Heartbeat Hotel and its cohorts are no strangers to Dork Shelf. We’ve listened to their sound grow over the last year from the late-night basement ponderings of Fetus Dreams to the hazy glow of waking realizations found on their latest piece of work, a six song-long album titled Intae Woe, which was released at the end of November. By doing such, this Toronto four-piece has led 2011 into a blissfully sweet ending.
Intae Woe is for the person who likes to keep their feet on the ground but spends a heck of a lot of time wondering what it would be like to fly. From the easy-going auras that radiate from “Danglin in the Aether” and “Fresh Fruit” to the spying the sun rays through the curtain in the morning chill-feel of “Downhill” to the calm anthem “Horsemen,” Intae Woe shows off Heartbeat Hotel’s casual euphoric bearings and wistfulness, as well as matured song writing and performance chops.
Get to know this Toronto band a bit better, as Chris Lyons and Andy Smith (also of previously featured Army Girls) discuss recording at a cottage, what it’s like being a musician in Toronto, and who has a tattoo of a cult-classic TV show character.
Dork Shelf: How/when did the band start and how did you come to be who you are now?
Chris Lyons: Heartbeat Hotel started as an agit-prop project, out of the ashes of a few previous bands we had played in. It had been six months since our last show and everything in our lives felt a bit… odd. There was this one weekend in August 2008 where Andy and I had amassed a somewhat ludicrous amount of alcohol and we decided that come hell or high water we were going to finish a tape by the time Monday came around. There was no particular aim, we just built it as we went. We’d finish one track and go “well that deserves to be followed by this sort of thing” and then once that little sequence had been created we’d go, “What next? How bout some blast-beats? And yeah, go get that reed organ…” These sessions became “Transbastardized Orphan Under a Harvest Moon” – it was a very spontaneous endeavour. And we had a lot of fun doing it. We played a few dozen shows with this repertoire, enlisting a bass player to fill out the sound, and generally it got a great response. To be honest though, once reality got a bit less frenzied, it became harder and harder to play that music so things chilled out.
Then came “Fetus Dreams” – another home-made endeavour which pulled in some nice press, and by the time we were taking those songs on the road we had decided that proper song writing might not be such a bad thing to return to. That sort of brings us to our latest release, “Intae Woe” which is much more ‘conventionally’ written than anything else we’ve done under this umbrella. Everything on this record is a lot less frantic than what we’ve done in the past, it sort of breathes more. It also took us back to our roots, featuring the same four-piece line-up that had originally come to the city as a band. Change happens. Usually it comes as a good thing.
DS: Where do you see Heartbeat Hotel going in the future?
CL: Jail, if all of these scary anti-terrorism laws actually come into play.
DS: You went away to a cottage to record Intae Woe. Why?
CL: It sort of felt right. Despite it being the best option on the table, all of these songs that we just put down were of a sort of “dreamy” nature… We thought escaping the hubbub of the city would be good for our collective headspace. Matt suggested it and we all thought it was a great idea.
DS: What do you think it did for the album?
Andy Smith: It allowed us to focus on the recording of the record mostly 24/7 the whole week we were up there. I suppose that’s a good thing.
DS: What was it like recording away from home?
CL: Personally I know that cottage pretty well, so it almost felt like we were home. I don’t know, maybe Andy has a different answer to this question.
AS: I usually have a hard time being away from home for an extended period of time. I find it pretty easy to miss the comforts of Toronto. But in this case, it was a great experience. We are all close friends, the four of us… and we all used to live together. So it sort of felt like home actually.
DS: What is Intae Woe about?
CL: Everything and Nothing, in the words of Matt Mitchell. The cover art features a shot of the sun poking through the trees, and I think that’s a good metaphor for the feeling of drifting through life with your chin up. Sort of like a leaf in the wind that doesn’t want to touch the ground. Seeing as much as you can, and being grateful that you’re free to do so.
DS: What’s it like to be a musician in Toronto?
CL: I don’t really have any other point of reference, but it’s fantastic being able to live in such a vibrant arts community. I remember moving to this city five years ago and being like “Wow, city hall is so behind the arts…” – obviously that’s changed a bit, but at its core it seems like Toronto will forever be ripe with arts and music. And that’s a great thing for everybody: it helps make everyday life less grey.
DS: What other local acts are you into?
AS: Owen Pallett, Austra, Foxes In Fiction, Ostrich Tuning, Doldrums, Donlands & Mortimer, Blood Rexdale & the Walls are Blonde. Lots more, too.
CL: I just caught The Effens playing downtown recently, they were pretty alright for a young band. But another ‘E’ band really stole my heart this summer, the Elwins…and right now I’m putting the finishing touches on the new Alphabot! record with Jake, so watch for that in the months to come.
DS: Do you have a favourite venue to play at?
CL: They’ve all got their ups and downs…
AS: The Drake Underground has always been a great experience. But its just good to play. Sometimes anywhere is just fine.
DS: How would you describe your live dynamic?
CL: Ever-changing. Sheepish. Generally sort of not what people expect when they go out.
DS: What other kinds of music, games, movies, books or TV shows you guys are into right now?
CL: I just finished re-watching all of Chappelle’s show, and I guess musically I’ve been into a lot of dreary ambient stuff lately. Grouper in particular, but also stuff like Eno and Kiln and Stars of the Lid. And when I feel like shaking my head around I pull out The Drums or the first couple of McCartney records, which are way underrated. Oh, and a friend just made me listen to Rounds by Four Tet. Beautiful record. The only other thing I’ve been into lately is all this Eurozone/Occupy/NDAA 2012 stuff that seems to be getting heavier and heavier. I’m not so sure it’s good for my mental health, but it’s fascinating as damn. Oh, and Scandinavian design. Perhaps Scandinavian life in general. Also very fascinating.
AS: I just got a Twin Peaks tattoo. Log Lady for life.
DS: What else should we know about Heartbeat Hotel?
CL: Now that we’ve been banned from the stage for the next three months by the Minister of the Interior, we plan on recording new material for a possible release in the spring. Perhaps he’ll reconsider and let us play by then. Life throws you curveballs sometimes…but as long as we can continue playing around on our bedroom floors with our recording gear…we’ll be happy.
For more info visit HeartbeatHotel.ca.