Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Hanoi Rocks - The Days We Spent Underground 1981-84

While Hanoi Rocks never reached the success of bands like Guns N Roses and Motley Crue, there is no denying the influence they had on those bands and so many others that came along after them as they meshed glam, punk, metal and more into their own unique sound.  The band got their start when vocalist Michael Monroe met guitarist Andy McCoy in Finland in 1979 and was then rounded out by Nasty Suicide on guitar, Sam Yaffa on bass and Gyp Casino on drums. The new five CD box set The Days We Spent Underground 1981-84 collects their first three studio albums, along with their singles and rarities collection Self Destruction Blues and live album All Those Wasted Years.  

“Tragedy”, the opening cut from their debut Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks, is a high energy rocker with a hint of punk and strong sense of melody that made for the perfect introduction to the band.  Driven by tribal percussion, “Village Girl” is a solid rock track with some elements of glam and some great swirling psychedelic guitars.  On “Stop Cryin’” and “First Timer” they infuse their sound with a bit of a punk edge with the former also including some Michael Monroe sax.  “Don’t Never Leave Me” could be considered a glam ballad with a hint of sleaze and some spoken word interludes that really set it apart.  The influence Hanoi Rocks had on Guns ‘n’ Roses is very evident on “Lost In The City”, a rollicking rocker that takes inspiration from Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry and mixes in a little glam.  “Cheyenne” opens simply with acoustic guitar and vocals before kicking into a very hook-heavy track that’s a bit ragged around the edges and is highlighted by Monroe’s emotional vocals and heartfelt lyrics.  The influence of The Clash is very evident in the track “11th Street Kids”.  While not a total failure, their cover of Bobby Vee’s “Walking With My Angel” adds a bit of an edge and alot of saxophone, but is by far the poppiest track here and comes across as a bit gimmicky.  Closing out the disc is “Pretender”, another straight-up, somewhat ragged rocker.  

A year after their debut, the band was back with their sophomore effort, Oriental Beat.  While for the most part it’s not too far removed from its predecessor, it’s a more cohesive release and the band seems more confident.  “Motorvatin’” kicks things off and is a catchy rocker driven by Yaffi’s pulsing bass and a little harmonica.  Along with the next two tracks “Don’t Follow Me” and “Visitor”, it’s definitely a precursor, but way better, to bands like Poison and Faster Pussycat.  The punk influence isn’t quite as evident this time around, but there are several tracks, the glammier New York Dolls sounding “Teenangels Outsiders”, “M.C. Baby”, which is reminiscent of The Damned, and The London Calling era sound of “No Law Or Order”, where it’s still in the forefront.  While the title cut is pure, driving ragged glam rock, several other cuts find them expanding the diversity of their sound.  “Sweet Home Suburbia” has a slinky, somewhat funky shuffle and “Devil Woman” and their cover of Hoyt Axton’s “Lightnin’ Bar Blues” both dip their toes in the bluesy side of things.  The album closes fittingly with “Fallen Star”, a deeply emotional vocal and piano ballad.

Released later in 1982, Self Destruction Blues was a compilation of singles and b-sides that had previously only been available in Finland.  While there are a few lesser tracks, it works very well as an album and for the most part doesn’t feel like a compilation.  First up is “Love’s An Injection”, a glammed up rock anthem and one of the album’s stronger tracks.  Next is “I Want You”, which along with “Kill City Kills” tap into a bit of Stones swagger.  Two of the most infectious tracks are “Cafe Avenue” and “Nothing New”, the latter of which is made even better with a rollicking piano and handclaps.   Both are more on the pop side of things with very strong hooks.  The title track is a slice of straight up Chicago styled blues with some great harmonica from Monroe.  They stick to the blues on “Beer and a Cigarette”, a sleazy blues rocker with a bit of a “Train Kept A-Rollin’” groove and more harmonica.  If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s a compilation, “Whispers In The Dark”, a synth rock tune, and “Desperados”, which kind of just lopes along and has a bit of a silly vibe, would both be a bit of a misstep.  Neither cut is really bad, but they just really don’t feel like they are Hanoi Rocks tunes.  “Taxi Driver”, driven by a chugging bass line and often reminiscent of “Summertime Blues”, is not a bad song, but is still one of the weaker tracks here.  The album gets back on track for the last two cuts with the straight-up punk of “Problem Child” and the dark, piano driven “Dead By Xmas”.

