Music Interview: Critical Overheating

By David Knippers

The recipe for illegal dance moves and new wave revival is clandestine and sensitive. Three parts synthesizer, one quarter addictive-bass lines and three-eighths magic drum explosions add up to a incalculable fractional value of dance-hall danger unprecedented in modern popular music. But a band also needs just enough pop in their sound to take off the edge. Strike the perfect balance and it’ll all go down the public’s ear cavity smoothly.

“Of course we’re concerned [about the perceptions of our fans],” says bassist Dustin Hawthorne. “You put so much time and effort, labour and love into it, we were hoping people are going to like it. If we weren’t concerned about that, we wouldn’t release records or we wouldn’t even be on tour, we’d just be doing it for ourselves.”

Vancouver’s own Hot Hot Heat has managed that equilibrium to ensure the public and their fans are satisfied. Propelled from obscure cult status to icons of pop music in the span of one album, Make Up the Breakdown, the band’s ready to perform some major damage to the public conscious. Roughly two and a half years later, they’ve released their much anticipated follow up, Elevator.

“The album name is from a difficult point in time we had. The band went through a dramatic period, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs. It’s rather quirky; elevators go up and down, and our last album was Make Up the Breakdown,” explains bassist Dustin Hawthorne. “We didn’t want to write the same record twice. Also, we didn’t want to write a record like Kid A because didn’t want to alienate people. So, we decided to put it right in the middle somewhere.”

The success of Make Up the Breakdown is apparent. As well as being the critically acclaimed by many critics as the missing link between dance and punk music, the album won the 2004 Canadian Independent Music award for “Favourite Album.” But a definite down point for the band was the departure of guitarist Dante DeCaro, who left citing creative differences. “We didn’t leave on bad terms, actually. It was very amicable. We got it all figured out. It was fun. A happy ending,” Hawthorne remarks.

Replacing him is Luke Paquin, previously a member of the San Francisco band The Stradlers. Hawthorne describes the transition process with their new member well. “We went to audition people and that was a little nerve wracking. It was actually insane, we didn’t have to go through audition after audition, person after person. It actually happened pretty quick, which is good, we were fortunate.”

Their new album does as Hawthorne promises–a poppy yet smooth transition from Make Up the Breakdown and a no-nonsense approach catering to all listeners. The synthesizers have been toned down and the rhythm remains simple and unchallenging to the average listener. The new album is intentionally constructed to be pop friendly, as to captivate their fan base while drawing new listeners.

But despite theses changes in the band’s sound and structure, their goal remains the same: induce an involuntary dance step in their listeners. Hot Hot Heat’s concoction may be hazardous to your health with its high addiction potential, but it’s impossible to resist.

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