Victoria's Hot Hot Heat at the peak, but not necessarily peaking
What’s it been, about two years we’ve been enjoying this remarkably clean and modern wave of rock revivalism? Enough time, in any case, for the dust to settle, the air to clear and the view of what’s been laid out to be made very available. And at this point we can see a pyramidal hierarchy of bands where, quite fairly, bottom feeders are spread out at the base and cool, important and, yes, talented artists are tightly squeezed at the top.
It is here at the peak that, dare I say it, Victoria, B.C.’s Hot Hot Heat securely sit. In case you were unaware, Canada, we are currently boasting one of the finest new rock bands around. The assumption is, of course, that being Canadian has very little to do with it, and that maybe even acknowledging the C-factor is irrelevant – if not mildly prohibited. Not at all. Not in this age of proud, new-rock Canadiana.
"At first I felt that geography had nothing to do with the kind of music that you made, but as a Canadian it’s a given that you’re an underdog. It’s assumed that you won’t be provided with the same respect going into it," explains frontman Steve Bays.
"Yes, there’s a Canadian stigma that we’re up against, but I definitely feel that the global view of Canadian music is changing. When we do interviews in the U.K., everyone’s talking about how there’s a big Canadian explosion. I always bring up Three Inches Of Blood, The Constantines, Broken Social Scene, Hidden Cameras, The Stills, The Unicorns, The Dears, Hawksley Workman…"
Nationality is not just having an impact from the outside in, but according to Bays has afforded Hot Hot Heat a wide-open structural advantage otherwise inaccessible.
"Because there isn’t a Canadian sound – where there definitely is a New York or a Seattle sound, etc. – we always felt that there were no boundaries," argues Bays. "But when you’re a kid and you’re looking up to bands, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, you kinda mould your behaviour around it. But being from a small town and being Canadian, there’s nobody directly influencing us."
Free to draw influences directly from more dominant and less proximate sources, Hot Hot Heat have, without question, taken great liberties to pull their giddy, urgent, volatile vocal-heavy pop rock from the bins of new wave ’70s/’80s geek pop, where Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, XTC and The Cure resided.
This wasn’t the case at first. Hot Hot Heat’s evolution from a synthy screamcore project to the present took place quite consciously by decision when Bays announced he wanted to sing. That was "kinda when everything changed." A signing to Sub Pop/Warner yielded two records, 2002′s Knock Knock Knock EP and then later last year, the fantastic Make up the Breakdown.
"We’re still at the stage where we’re extremely grateful," he says modestly. "I mean, hey, maybe our next record won’t do as well. Of course I think it’s going to be way better but I can’t really accept any pats on the back until I see some consistency."
Hot Hot Heat
with the Unicorns
Club Soda, Dec. 12