25th Aug2009

Your New Favorite Band: Heat-Ray

by Todd

HeatRay+3

Hyperbole (pronounced hye-PER-bə-lee, from ancient Greek “ὑπερβολή”, meaning excess or exaggeration) is a figure of speech in which statements are exaggerated. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is rarely meant to be taken literally.

Genius (pronounced jeen-yuhs) refers to a person, a body of work, or a singular achievement of surpassing excellence. More than just originality, creativity, or intelligence, genius is associated with achievement of insight which has transformational power.

Occasionally, we’ve been accused of being a wee bit hyperbolic.  But never before have we called a bands’ first album, a work of genius.  In this case hyperbole is necessary to describe the strong feelings we felt upon hearing Heat-Ray.  Hailing for Calgary, Alberta, Canada, their debut album Loveallover was released in July on Pop Echo Records.  From the first second of ‘Come Closer’ to the last gasp of shredding feedback from ‘Vampire Blues Pt. 2′, this is a record that makes you swoon and sweat without allowing you a moment to catch your breath.  Not since Loveless or Laika, have male and female vocals meshed in such a way that you were left, yearning for more.  Not since Swervedriver has an album seemed so demented, yet perfectly poppy within the same song.

This is pure manic genius and we intend for you to take this literally.

Heat-Ray: Come Closer

TDOA: Your band bio references that your group is made up of the pieces of a number of other great bands.  Tell the novices among us about your old groups and how you came to be together in Heat-Ray.

Aaron: Sheila and I are old high school friends and had played in Lotus Galaxy (www.myspace.com/lotusgalaxy). We were a very ethereal and lush sounding and were once called a 4AD farm team band which was very fitting. After we ended, I moved on to Hot Little Rocket (www.myspace.com/hotlittlerocket), an indie rock group. With all our touring we had be-friended an Edmonton band call The Floor (www.myspace.com/thefloorband) and ended up playing quite a few shows with them. Matt was their singer and whenever we met he and I would always talk about our love for guitars, pedals and shoegaze music. When Matt decided to move to Calgary, Sheila and I jumped at the chance to start a new project with him. We recruited Jon and Joel to finish the heat-ray line up.  Both played in a popular Calgary band called Shiver (before myspace).

TDOA: When people leave one band to join another they generally take one of two clearly defined directions.  They either veer as far away from their old sound as possible or they take their favorite elements of the old band and incorporate them with their new band.  Which direction best describes how each of you have approached Heat-Ray?

Aaron: Heat-ray definitely started with a mission statement to play a musical style that was different than our previous projects. The intention was to try writing, playing and creating sounds that we’ve never been fully able to do before due to constraints in our other bands. That being said, I think we’ve amalgamated the best elements of our old bands into what we’re doing now as you really only end up sounding like yourself at the end of the day.

TDOA: Reviews of the band liken you to a who’s-who of our favorite bands; My Bloody Valentine, Catherine Wheel, Ride, Swervedriver, Dinosaur Jr., etc..  Can you talk about the impact these bands had on your music?

Aaron: When I first heard Dinosaur Jr., Swervedriver, Ride and My Bloody Valentine, I remember feeling almost sick from a concussion…like my whole world and how I heard music had been smashed in. I couldn’t comprehend it but was simultaneously enticed by the violence and beauty that I heard. It was like everything that I listened to before didn’t matter anymore. Heat-ray has really been about trying to communicate that initial gut feeling I got from listening to these bands.

Oooh Yeah

TDOA: Some bands eschew comparisons to other bands for fear of being pigeon-holed.  Do you agree or do you think it’s a logical “welcome mat” for potential fans?

Aaron: I’ve never had a problem with being compared to or comparing myself with bands that I like. I find it an easy way to communicate what I’m trying to do and a validation that someone else has understood what I was aiming to accomplish. Right now a working title for one of our songs is Sonic-Harvey which really speaks for itself what it turning out to sound like. When I hear of a new band, I always ask who do they sound like and get frustrated when I hear just rock or pop. etc. No band is 100% original and it’s the resulting variance of failing to emulate others perfectly that makes music evolve.