In 1983 the band relocated to London and released Back To Mystery City, which was produced by former Mott the Hoople members Dale “Buffin” Griffin and “Pete “Overend” Watts, and marked the debut of Razzle on drums.  After kicking things off with “Strange Boys Play Weird Openings”, a short, English folk instrumental comprised of acoustic guitar, flute and birds chirping, the big sounding “Malibu Beach Nightmare” explodes with a blast of Ramones influenced punk that has a party like atmosphere complete with sax and a rollicking piano.  "Mental Beat" starts off with a Ramones drive, but then evolves into a bit of a noisy, offbeat singalong.  Inspired by the apartment full of rats they lived in after moving to London, “Tooting Bec Wreck” has a raw rockabilly foundation and a bit of the atmosphere of The Cure.  Slowing things down a bit, “Until I Get You” is a really strong ballad that still has their edginess and grit, while “Sailing Down The Tears” is more of a midtempo glam track with a hint of the Stones, and “Lick Summer Love” is a rocker with a slow, slinky groove and more of Monroe’s sax.  The next two tracks, “Beating Gets Faster” and “Ice Cream Summer” are both straight-ahead rockers but are a little too generic and polished and don’t really have any of that grit that makes them stand out.  They get back on track for the title track, another ragged glam rocker with a chorus that is extremely close to “Mony Mony”.

The final disc is their live album All Those Wasted Years, which was recorded at London’s Marquee Club in December 1983 and really shows the band at their finest.  Compared to the studio versions, most of the tracks are a little heavier and a little rawer.  The band sounds extremely tight and Razzle’s drumming is especially impressive.  After opening the show with a great cover of The Chantays’ surf classic “Pipeline”, they tear through a set of some of their strongest cuts.  In addition to thirteen originals, they also throw in a handful of covers, including Hoyt Axton’s “Lightning Bar Blues”, Alice Cooper’s “Under My Wheels”, The Stooges’ “I Feel Alright” and the blues classic “Train Kept A-Rollin’”.    

Following the albums found here, the band signed to CBS and released the album Two Steps from the Move in August of 1984 and things were looked very promising for the band.  Unfortunately, that was derailed four months later when Razzle was killed in the infamous car wreck with Vince Neil.  While this resulted in the band breaking up the following year, since that time there have been several reunion albums and tours.  

It's been over forty years since Hanoi Rocks hit the scene, and there are a multitude of bands who were influenced by them, but there has really never been another band that sounded quite like they did.  While this box set is great and it's nice to have all these releases together in one place, the one big drawback is that they have all been reissued over the years with bonus tracks and unfortunately none of those are included here.  

(HNE Recordings)

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Tony Valentino - Dirty Water Revisited

Tony Valentino was the original guitarist. and one of the co-founders, of The Standells, considered by many as one of the originators of garage rock.  His new album, Dirty Water Revisited includes rerecorded versions of eight of their classic songs along with two new originals.  According to Valentino, he got the inspiration from Rick Springfield, who was a frequent customer of a Bellisimo, a restaurant he owned.  Rick told him he was going to re-record all of his hits so he would have control over them again, and since The Standells were in the same boat, he decided to do that too.  Valentino sings lead on one track and plays guitar, harmonica and some keys, while his band is rounded out by Gary Kaluza on bass and rhythm guitar plus lead vocals on two tracks, Duane Walder on drums and lead vocals on seven cuts, and Ziro E on keys.  The album kicks off with the one-two punch of the classic “Dirty Water” and “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” and continues with tracks like the more soulful “There Is A Storm Comin’”, the stomping “Why Did You Hurt Me”, hard charging “Riot On The Sunset Strip” and the fast-paced “Love Me”, making this a fun and infectious collection that maintains that raw, ragged edge of the originals, but gives them a bit of a modern day spin.  The musicianship is outstanding throughout and Valentino’s guitar and organ playing show he hasn’t lost his mojo.  As for the originals, “Vicki” is a classic garage rocker, while “I’m A Sexy Punk Rocker” is pure early Iggy Pop style punk at its finest, and based on how good these two originals are, I'm hoping there is an album full of new songs somewhere in our future. 

Sinner - Born To Rock - The Noise Years 1984-1987

Even though they aren’t necessarily a household name, German band Sinner has been around over forty years and have released twenty studio albums.  Throughout the years the band has gone through a fairly regular revolving door of members including guitarist Herman Frank (Accept, Victory), but the one constant has been founding member vocalist and bassist Mat Sinner, who is also a founding member of the band Primal Fear.  In 1984, after releasing their first two albums, they signed with Noise Records, and released their next four albums, which are the basis for the box set Born To Rock - The Noise Years 1984-1987. 

