Mark Grundy (Heaven For Real) and Blaketheman1000 Talk TikTok Royalties, Crypto Patronage, and More

The two friends catch up.

Mark Grundy fronts the Toronto-based art-rock band Heaven For Real; Blaketheman1000, aka Blake Ortiz-Goldberg, is a New York-based hyperpop artist. Heaven For Real’s latest EP, Sweet Rose Green Winter Desk Top Tell This Side Autumn Of The Fighter Hot In A Cool Way, just came out last week on Mint Records — their first release since 2016. To celebrate, the two friends hopped on a Zoom call to catch up about it. 
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music

Mark Grundy: It’s nice to see you.

Blake Ortiz-Goldberg: It is. We were texting this morning.

Mark: That’s true. You sent me a new song!

Blake: Yeah, we sent each other songs. I really liked your song, “Autumn of the Fighter,” which is a Heaven For Real song. I actually, without your permission, sent it to my girlfriend, Jess. 

Mark: [Laughs.] If you want to send it! If I can if I can speak to your song, it samples our friend Eliza [Niemi]‘s song, and she had shown me a preview as well without your permission.

Blake: Yeah, that’s actually a method that I lean on a lot — I send the audio files to everyone so that at my shows people know the words to the unreleased songs. It’s good for optics. 

Mark: Yeah, that’s good. As long as you’re playing the 4D chess, you can’t go wrong.

Blake: Who’s featured on your song?

Mark: Oh, Dorothea Paas. She’s a really good friend of mine. I lived with her for a lot of years here in Toronto.

Blake: And how did you guys come to work on that song together?

Mark: We had a big recording session for this record that we’ve been working on, but then we wanted to do Sweet Rose Green Winter Desk Top Tell This Side Autumn Of The Fighter Hot In A Cool Way at the beginning of the year, just to get an EP out that kind of speaks to where the band is now. We had this track that we were working on, and I have done some collaboration — actually Dorothea one time played in Quaker Parents [Mark’s previous band] for a show, so it makes sense that we would collaborate. But this is the first time anyone’s ever featured on a Heaven For Real track, so that was super fun. 

I just went to her house and we just did it there. She’s a pro. I mean, aside from the fact that her music is very good and I love her songwriting, she also is, like, a powerhouse. She’s always recording vocals with people and collaborating in that way. So it was really fun.

Blake: I’ve been pretty collaboration-pilled lately.

Mark: [Laughs.] Yeah, you’re a master at that for sure. It feels like a lot of your tracks have [features].

Blake: For a long time, I would only record music alone, but now — for the last week, I’ve been on this wave where I’m like, I’m not producing my own tracks anymore. I want beats, and I’m only writing to beats. But the song I sent you, I ended up caving and producing it myself, which I was really happy with. So maybe it’s a mix of the two processes that I like.

Mark: I feel like your style has been evolving this whole time I’ve known you, which is funny. I feel like your style really has changed even in just the last 12 months — it’s been a big change. 

Blake: Yeah. Well, because when we met — a mutual friend, Scott Hermo of Boyscott, showed me your music, and then I got really into your music. I think I hit you up on Instagram, and then we started DMing about doing a show. Before COVID, I think you’d probably come down and done, like, three or four shows, and I met a bunch of your friends, including Eliza. It’s fun because we’re almost like pen pals — we send each other files and check in, and, meet up every year or so for shows. It’s a very fun friendship. I feel like it’s very distinct to this part of the internet age, when it is so easy to send files back and forth and stuff.

Mark: Yeah, that approximation of pen pals — especially because when I was touring more, I would just not really talk to people and see them, so now I feel like I want to be more open in that way. Because otherwise, I just wouldn’t see you for, like, two years probably.

Blake: Yeah, it’s true. I feel very blessed to have found so many talented and sweet friends via the music internet.

Mark: [Laughs.] The Music Internet — it’s like another internet.

Blake: Web4. [Laughs.] Are you up on the vibe shift?

