HOT HOT HEAT at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, September 26). $8. 416-598-4753
Remember Backbeat, that grungy 90s flick about Stuart Sutcliffe, the sorry sod who played bass for the Beatles but ditched the band before they made it big? You had to feel bad for the poor dude. He stuck around for the starving-artist years but missed out on international fame.Well, should anyone decide to update the movie for the new millennium, current Canadian indie it boys Hot Hot Heat are the perfect candidates.
As the Hot Hot legend goes, the fab foursome formed in Victoria in the late 90s as a hardcore synth-punk outfit. When their original singer jumped ship, keyboard star Steve Bays took over vocal duties, and they beefed up their sound with searing electric guitars. All of a sudden the band blew up, scoring an awesome deal with Sub Pop records and rave reviews on both sides of the border.
Wonder how that silly singer feels now that Hot Hot Heat's verging on Strokes-sized stardom?
"Uh, well we haven't heard from him very much. He's going to school, taking it easy," mumbles guitarist Dante DeCaro sheepishly from a cellphone somewhere in the Rockies. "We have a totally different sound now. People grow apart, musical directions and shit like that. It just wasn't working out."
Burning bridges never benefited anyone, so it's probably for the best that the boys are close-mouthed on the subject. Besides, they've got no regrets. Their bouncy, snotty the-Cure-meets-Death-Cab-for-Cutie sound, featuring Bays's pseudo-Robert Smith sneer, has been getting lots of attention. They even made it into the top-10 list out of over 200 bands at Vancouver's NewMusicWest fest this past spring.
After Sub Pop released their lauded Knock Knock Knock EP back in April, DeCaro, Bays, drummer Paul Hawley and bassist Dustin Hawthorne holed up in a studio with Jack Endino, the grunge legend of a producer behind Nirvana's Bleach album. The result of those sessions is the band's first full-length disc for Sub Pop, Make Up The Breakdown, set to drop October 8.
The new tunes are an expanded version of the poppy, danceable post-punk organ crunch crammed into the 16 minutes of their EP. DeCaro thinks the full-length is more mature and a little more focused, although he admits that the material was written at the same time as Knock Knock Knock.
Still, it seems like a whole lot of Heat in a very short amount of time, especially considering the band released all their earlier recordings barely a year ago on tiny indie label OHEV.
"When you're a band that's growing in popularity, it's not a bad idea to be putting out a lot of stuff at once," argues DeCaro. "There are a lot of people who'll hear the album who won't have heard the EP, and a ton of people who haven't heard the older stuff at all."
Although DeCaro says Endino managed to get really good performances out of the band, it's hard to hear much of a difference between Make Up The Breakdown and their earlier work. DeCaro's stoked that Sub Pop's giving them access to a lot of opportunities they couldn't have scored with a Canadian label. They're getting a star producer, great U.S. exposure and a Little-Shop-Of-Horrors-meets-Brazil video for the first single, Bandages, which they plan to shoot in L.A. in mid-October.
Still, DeCaro says the sudden buzz is a bit overwhelming.
"It's something we don't really know a ton about at this point, and we probably won't come to any conclusions until we're more educated on it and more time goes by.
"We're doing what we want to be doing right now, although I guess we'd like to be a bit more stable, as far as when we come home. For this tour we brought a TV and a PlayStation, so I think it's gonna be pretty mellow. We only have one game, though. We need Tony Hawk. We couldn't find him before we left. Now we're just beating each other up and shit."firstname.lastname@example.org