Danger Zone was their first album with Noise and it’s a solid amalgamation of NWOBHM and eighties metal along often with elements of Accept, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.  It is well-produced and pretty much straight-ahead metal from start to finish.  Sinner’s vocals have just the right amount of gruffness, the guitar playing is strong throughout, and the drumming has a good crisp sound, which sometimes works better than others.  The album opens strongly with the twin guitars of the title track that give it somewhat of a Thin Lizzy groove.  They slow things down with “No Place In Heaven”, a midtempo track with just a hint of a blues groove, and then speed it right back up with “Scene Of A Crime”, a slightly Maiden-like cut driven by some powerful drumming.  Some of the other highlights include the near thrash “Fast, Hard & Loud”, “Razor Blade” with it’s hints of Priest and a great George Lynch styled solo, and the early Motley Crue sounding “Rattlesnake”.  Danger Zone really found the band firing on all cylinders.  

Touch Of Sin was released the following year and found Herman Frank on guitar.  It’s a pretty good follow up, but it’s a little more polished and melodic and missing some of the edge of its predecessor.  “Born To Rock” starts the album promisingly with a symphonic intro leading into a big anthemic rocker, but it becomes a bit generic.  Tracks like “Shout” with its driving Iron Maiden gallop and strong guitar solo, “Out Of Control”, which has more of a modern metal sound and a bit of a groove, and the speed metal cut “Too Late To Run Away”, are some of the stronger songs. Other highlights include “Emerald” and “Masquerade”, mixing together Maiden, Priest and Thin Lizzy and the midtempo “Hand Of Fate”. Listening to it now almost forty years later, it doesn’t quite stand up to Danger Zone, but reading the liner notes, Sinner says it was the “perfect progression”.  Also included on disc two are five bonus tracks including two that were on a 1994 reissue of the CD and three that were originally released on 12” singles and are basically extended versions of album tracks.    

With the keyboards coming through prominently only fifteen seconds into “Hypnotized”, the first track on their next album Comin’ Out Fighting, the signs are there that something is different here.  With the exception of a handful of tracks this is a pure melodic rock album, which was apparently more the direction the label wanted them heading and not the band.  Having said that, if you are a fan of melodic rock, there are some really strong tracks here.  In addition the the aforementioned opening cut, there is “Age Of Rock”, which actually has a little bit of an edginess to it, and the hook heavy “Lost In A Minute” where the keys work extremely well with some really nice synth runs.  A couple of tracks that harken back to their earlier, heavier side like the title track and “Playing With Fire”, which is like a slightly less heavy Maiden. There are also a few really big missteps with the sappy ballad “Don’t Tell Me (That The Love Is Gone)”, “Germany Rocks” and their cover of “Rebel Yell” that is virtually a karaoke version complete with Sinner doing his best Billy Idol vocal, but overall this is still an enjoyable release.  

Sinner’s final album for Noise and the last one here is Dangerous Charm. Unfortunately, this time around they went even further in the AOR direction, and the results just really aren’t very good.  The guitars have largely been delegated to the background and the synths to the front. “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love”, with its chorus like backing vocals, comes off like a a poor man’s version of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is”, the synths in “Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter Tonight” are identical to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer”, and Sinner’s duet with Jacqui Virgil on “Nobody Rocks Like You” is like a bad Bryan Adams / Tina Turner.  There are a few glimmers of hope with songs like “Gipsy” and “Fight The Fight”, a hard charging track that takes you back to their early days, but they are few and far between.  The disc also includes “Last Dance”, a bonus track that has a good guitar solo, but otherwise if fairly nondescript.  It was originally included on the 1994 reissue of the CD.  While the album ends the box set on a bit of a negative note, as a whole Born To Rock - The Noise Years 1984-1987 is definitely recommended for metal fans of that era.  


