Hot Hot Heat
Hot Hot Heat
Springing from a similar new-wave cannon that shot Franz Ferdinand and the Rapture into the mainstream, Canadian group Hot Hot Heat have undergone numerous lineup and stylistic changes on their way to pop success. Beginning first as a spastic synth-rock act, and eventually evolving into a jittery power-pop outfit, Hot Hot Heat have changed labels almost as many times as styles (putting records out on Ache, Ohev, Sub Pop, and Sire/Warner Bros.). Through it all, the band has managed to siphon their influences, which include everybody from the Locust, the Cure, Dexy's Midnight Runners, and XTC, into a strong and diverse catalog of energetic rock music.
Hot Hot Heat started in Victoria, British Colombia, Canada, in 1999, after bassist Dustin Hawthorne and keyboardist and vocalist Steve Bays (who is also an accomplished drummer) had been playing together in bands since 1995. In 1998, the pair met multi-instrumentalist Paul Hawley, who introduced Hawthorne and Bays to the Juno 6 keyboard that he just purchased. Suggesting Bays try his hand at it, and he take up the drums, the three started rehearsing with a stripped-down synth-heavy sound, influenced by many of the hardcore bands coming from San Diego, including most of the artists featured on the Gravity Records label. Adding to the madness was vocalist Matthew Marnik, who yelped and screeched his way through the group's early material. The band began to tour outside of their hometown, up and down the West Coast of the United States, and was soon accepted by the San Diego scene that they often emulated.
Eventually, the group got around to recording a four-song 7″ single, released on Canadian indie Ache Records in April of 2000. More touring ensued, and demand for another Hot Hot Heat record became adamant, as their popularity was on the rise in Canada. The band collaborated with fellow Canadian indie-rock group the Red Light Sting, and released a split 10-song EP on Ache Records later in 2000. The band, however, was feeling their interest in bratty synth-core start to wane, and began entertaining the idea of changing their lineup. They did issue another release with Matthew Marnik on vocals in January of 2001, a 3 song 7″ on Monton Studios Records. The previously released songs, as well as other's recorded with Marnik, was eventually released by Ohev Records in 2001, entitled Scenes One Through Thirteen.
It was after the release of this 7″, however, that Hawthorne, Bays, and Hawley became restless with their guitar-less spaz-rock sound, and yearned for something more pop oriented. Hawley explained to the Detroit News that their previous recorded work "was like one gigantic solo. We were all trying to steal the attention away from everybody else. We all wanted to be the lead member. Even as a drummer, I wanted to, you know, do drum solos constantly and crazy drum beats." The first order of business was to split with vocalist Marnik, which actually caused an official split for the band in 2000, right before the release of the Monton Studios 7″. A year later, however, the band regrouped with their sights set directly on the pop bulls-eye.
Hawley told the Detroit News, "Through that [inactive] period, I was listening to a lot of Beatles, and I started to really get into them, and I read the [Beatles] Anthology. I started to understand a bit about their psychology and about their dynamic. It really had a big influence on me, how they used to work." With their newfound interest in pop, which also included Elvis Costello and the Smiths, the band began searching for a guitarist to reflect this change, soon finding Dante DeCaro to man the six string. One void, however, was still left open after the dismissal of Marnik—the job of vocalist. Keyboardist Bays stepped up for the challenge, offering an original voice, described by the NME as being "iridescent with idiosyncrasies, it defies any kind of reason as to why he would be been the second choice for vocalist—[his voice] is the uncommon power driving the band to ever greater heights."
With a new lineup in place of Bays, Hawthorne, Hawley, and DeCaro, the band continued to play shows along the West Coast, eventually attracting the attention of Seattle indie-powerhouse Sub Pop Records, who signed the band in 2001. Once signed, the band entered Hall of Justice studios in Seattle, with Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla set to produce three of the album's five tracks. The result of the collaboration was the EP Knock Knock Knock, released by Sub Pop in 2002. Featuring a set of danceable, dark, but still undeniably catchy pop songs, the band did nothing to sacrifice the energy that they exhibited in their earlier incarnation. This time, though, the band came off more refined, and the critics noticed the changes the band had made, concerning Bays's and DeCaro's contribution. Bays's voice, "makes him an ideal punk rock vocalist. His voice is brash, as it rises over the chaotic instrumentation, especially on 'Touch You Touch You,' said All Music Guide's Stephen Cramer.
