The Sickly Hecks on Refining DIY

Steve Hartman (left) and Raymond Suny (right) of the Sickly Hecks.
Steve Hartman (left) and Raymond Suny (right) of the Sickly Hecks.
Ben Ward
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The Fort Collins punk-rockers in the The Sickly Hecks are DIY through and through. It’s a sensibility that’s guided them since they formed a few years back, when frontman Raymond Suny recorded their first EP, Silver Tongue, on one SM-57 condenser mic, in his parents' basement, when he was nineteen.

“DIY is born out of necessity," Suny says. "It has its merits, and it has its negatives, as well. It’s taught me to really just rely on myself, and it also taught me that I’m capable of doing this stuff."

The Sickly Hecks have a lot on their résumé for a young band. The bandmates — Suny and drummer Steve Hartman — have self-released two EPs, are currently preparing to drop their debut LP, Try and Fail, on January 8, and just launched their own record label and recording studio, called Heck Records, where they aim to be a one-stop shop for up-and-comers. 

With all of this, the Hecks are most known locally for The Heck House, a series of house shows they put on from 2017 to 2018 in Fort Collins. The band hosted over twenty shows to widespread attendance, including touring bands and locals alike. The shows became a beacon in the Fort Collins scene, building a community around their music and paving the way for young bands new to punk and DIY culture to experience the loud, sweaty, and debaucherous world firsthand, no punches pulled.

“The Heck House era was a weird time. I loved doing the shows and building the scene,” Suny says. "We introduced that house-show concept to a new group of kids. All the kids coming through were freshmen and sophomores in college — they had no idea you could do something like that." However, the trouble started when the cops came knocking. The Hecks put on over twenty shows without police intervention, but once they were on the cops’ radar, getting shut down — often by the first set — was unavoidable.

“There’s a lot of bullshit you deal with when you run a house show, especially when you’re 22 and you don’t know how to shut up when you’re talking to the police,” Suny says. “To a degree, it was kinda cool getting shut down. Our house got known for being the rowdy punk-show house, which is fun and a good time, but when you do that every week for a few months, it can start to get old and stressful. I loved it, and I’m glad it helped the Fort Collins scene grow and sustain itself for a while, but I don’t think I’ll be doing it again in that capacity.”

The era lived on as the band hosted Heck House takeovers at venues across Fort Collins, most notably the now-closed Downtown Artery. These ventures allowed the band to pay artists more and host shows in a space where they no longer had to worry about the door getting knocked down by the police.

The bandmembers' focus on serving their community as well as themselves extends into Heck Records. Suny and Hartman have always been interested in the scene at large, and the label is a way to be involved in a more sustainable way than putting on DIY shows, something that was already a challenge but is now impossible during the pandemic.

“[The Heck House] provided a foundation for us to start Heck Records," Hartman says. "We’re in a position to help out artists who may not know how the recording process works, allowing them to center those voices and put something out into the musical discourse."

“We want to prioritize making stuff for artists who are super-talented but don’t know the business or recording aspects of being in a band," Suny adds. "We want to build that up in a collaborative way that they may have yet to have figured out on their own."

These days, the Hecks have held on to their commitment to doing things on their own terms and serving their community, but they’re looking to more serious avenues to get it done. Suny and Hartman are still punk, but they talk enthusiastically about pop music, marketing, and building Heck Records as a business.

“I love pop music,” Suny says. “Maybe not what you’d call Top Forty, but the oldies. I grew up on Nirvana and the Pixies, and those guys were always touted as being these outsider, noisy bands, but they all just make pop songs. Even when you go back to original punk bands like the Ramones, they’re basically just Beach Boys songs. Punk, foundationally, is based on pop music.”

The band’s forthcoming LP, Try and Fail, represents this more serious transition, tying a bow on their early twenties filled with rowdy house shows, partying and making records fast and scrappily. The album is a time capsule into this period, working its way through relationships, partying too much, changing relationships with family; it's all about the angst and alienation of young adulthood.

Try and Fail reflects a newer, more serious approach to the band,” Suny says. “That really reflects itself through every part of the record. We took more time and really gave a shit about it. We wanted to make it the best album we could make under the circumstances. It also manifested itself in the lyrics, and the meaning of the songs. These songs still hit me heavy — they’re painfully self-aware.”

The album is also the first release from the band as a duo. The Hecks have worked with multiple members since their inception, but the creative relationship between Suny and Hartman (who joined the band in 2019) has guided the group into a new era.

“Steve is a godsend for this band," Suny says. "I collaborate better with him than I have with any musician, ever." 

These days, you won’t find Suny and Hartman packing dozens of kids into their living room for a night of precarious and primal DIY. Instead, you’ll find them behind a mixing board — or, when things open again, behind the door at a local venue, working hard to not only make a name for themselves, but for the Fort Collins scene at large.

“I think, specifically for the band, our move now is just broadening our horizons,” Suny says. “In the future, I’d expect more mature, well-rounded albums and always trying to go bigger.”

Follow the Sickly Hecks on social media.

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