Monday, June 12, 2023

Brian Auger & Julie Tippetts - Encore (Remastered)

After originally working together in Steampacket and then Brian Auger and the Trinity, Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll (later Tibbetts following her marriage to jazz musician Keith Tippet) moved on to separate musical paths.  In 1977, nine years after last working together, they reunited for Encore.  Now, after being out of print for many years, the album, comprised of two Auger originals and seven covers they picked out before heading into the studio, has been remastered and reissued.  The release is bookended with tracks from Al Jarreau, opening with “Spirit”, a laid-back song with a soulful jazz vibe and a bit of a funky groove that maintains the spirit of the original but adds a little more of an edge.  Their version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is an outstanding extremely soulful take that Tippets has said was influenced by the version recorded by Nina Simone (her version was the original).  “Git Up”, the first of two Auger originals, has a super funky groove and some solo sections that do a great job of showcasing his keyboard playing.  Their take on the Staples Singers’ “Freedom Highway” is a really good upbeat version of the gospel tune and features strong backing vocals from Maxine Waters Willard, Julia Waters Willard and Jessica Smith.  The second Auger original, “Future Pilot”, is a nice mix of jazz and soul with more strong keyboard work.  In my opinion, one of the standout tracks here is their version of Jack Bruce’s “Rope Ladder To The Moon”.  While this track is already gorgeous in its original incarnation, their version speeds the tempo a little, turning it into more of an upbeat funky jazz tune.  Another highlight is Traffic’s “No Time To Live”, which isn’t too far removed from the original, but Tippetts’ powerful vocal performance along with some really nice guitar flourishes and Auger’s keyboards give it a little punch.  Auger does a good job taking over the vocals on the catchy, upbeat, jazz-tinged “Nothing Will Be As It Was”, originally co-written and performed by Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento.  Closing out the album is the second Al Jarreau tune “Lock All The Gates”, which has a gorgeous opening with just Auger’s piano and Tippetts’ strong vocal performance, but then about halfway in it explodes into a powerhouse song bordering on gospel, that provides the perfect ending to the album.  Unfortunately, when Encore was initially released it didn’t get much promotion and sadly went largely unnoticed, but now that it’s once again readily available hopefully it will get some of the attention it rightly deserved back then.  

(Esoteric Recordings)

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Divining Rod - Santa Monica & Other Golden Classics

Originally a solo project for Hawaiian native Miyuki Furtado, formerly of the band The Rogers Sisters, Divining Rod is now a New York based four-piece and Santa Monica & Other Golden Classics is their outstanding new EP.  Driven by briskly paced vocals and percussion, opener “Another Endless Night”, is an extremely infectious alt country rocker that will have your head bopping from start to finish.  Following “Hands Off The Wheel”, a mellower track that does a great job of creating a very introspective mood, they kick things up a notch with the single “GOAT”, a classic sounding roots rocker with a steady, driving beat fleshed out perfectly with hand claps, and “Mason County Line”, another upbeat alt country rocker with a slight hint of Springsteen at times.  Following “Pull Me To The Light”, a rock-tinged, country ballad that features a great vocal performance from Furtado and some really strong, very atmospheric guitar work, they close things out perfectly with the rootsy, garage rocker “Santa Monica”.  According to their bio, twelve songs were actually recorded during the sessions these songs came from, so hopefully there are more great stuff from Divining Rod coming soon.  

(Divining Rod)


Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Ben Reed - Bandaged 

While the name Ben Reed may not be one you are familiar with, you most likely have heard him play, as the multi-instrumentalist has recorded and performed with a multitude of artists including Peter Gabriel, David Byrne and Frank Ocean (he is also a member of Ocean’s live band).  Due to the pandemic, for his most recent solo album Bandaged (his fourth, not including last years’ covers album with his daughter Miranda) he approached things differently, writing in more of a singer songwriter style.  Once he had the songs written he brought in numerous musicians, including Jimmy Hastings (Caravan), Ross Stanley (Steve Howe Trio, Trevor Horn, Simply Red) and legendary pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole to help him complete the recording process.  The resulting album is a gorgeous, at time very melancholy, collection of tracks with elements of rock, jazz and funk along with some folk and prog.  The musicianship throughout is outstanding and the production makes for a beautiful sounding disc.  Kicking things off is the instrumental “Plea”, which starts with a really nice, laid-back, thumping bass, then adds keyboard washes and horns to create a easygoing jazz groove with subtle hints of prog before bursting open with the addition of organ resulting in a joyous finale.  Next up is “Tale Of Cleopatra”, an extremely catchy track with a funky jazz rock groove and some great vocal harmonies giving it a really strong Steely Dan feel.  This is a definite album highlight and with Reed playing everything as well as contributing the vocals, really shows just how talented he is.  “Tangled Branches” is a gorgeous track with strong, very melancholy, British folk sound enhanced by Rachel Hayler’s flute.  With Reed on classical guitar, keys and telecaster, the instrumental “No Arms No Legs No Body At All” is a subdued track that is haunting and moody and would work fantastically in a movie soundtrack.  “Backward Glance”, which features some great guitar work from Reed, and “Everything That Matters”, both have a nice laid-back groove that at times bring to mind The Alan Parsons Project.  Taking things in a totally different direction, “I’ve Got Chains” is a best described as Steely Dan playing with Devo.  It starts off as an upbeat jazzy instrumental that has an aggressive, jerky, almost manic, feel, then slows down in intensity but still maintains that same sense of frenzy.  The very pensive “Dwindled” is a beautiful instrumental featuring Reed on classical guitar, and is enhanced by his gentle Telecaster nuances and subtle organ fills from Laura Groves on the Roland.  Rounding out the album are a couple more tracks with hints of Steely Dan. “Chapter Of Risk”, starts with a gentle jazzy groove before turning dark and haunting at the end, while “Smiling” is an upbeat and sunny cut that provides the perfect ending to the CD.  Bandaged is a highly recommended disc that easily sits near the top of my list of favorite albums so far this year