Following the release of Knock Knock Knock, the band hit the road with bands like the Dismemberment Plan and the Walkmen, slowing only to begin the writing process for the debut full length for Sub Pop. Instead of choosing to work with Walla, who was busy with Death Cab, the band chose famed Seattle producer Jack Endino (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, L7) to man the boards. After getting Walla to come in and remix six of the album's ten songs, Hot Hot Heat was set to release Make Up the Breakdown, which they did in October of 2002. Critics instantly took a shine to the band's panicky new-wave buzz, exemplified in reviews such as this from Dustedmagazine.com: "Breakdown is gleeful, digestible, and eminently enjoyable, just as the musical illuminati seem to be reminding us rock should be." Pitchforkmedia.com's Rob Mitchum echoed Dusted's sentiments, saying, "Even if Make Up the Breakdown contains a lyric like 'bandages on my legs and my arms from you,' there's no navel-gazing to be found, unless you can stay focused on your belly button while spastically thrashing about the room. Breakdown launches with a trio of energetic flashes: 'Naked in the City Again' setting the nervous tone with a cymbal groove and jagged guitar; 'No, Not Now' traipsing through a series of irresistibly catchy segments; 'Get In or Get Out' exploding at one point into an organ freakout during which you can almost hear the keys flying off."
For the Record …
Members include Steve Bays , vocals, keyboards, Dante DeCaro (left group, 2000), guitar; Paul Hawley , multi-instrumentalist; Dustin Hawthorne , bass; Matthew Marnik (left group, 2000), vocals; Luke Paquin (joined group, 2005), guitar.
Group formed in Victoria, British Colombia, Canada, 1999; released split album with group Red Light Sting on Ache Records, 2000; debut album Scenes One Through Thirteen on Ohev Records, 2001; signed to Sub Pop Records, 2001; released Make Up the Breakdown on Sub Pop, 2002; signed to Sire/Warner Bros. Records, 2002; released Elevator, 2005.
Addresses: Record company—Sire/Warner Bros. Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505, phone: (818) 953-3203, fax: (818) 953-3214. Management—Rebel Waltz, 31652 2nd Ave., Laguna Beach, CA 92651, phone: (949) 499-4497, fax: (949) 499-4496, website: http://www.rebelwaltz.com. Booking—Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212, phone: (310) 288-4545, fax: (310) 288-5297, email: [email protected] Website—Hot Hot Heat Official Website: http://www.hothotheat.com.
The praise for Make Up the Breakdown, however, didn't just stop at the critics. The lead single, "Bandages," was added to major modern rock stations not only across Canada (where the band was already successful), but in the United States as well. The band began touring the United States, headlining shows across the country. Their video for "Bandages" started getting played regularly on MTV, eventually ending up as a pick on the teen-oriented video countdown show Total Request Live for a few weeks. On the strength of the single, the band signed a deal with Warner Bros. to top off a successful 2002.
In 2003, after Warner Bros. reissued Make Up the Breakdown, the band continued touring, bringing out up-and-coming bands like the Unicorns as their opening acts. But, all the time spent on the road took a toll on the members of Hot Hot Heat, and when buzz for Make Up the Breakdown died down a bit, they took a much needed break to write songs for another album. When the band convened in a studio in their hometown of Victoria, things didn't gel as well as they wanted them to. It was then that DeCaro announced that after the writing and recording process for their next album was complete, he would be leaving the band. In an interview with the Birmingham Evening Mail, Hawley explained that DeCaro "wasn't too pleased by the amount of touring we were doing so he told us he would record the second album with us but would leave afterwards. But, his heart wasn't in it so our keyboardist Steve Bays and I ended up writing 90 percent of the album. And I played some of the guitar on it—but I don't think the record suffered."
After moving the record to a Los Angeles studio, and getting Dave Sardy (the Walkmen, Jet, Red Hot Chili Peppers) to produce, the band completed their next record, but was without a guitarist. Initially, Hawley was considering moving over to guitar, but then the band would be without a drummer, so they eventually began asking other Los Angeles musicians if they knew of anyone available. Finally, they found Luke Paquin, of the band the Stradlers, and began rehearsing new and old material. Of Paquin, Hawley said, "Luke has great sensibilities—he's awesome."
Following the solidification of the band's new lineup, Hot Hot Heat released their second full-length record, Elevator, for Sire in the spring of 2005. London's the Sunday Times said, "Elevator is pretty near flawless: indeed, standouts such as 'You Owe Me an IOU,' 'Pickin' It Up' and 'Dirty Mouth' are as good as pop will get this year."
(With Red Light Sting) Split, Ache, 2000.
Scenes One Through Thirteen, Ohev, 2001.
Knock Knock Knock (EP), Sub Pop, 2002.
Make Up the Breakdown, Sub Pop, 2002; reissued, Warner Bros., 2003.
Talk to Me, Dance With Me (EP), Sub Pop, 2003.
Elevator, Sire, 2005.
Birmingham Evening Mail (England), April 29, 2005.
Detroit News, April 18, 2003.
Evening Times (Glasgow, Scotland), April 29, 2005.
"Hot Hot Heat: Make Up the Breakdown," New Music Express, http://www.nme.com/reviews/11272.htm (August 24, 2005).
"Hot Hot Heat," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (August 12, 2005).
"Hot Hot in Herre," Dusted Magazine, http://www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/414 (August 24, 2005).
Hot Hot Heat Official Website, http://www.hothotheat.com (August 24, 2005).
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