Mark: I’m not up on it. I think there’s obviously some deep, nucleus New York vibe shift discourse that I’m not going to know about, but I’d like to hear what you have to say on the shift in vibe.

Blake: It’s interesting, because I think the vibe shift and the “indie sleaze” revival are really related. I think you can look at any field through the lens of vibe shift, but when I think about myself and genre — like people will be like, “Oh, do you call it hyperpop, or indie sleaze revival?” And I think I probably relate most with the label of “vibe shift music.” Because to me, the indie sleaze thing isn’t really a genre or a style, it was more like a context, which was art being made during the late 2000s blog explosion, and the result is a moment where there is just a very wide spread of styles — that’s where you get the birth of the hipsters. It was a very eccentric scene. And my feeling is that, with the vibe shift, we’re seeing a similar moment where a lot of extra institutional voices and criticism are emerging via these podcasts and TikTok and YouTube. I think the result is that a lot of artists are feeling empowered to make weird stuff because there is an audience for it right now.

Mark: It’s a vibe renaissance. [Laughs.] For me, especially because I haven’t been touring, I feel like I have been digesting from a distance that perspective of a vibe shift. Or the way that my taste has evolved over the last four or five years is really informed by some of those things you’re talking about. My friends and other artists I’m super inspired by — I’m just really looking to those cues, even in a subconscious way. 

Blake: And it’s even things outside of my friend group, too, like just like shit I see on TikTok. I feel like things are so cool right now and people are being so creative, and I think so many really original things are gaining an audience. To me, it’s a very encouraging time to be making art.

Mark: Yeah, I agree with that.

Blake: I think it’s probably resulting from COVID being a reset of sorts, but I also think a lot of it has to do with crypto.

Mark: You think so?

Blake: Yeah.

Mark: Again, I’m not so tapped into the crypto boom. 

Blake: Well, I’m not really up on crypto, but it kind of relates to the late 2000s thing, with the social media boom. There’s a new group of rich people who want their own scene of cool people to play their crypto parties and stuff. It’s kind of in the same way that I think the blog scene served an audience of social media money, and birthed the indie sleaze scene — I feel like a lot of the cool stuff is in response to there [being] a new group of money that wants to consume fresh art.

Mark: Right. The patrons are emerging.

Blake. Yeah. Some people are like, “Oh, that’s kind of dark,” but that’s kind of what it’s always been, right? Good art — there’s always someone with money consuming it.

Mark: Yeah, exactly.

Blake: Or, at least, maybe not good art, but acclaimed and popular art. 

But on another note entirely: you guys are releasing an EP with Heaven For Real, and then you guys are doing a Heaven For Real album?

Mark: We are. The album’s not announced yet, so I can’t really get too into it—

Blake: Well, I announced it.

Mark: Yeah, thanks, Blake! It’s time. But, yeah, we have been working on this record for a lot of years. We did a bunch of recording in 2020. I guess our musical shifting of a vibe was happening a few years before that, but we were trying to sculpt songs that were really steeped in a certain kind of energy. And even with this EP, I feel like it kind of changed again, which is cool.

Blake: Yeah. So the songs that are coming out on this EP were done during a session that was how long?

Mark: It was a few days, but we did 20-something tracks.

Blake: That’s so crazy. Were some of those songs written during the sessions, or were they were all written before?

Mark: They were all written before. We had been writing with drum machines and trying to kind of take it all through a filter of what we thought this record should sound like. Some of them didn’t quite fit what we thought would work, or like they just made sense for something else, so we turned them into this EP. They just felt like they spoke to something different. 

Blake: So you wrote the songs all post-lockdown, or you wrote some of them before?

Mark: Some started before. Because of the thing of having the two projects, I felt very split — I was really writing a bunch of shit for [Quaker Parents’] Our Drawing Club record. And then I felt a [sense of] songs as… not to say affirmations, but almost like trying to drill down your thoughts into emotion, and that’s what I wanted the Heaven For Real stuff to feel like.