(Esoteric Recordings)

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Brady Harris - Hotel In The Sky

As I made my way through Hotel In The Sky, the latest EP from Texas born, LA-based Brady Harris, and then looked at his numerous releases over the years (both solo and as half of the duo Wood Hitch), I had to question why I had never heard of him before.  The EP kicks off with the title track, a solid pop tune driven by piano, great guitar work, thumping bass and Harris’ Lennon-esque vocals, brining to minds Squeeze and Crowded House.  The hook-heavy “Economy Of Sound” is the most rocking track here with its edgy guitar work, a driving rhythm section and an infectious groove.  “Welcome Back To The Comedown” is a very captivating track with a slower, darker sound and at times a strong Beatles vibe.  Next up is “Parting Gift”, which has a bit of a Stones swagger, but is still more on the pop end of things.  It also features a killer guitar solo from Cooper Walker, who is the only other musician on the EP.  The beautiful “Chateau Hill” closes things out perfectly, opening with a laid-back, somewhat soulful, jazzy piano and mixing in a slow drumbeat and some slinky guitar to create an outstanding easygoing groove.  This is an EP that will definitely have you hitting repeat over and over, and quite possibly have you looking into Harris' other releases, like I have been doing.  

(Brady Harris)

Saturday, June 03, 2023

Joe Meek and The Blue Men - I Hear A New World Sessions - An Alternative Outer Space Fantasy

Although not as widely recognized, Joe Meek was one of the most influential sound engineers and record producers around and was integral in the development of techniques like overdubbing, sampling and reverberation.  I Hear A New World Sessions - An Alternative Outer Space Fantasy, the new 10" album from Joe Meek and The Blue Men is the third in an outstanding series of releases called Joe Meek’s Tea Chest Tapes. After Meek's death in 1967, Cliff Cooper, who was the bassist with The Millionaires (one of Meek's bands) and founder of Orange Amps (a new company at that time) went to an estate sale and bought 67 wooden tea chests full of Meek's tapes.  Unbeknownst to him, included on those almost 2000 reels of tape were David Bowie's first recordings with The Konrads, Steve Howe with his first band The Syndicats, demos from Alvin Lee, Gene Vincent, Rod Stewart, Steve Marriott, appearances from Ritchie Blackmore on guitar as one of Meek's session guitarists, and much more.  Cherry Red Records acquired these tapes in late 2020 and the label's longtime mastering engineer Alan Wilson has been digitizing them.  The I Hear A New World (Part 1) EP was recorded with The Blue Men, who were originally a skiffle group led by Rod Freeman, and was released in the spring of 1960 on the Triumph label.  It is rumored that ninety-nine test pressings of a full-length album were produced, but most ended up as demonstration records in audio equipment stores.  There was a second EP planned, but Triumph had financial problems and Meek moved on to other things.  Over the following decades the remaining tracks became more in demand and pirated copies made from the test pressings started showing up before a restored copy of the complete album was issued on CD in 1991.  Now with these tracks from the Tea Chest Tapes, which contains takes and versions that were considered the most interesting and listenable (there is a box set in production that will contain others), they can be heard just as they sounded when Meek heard them as they were recorded. Meek’s plans with the release was to take listeners somewhere they’d never been before and do it in stereo (it should be noted that this was also before stereo playback equipment was widely available).  For this eight track LP, they have taken these alternate versions and laid them out as two continuous suites that are combined with sound effects tapes. 

