Hot Hot Heat are from Victoria, BC, at the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Victoria, no major metropolitan city in its own right, is close enough to Vancouver and Seattle, and yet also far enough away to afford resident artists and musicians a bit of space. And this sort of isolation can lead to weird and sometimes wonderful evolutionary development (compare Darwin and his experience on other islands, and Vancouver Island is not so different from the Galapagos). Formed in Victoria, disaffected youth one and all, Hot Hot Heat naturally made a lot of noise early on – punks with synthesizers instead of guitars. When that became more constraining than liberating, Hot Heat mutated, parting ways with their singer, recruiting Dante DeCaro on guitar and pressing the microphone into the hands of keyboardist Steve Bays. Emphasis changed, melody came to the fore, people danced and it was, above all else, fun. Hot Hot Heat was reborn and the new songs owed much to the tuneful complexity of XTC, The Clash, Elvis Costello and the Attractions (and, yeah, okay, The Cure too, but enough with that already).
In April of 2002, Sub Pop released Hot Hot Heat’s Knock Knock Knock EP: 5 songs in 16 minutes, produced in part by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla. Memorably described by SPIN Magazine as, “…the sound of punk teaching itself to dance,” the EP effectively got disco’s chocolate in punk’s peanut butter. And, the band did what bands are supposed to do – they toured, playing shows with Les Savy Fav, The French Kicks, Radio 4, Gogogo Airheart, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Sloan, and others. And, similarly disaffected youth, bored to tears with the arms-crossed prim restraint of perhaps the most un-ass-shaking-est generation ever to (dis)grace North American rock clubs, came out in droves with their dancing shoes on.
In May of 2002, Hot Hot Heat headed into Vancouver’s Mushroom Studios to record a new full-length with NW recording legend Jack Endino. The result, Make up the Breakdown, shows a seemingly effortless ability to craft melody, the kind that doesnâ€™t merely get stuck in your head, but that moves in, puts down roots, starts a family. Paul and Dustin tenaciously lock into a groove with Dante’s guitar playing bringing to mind a young Johnny Marr, and lyrics and keyboard lines tumbling urgently from Steve. Make up the Breakdown replicates the breathless excitement of the bandâ€™s live show; 10 tracks of complex, rhythmic art-punk. Most of these songs have to do with sex and/or the frustrations of life in “this town.” And, really, whatâ€™s more important? More than New Wave revivalists with an innate talent for catchy songs, Hot Hot Heat blend angular post-punk twitch with danceable pop, (finally) making a good case for white dopes on punk to get on the good foot.
Steve Bays – vocals, keyboards
Dante DeCaro – guitar
Paul Hawley – drums
Dustin Hawthorne – bass