in their heads when they hear his voice. “[I] consciously want to create music that is more…visual,” he says. These qualities in both artists are apparent in the effortless, structured production of HVN’s music—which we’ll be able to hear a lot more of very soon.

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HVN Opening of Miguel at the Boulder Theatre

The band is currently putting finishing touches on their debut EP. It took them some time to find the right space and energy—they tried out three studios before finding one that stuck, but overall Iyere feels the process has been “very smooth. The energy has been very good.” For Shockness, when describing their work on the 8-track project, “the word [he] would choose is productive” and he feels like “[he’s] learning through this process as well.” They both seem to be largely motivated by each other’s expertise.

Although the project is still in the works, the band has had plenty of opportunities to spread the word about their music and get the community excited about what’s to come from them. They appeared on Colorado Public Radio back in September and opened for Miguel on October 11th. When asked about the latter, it’s apparent that the experience was a life-changing one for the two men. “That was a rush,” Iyere says, smiling. “I literally could feel blood run through my veins on stage. I felt alive, so alive.” For Shockness, it felt a little more personal: “Miguel is one of the artists I look up to,” he says. “His audience is the audience we hope to reach too, so just finding the alignments and the synchronicities in the path—it was confirming that we should keep going.” Iyere agreed that the feedback from the show was rewarding and exciting, saying that it “was really good approval of the sonics of what we’re doing, and just the textures and tastes of sound. That was a really great space to try out the material for the fan base of a superstar.”

14720593_1082390501877171_5176776007063838239_n            Recently, the band was able to “try out the material” in a more intimate setting. On October 21st, they hosted a small listening in the backyard of their good friend and fellow artist CRL CRRL. The atmosphere was reminiscent of the band’s music—comforting, creative, and just gives you a damn good feeling. It was a relaxed celebration of art in its purest form, and the genuine eccentrics of the band came alive not only on the tiny stage, but in the way both Shockness and Iyere interacted with the people around them. They want to make people feel good, and they surely did—as soon as they took the small, makeshift stage, they had people smiling. Swaying to the beat. Staring lovingly at the two artists, who were so visibly proud of their creation. Barefoot and eyes closed, Shockness effortlessly captured the body-to-body room with his voice, and Iyere had them nodding their heads to his beats. During songs like “Don’t Change,” a silky slow down that showcases Shockness’ velvet voice, the intimacy spread through the room, just as the energy did when the singer was dancing to upbeat tracks like “Care For You.”

There’s something special about seeing a band in its beginning stages—it’s intimate and exciting—and sometimes even a little scary. But for HVN, the development of an identity is already complete, which allows them to take leaps where other artists might still be taking baby steps. Surely, the best is yet to come for Denver’s latest sensation—and they ask that you stay tuned for what comes next. “Follow us online, stay up to date. We’re gunna be releasing a lot more behind the scenes stuff,” Shockness says, which will allow fans to “see the creation process as the album and the band grows.” It’s something that’s important to him as an artist: “for me, some of my favorite bands are the people that I get to see as real people—so we definitely want to have that element within all of the produced content.” Produced content is something we can most likely expect a lot of—the duo explained that they want to grow as multimedia artists as well, and in Shockness’ words, the music is just “one part of the journey.”

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Photo Cred: Jon Shockness

Said journey is one that readers, listeners, and all proud Denverites should be very excited for—in just a few short months since the band’s formation, they’ve already shown us to expect big things—and they damn sure do too. They want us to know that they, in Iyere’s words, are “very serious about what [they] do.” He explains that he wants “to be reputable within our business—without our tradecraft, within our industry … we’re making music for the fans and also making music for our peers,” he says, just as Shockness interjects and shouts “and for the culture!”

While home is at heart, there are hopes—and indications—that HVN will be much larger than the 303. “We definitely want to be a Denver band … globally, we have plans to definitely reach all the way to Nigeria,” Shockness says. “[We are] creating music for the world…I don’t see any reason to play it smaller than that. If you can go big, why not?” We can feel confident the “big” from HVN is coming soon—so stay tuned, and stay heavenly.

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Photo Cred: Jon Shockness