Blake: What inspired the EP? Elaborate on that a bit, what you were saying about the thoughts as affirmations.

Mark: Sometimes when I’m writing a song, I feel like it’s like you’re creating some kind of truth. Even if it seems facetious, in the song, there’s some kernel that is that the reason for the song to exist. Sometimes it feels like a personal affirmation or some ideal, and you’re just trying to convey that in the song. And sometimes one could subvert that in the context of a track. 

Blake: I think it’s interesting, because I write these autofiction lyrics where it’s kind of playing with my story, and I think I’ve manifested bad things in my life. 

Mark: No! [Laughs.] I do sometimes feel like songs really do predict the future.

Blake: I need to start writing songs like, “I’m going to be really healthy and successful and a great member of my community.” Those need to be the choruses.

Mark: I’m not even kidding, that was what I was trying to do with some of the ones for this record, in a sort of subconscious way. Sometimes it is like, I’ll write a song and I’m like, OK, I know what that means, in a sort of removed way. And then six months later I’m like, Oh man, right, that was why

Blake: Yeah, I relate for sure. So what’s what’s an example of one where you’re like, “This is me very positively manifesting and positively affirming in my lyrics”?

Mark: There’s one on the record. I’ll send it to you after the chat.

Blake: You should say it! 

Mark: It’s not out yet!

Blake: Leak it!

Mark: I can’t leak it! It’s coming. 

Blake: When you send it to me, I’m gonna put it on SoundCloud.

Mark: You’ll get a copyright notice.

Blake: I’m gonna go on r/heavenforreal and leak it on Reddit.

Mark: I’ll start a r/btm1000. Actually, there probably is one!

Blake: No, there’s none. I don’t know where my fans convene.

Mark: TikTok. You just had a really famous person share your song!

Blake: Yeah, it was really cool that she did. It was Chloe Cherry, one of the actors from Euphoria. It got four or five million views, and I was like, Oh, shit, do I get money off this? And as it turns out, the way TikTok pays out, it’s not how many views a TikTok gets for royalties, it’s how many videos get made with the sound. Spotify, after taxes it’s like $6,000 USD per million [streams]. And so I was like, If TikTok pays out a tenth of Spotify, I’m still getting a few thousand dollars. But no, it turns out I would need four million TikToks to get made to get that kind of money.

Mark: But did it incite people to make a bunch of dance videos and stuff?

Blake: No. It got a bump in streaming — the song is the most popular it’s ever been, but, I mean, not the way you’d think. That video got four million views, and I think I got, like, 1,000 Spotify streams in the day after. Which is super cool that people are checking it out, but it was definitely like, Wow, what a low rate. The TikTok stuff is interesting because it’s mad unpredictable. But it’s all fun. You know, living in the vibe shift, it’s like the Wild West out there right now. Nothing’s the same as three years ago, so it’s kind of fun to navigate it.

Do you know when [you might play] live shows?

Mark: Yeah, we have some stuff in the summer for sure. We have festivals that we’re playing. Are you gonna come to Canada? Come to the OVO store!

Blake: The flights are weirdly expensive! I feel like it’s always cheaper to go to LA than Canada, which I don’t understand. It’s so close, it seems like it should be a $100 flight.

Mark: And obviously I’m not going to leak it — although I can definitely leak to my friends — the new Blake shit… 

Blake: Yeah text it around. I don’t have any coming out soon, but I feel like the one I sent you would probably be next. I’m gonna sample your new song, too.

Mark: You gotta get clearance on that one. [Laughs.] 

Blake: Oh, yeah, you have a label. Are they pro-sampling or anti-sampling?

Mark: I haven’t talked to them, but I think they’d be into it. They’re awesome.

Blake: I don’t know if I should get clearance first, or just do it. 

Mark: Better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.

Heaven For Real is a Toronto-based art rock band. Their latest EP, Sweet Rose Green Winter Desk Top Tell This Side Autumn Of The Fighter Hot In A Cool Way, is out now on Mint Records.