TDOA: The first time I heard My Bloody Valentine or Laika, one of the things that endeared me to them was their use of male and female vocals in a way that didn’t endlessly repeat itself on every record.  With Laika, the division of vocal duties was a source of conflict which eventually led to the demise of the band.  During the songwriting process, how do you make the decisions on who’s going to sing on each song?  When you perform live or as you sat down to determine which songs to put on the record, how do you resolve the “let’s use the song I sing on” dilemma?

Aaron: Matt and Sheila have fought it out every step of the way regarding who sings what and how to sing it. But it’s goes beyond them as we’re a very conflictual band with little patience and big egos. Compromise is really tough with us but we do try to make sure that everyone has a say in the writing and performing. That might be the problem with having played in so many previous bands as we all think we know the best and only way to do things. So far no one has taken their ball and gone home yet. I hope we don’t end up like Laika too soon as I we’ve just gotten started and think we still have a lot good potential to write some good songs. I’m a really big fan of how great Matt and Sheila’s vocals sound together.

TDOA: The production on the album doesn’t sound like a small indie band from Canada.  One of the things that jumps out at me is how each song “sounds” different.  Tell us about the recording of the album, who produced it and how you make a sonically dense record on a small budget.

Aaron: The recording was done by Calgary producer, Arran Fisher. We actually were aiming for a raw, live off the floor sound and did so by recording the bed tracks live in our rehearsal studio (which is a sound proofed double garage). The resulting big sound probably came from the many guitar overdubs we had done after the beds were done and Sheila’s wanting for a “high fi” vocal production. Each song is very different probably due to the unique vision we had for every track during the writing process. For example “Oooh Yeah” is our attempt at writing a Misfits style song while “Take it Down” is really an effort to emulate a classic Creation label sound.

TDOA: Is “If Love is the Drug” intended to reference the Roxy Music song?  If so, can you tell us how you came to be a fan of Roxy Music?

Aaron: Total coincidence. I don’t think any of us like Roxy Music. Brian Ferry looks cool in a suit though. I think we’re not convinced that Love IS the Drug while Roxy Music is quite clear on the matter.

If Love Is The Drug

TDOA: Your artwork makes it clear that there’s a couple of guitar pedals going on there.  Can you indulge the guitar geeks in the crowd and tell us about your setup?

Aaron: Matt and I very much have a revolving door in terms of the pedals we buy and use, so I can’t even remember which ones were on the album. Right now, Matt’s a big fan of Coloursound pedals and really sticks to only one when we play live. However, he has a Fuzzface and Interstellar Overdriver, plus an old Fender fuzz-wah that he pulls out once in a while. Currently I’m having fun with the Death by Audio Fuzz War with a Ibanez Tube King which I run through a Boss DM-2 and a MXR Carbon Copy. I also have a old 8TI fuzz wah that’s great to play with in the studio. Joel’s using a Devi Ever-Soda Meiser through an Electronix Submarine bass boost pedal which really sounds heavy and cool.

TDOA: I grew up in Detroit, so I’ve always been well aware of the many great Canadian indie bands. Can you talk about the support you get from Canadian crowds?  I’m not sure people in the U.S. realize how fervently Canadians support their own.

Aaron: It’s been a gradual build for in terms of establishing a good fan base. We started playing just at the tail end on the whole Canadian trend for indie bands to play with 10 people on stage with harps, accordions, banjos, and glockenspiels. So to come out swinging with fuzz-noise guitar and amps dialed to “11″ was met with some distain. However, we’ve been gradually winning people over and are really building quite a solid base. Canadians are really very loyal to their favorite bands but that can also be a drawback when your different from the sound of the day.

TDOA: What’s next for the band?  Will you tour the U.S. with this record?  Any plans to play festivals in the U.S. like SXSW?

Aaron: We’d love to play SXSW. It’s got to be the best music festival anywhere. I think we’d also like to try to head down the west coast as we have some good friends in Los Angeles. I’d really like try to play a bit in the U.K. as well as we recently made some friends with a good Scottish band called Keser following the Calgary music festival Sled Island. A recent idea kicking around is to maybe try to get into Electrical Audio in Chicago with Steve Albini as his pure analog approach might be a great way to capture our live sound.

For more information about Heat-Ray and to order their debut album, visit their MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/heatray77

You can also check out more great bands by visiting their label at: http://popecho.com

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