Hilotrons with Boycrusher and the Empiricals at the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen West), Wednesday (January 18). $5. 416-531-5042.
Ottawa's Hilotrons are one of those bands that sound like anything and everything, everything and nothing.
You know, you're listening to it and you're all, "Hey this sounds exactly like... ," and then you can't figure out like what exactly, but it's right there, hovering at the edge of your brain, like if you could just catch it off guard you could grasp it. But dammit, you can't. Yeah, like that.
Songs off their new album, Bella Simone, sound kind of like the Cars and Elvis Costello but also kind of like Devo and the Vapors and a whole bunch of other 80s new wave stuff. It made me think of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, so I listened to some them, but now I'm not so sure.
Hilotrons' quirky quick beats mix with choppy guitars that sometimes go all surfy, nostalgically ambient keyboards and spacey 80s dance club experimentals. It's pretty freakin' sweet.
Again, vocalist Mike Dubue's voice sounds totally familiar, but I can't figure out exactly who he sounds like.
"One of my favourite vocalists of all time is Michael Jackson," says Dubue on the phone from our nation's capital, "in the sense of how percussive he is as a vocalist."
This is not who I had in mind at all, but I can see what he means. "And also Diamanda Galás. She's one of my favourite people. I especially like a lot of her later work. As a piano player and a singer she's a great inspiration."
Again, not who I had in mind. I don't have the heart to tell Dubue he doesn't sound at all like Galás (which some might say is a good thing).
Then he mentions Joe Strummer and Nina Simone. Righty-o. The amusingly eclectic list of influences on the Hilotrons website includes everyone from clichéd usual suspects AC/DC and the Clash to Galás, Mastodon, Mike Patton, Kelis and "Cambodian/Vietnamese pop."
"I think if you looked at our record collections you'd find them pretty diverse. I know a lot of people like to say, "I listen to everything' (here Dubue affects a whiny poser voice), but I really do mean that. There isn't a lot of music I dislike. Except for Led Zeppelin. I hate Led Zeppelin."
Who hates Led Zeppelin? Nobody hates Led Zeppelin. If you like rock, you have to like Led Zeppelin. That's the rule. You can hate Stairway To Heaven, but you can't hate Led Zeppelin.
"Well, I respect John Paul Jones. He brought interesting ideas (and he produced Diamanda Galás), and I respect a lot of John Bonham's ideas, the way he played drums, but Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are just brutal."
Okay, yeah. I can live with that.
This broad range of tastes is represented in the several other bands in which the members of the Hilotrons are also involved, two of which will be playing at the launch of Bella Simone Boycrusher and the Empiricals.
The latter is an instrumental project that covers Asian music, which is obviously where the Cambodian/Vietnamese pop comes in.
"The Empiricals actually just came back from China, where we did a small tour and played an international music festival."
Boycrusher is more of an 80s dance project. These three bands are pretty much all the same guys in different positions, though the bands' music varies widely.
Bella Simone is the Hilotrons' second full-length. Tunes from their first made it onto different TV shows.
"They were cheesy teenybopper shows, which is really funny. But every little thing counts when getting exposure for a band, and that helped a little bit. I got a couple of e-mails."
The band is now in talks with labels in the UK and Australia. They'll spend a lot of time on tour in the immediate future, so things are kind of fun. And it's about time someone paid some attention to the Ottawa music scene.
"Maybe it's just an easy thing to say, but it seems like Ottawa has an amazing music scene and we go completely unnoticed."
Well, yeah, I guess there are a lot of bands in Ottawa. The Hilotrons are in, like, 40 of them. Of all Dubue's projects, are the Hilotrons his favourite? "Nah, not really. I love them all."