They call themselves Hot Hot Heat, and from the evidence of Make Up The Breakdown, the name is nothing less than an absolute understatement.
A sweltering blend of head-pounding enthusiasm, heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics and hard-to-resist melodies, the ten original tracks of Make Up The Breakdown position this Victoria, BC-based quartet front and center among a new generation of back-to- basics rock & rollers. Deft ensemble playing, a firm grip on the short and sweet school of songwriting, and enough swagger and panache for a dozen rank pretenders -- it all adds up to the Real Deal.
Little wonder Hot Hot Heat is generating lots of, well, heat from critics on both sides of the border. In a rave review the Los Angeles Times singled out the groups "angular quirkiness and classic pop structures" along with their "twitchy cadences, elliptical melodies and clever yet emotional wordplay." "All spring-loaded guitars, stabbing organs and footloose drums," enthused Spin while The Miami New Times fawned over their "bouncy, hook-laden party music." The Alternative Press was especially taken with singer/keyboardist Steve Bays' "wayward yelp" and the "splendid ramshackle pop" of the group's songwriting. "The revolution begins now," was the magazine's emphatic conclusion. Which means that the revolution must have begun back in the late 90's in the sleepy suburbs of Vancouver Island when founder and frontman Steve Bays joined forces with a gaggle of fellow fledging musicians including drummer Paul Hawley and bassist Dustin Hawthorne. "Between us we'd probably been in thirty bands," Bays recounts, and the new conglomerate might have been Number 31 in the series had it not been for some conspicuous creative chemistry. "We had no idea whether we sucked or not," Bays continues, "but at some shows we'd sell a ton of demos. We were jamming at home four or five times a week. We didn't care who heard us." The inevitable personnel shifts and career crises' ensued, but by early 2001 the line-up had jelled with the addition of guitarist Dante DeCaro. By that time Hot Hot Heat had already released a string of independently produced singles, EP's and albums, including the full-length aggro-epic Scenes One Through Thirteen, but the addition of DeCaro brought a new dimension to the group's evolving sound. "We decided that synth-punk had gone as far as it could go," Bays continues. "We started experimenting with different kinds of sounds and I discovered that I could sing on key. I had yelled in punk bands before but I'd never considered singing tunefully." The new emphasis on melody and a decidedly pop perspective brought out the best in the band. "Those elements were there all the time," Bays asserts. "We've basically brought together four categories of influences: classic Beatles and Stones; punk rock; the whole singer/songwriter era and anything contemporary that's worth listening to."
After six months of intense woodshedding, the quartet began playing extensively, both locally and in nearby Seattle, and it didn't take long for the ecstatic word of mouth to spread: Hot Hot Heat was suddenly at the epicenter of a glorious revival of essential rock & roll. With the group collaborating on the music and arrangements and Bays concocting a heady lyrical brew, by turns cynical and sincere, incisive and off-kilter, Hot Hot Heat pumped out another indy EP, Knock Knock Knock in the spring of 2002, returning to the studio almost immediately with producer Jack Endino of Nirvana fame to begin work on a full-length album. "Things were moving fast," recounts drummer Pal Hawley. "We basically went in with all our live material and just tried to get down what we were doing on stage. There were no tricks, minimal overdubs and just a little sweetening on the harmonies. It was very straight up." Cut in six days, Make Up The Breakdown harnesses all the raw energy of the band to a sheaf of consummately crafted pop songs on the theme of unfashionable angst, modern romance and the unfettered joys of making noise. On such standout tracks as motivating "Talk To Me, Dance With Me," the do-or-die riff of "Get In Or Get Out," the cinematic sweep of "In Cairo" or the pressurized intensity of "Oh, Goddamnit," Hot Hot Heat lay convincing claim to the description of one critic as "the sound of punk teaching itself to dance."
And the good news is, they're just getting started. "A lot has changed since we cut the album," Bays explains. "We're operating a lot more out of the box, opening up more to our weirder and freakier side. We're just starting to hit our stride." Quite a claim, considering the musical giant step heard on Make Up The Breakdown. But then, with Hot Hot Heat, it's impossible to overstate the possibilities.
--- from the official Hot Hot Heat website