Can a band attribute its career to serendipity, or being in the right place at the right time?
Singer Nini Fabi of Haerts – who brings the group to The City this week, playing from its self-titled, Fleetwood-Mac-meets-Cocteau-Twins debut disc – thinks so.
Born in Ohio, she attended high school in Munich, Germany, where she bumped into Australian-bred multi-instrumentalist Ben Gebert at a swim meet in which they were both competing. She doesn’t exactly remember their first conversation.
“But we definitely spoke about music and travel, and that connected us right away,” she says. Soon, they were boyfriend and girlfriend, then eventually songwriting collaborators.
Preparing to attend a pal’s birthday party, the couple needed a unique, last-minute gift.
“That’s how we came to compose our first song,” says Fabi, who later married Gebert. “We wanted to do it for awhile, because Benny was always writing, and then I started writing. So a few hours before that party, we recorded a birthday song on this little 12-track mixer we bought, and we really liked it. It was almost like some kind of language that we found together.”
Yet there was plan to form a band. Fabi and Gebert were on different creative trajectories, even when they simultaneously enrolled in Boston’s Berklee College of Music. “My focus was songwriting, and his focus was engineering and production, so we never, ever had a course together,” she says.
Then the duo moved to Brooklyn, with no music-biz connections, and began playing stripped-down folk music. Through a mutual German acquaintance, they met St. Lucia anchor-producer Jean-Philip Grobler, who had a panoramic vision for them.
Co-producing “Haerts,” Grobler amped up the drums, added reverb to Fabi’s ethereal vocals, and swirled the synthesizers into a marshmallow-textured sonic landscape, starting with album openers “Heart” and “Wings.”
“We just felt the need to expand, the need for lusher arrangements and painting pictures with sounds,” Fabi says. “Once we came upon the sound in those two tracks, we kept using those colors in all the other songs.”
Lyrical topics were accidental for Fabi, too. Since she was a child, she occasionally suffered from a migraine-spawned condition that paralyzed her body. Researching the affliction, she discovered a term for it, then turned that into a gossamer pop song, “Hemiplegia.” “But in the song, it’s not a physical reference at all,” she says.
Even the artsy CD cover shot of Fabi – by noted photographer Albert Watson – was happenstance. “I was holding this big bouquet of flowers, but for some reason, I dropped them,” she says. “But as I looked down to pick them up, that was the second Albert took the photo. It was a really candid moment.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 16
Tickets: $15 to $18 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.ticketfly.com