After a short opening of otherworldy sounds of what appears to be bending metal, “Orbit Around The Moon” (take 1) builds on the foundation of the skiffle band with a simple, yet driving drumbeat, plucky guitar under layers of quirky sound effects, early electronic keys and a short section with haunting female vocals.  “Entry Of The Globbots” (take 2) is a quirky little track with a military style drumbeat, some faint guitar, what appears to be kazoo and wordless (mostly just doo doo doo) vocals ending with more sci fi whooshing sound effects.  Rounding out side one is “Love Dance Of The Saroos” (take 1), which starts with more sci fi effects and then shifts into a hypnotic track with another simple drumbeat, keys, faint guitar and plenty more effects giving off an outer space, spaghetti western vibe.  The B-side to this disc opens with an early version of “Glob Waterfall”, which according to the liner notes, was amongst a seventeen minute long sequence of takes found amongst the Tea Chest Tapes.  This early version is much shorter and stripped down to the bare minimum (most notably missing the cymbal crashes) coming off more like an experimental sound collage.   Unlike the three plus minute version on the original EP, the rehearsal version of “Magnetic Field” is just over a minute long and is more of a fun glimpse into Meek experimenting with things with some starting and stopping along with studio chatter and what sounds like a little plunking guitar, squeaking keys, possibly finger cymbals and some effects.  Next up is an extended take of “Valley Of The Saroos”, a somewhat, laid-back track driven by a simple beat, but this time around with a substantial amount of effects added to the mix.  Closing out the disc is the outstanding take IV of “Dribcots Space Boat”.  The bouncy hooks of the version that was on the reissued extended version of the EP are still here, but the tempo is a little faster and the keyboard notes are held a little longer making it less choppy.  There is also a lot more use of echo and the inclusion of explosive effects at the end bring the whole thing to a fitting end.  This record makes for a fascinating listen and really showcases Meek’s before its time production techniques with treated vocals, vari-speed tape, electronic instrumentation and sound effects.  It is the perfect introduction to what is most definitely going to be an interesting box set.  

(Cherry Red Records)

Friday, June 02, 2023

Interview with The Hi-Tops

The Canadian four-piece The Hi-Tops recently released their outstanding sophomore EP entitled Characters.  I had the chance to interview the band where we discussed the EP, the benefits of the four of them living together, the diversity of some of the new songs and more.

Can you give me some background on the band?

We're from Calgary, Alberta Canada! I (Kole) grew up with Luke, our guitarist, going to school and being friends since kindergarten! I met Will in high school and played hockey with Chandler. Two years after we were all interested in starting a band, so we got together and started jamming in my parents garage! 

I read that all of you now live together in a house in Calgary and wrote all the songs on the EP there.  Can you tell me about this? 


In September 2022 we all moved in together! Being together just created an extremely creative space where we all felt we could get better in. There were no parents or siblings telling us to turn down, so we really felt like this opportunity was our best chance to create and really build our chemistry and our sound. 


I’m assuming that wasn’t the case with the first EP.  How do you feel that made this EP different?

Every idea on the first EP was created independently and then brought to a jam session. On this EP whenever someone was practicing an idea the whole house could hear that idea develop and hear the inspiration and the approach towards it. This gave each song more context to how the lead songwriter was hearing the polished idea. We have also just all matured musically since the first EP so the ideas were just better and easier to work with. 


The band has been together since 2019, which is right before the start of the pandemic.  How did that impact the band and did the pandemic have anything to do with the decision to move in together?

The pandemic gave us a great chance to slow down and really focus in on our craft. We all kinda realized that the pandemic wasn’t ending any time soon, so we decided to all really hone in on our respected instruments which made gigging post pandemic an extremely smooth process. To your second question - there was a period of time where we weren’t allowed to see each other and jam, so when the opportunity came to move in we wanted to ensure that we could always jam no matter the circumstance. 


While the majority of the songs on the EP are on the heavier end of things, there are a couple that are more on the mellow or poppier side of things.  First up is “Peaches and Cream”, which is a track that I really love and is definitely the most different.   It has an extremely hook-heavy 80’s alt-pop vibe that to me at times sounds a little like the band The Housemartins.  Where did the inspiration, and the direction, of that song come from?

I had been listening to a lot of Australian bands at the time (Ocean Alley, Sticky Fingers, Dear Sunday, Skeggs) and I really started to like the way they used bright sounding major and minor chords all over the fret board. Specifically “Up In The Clouds” by Skeggs really inspired a fast paced melodic chord progression that eventually became “Peaches and Cream”. 


The other song is “Old Enough”, a track that starts off slower and atmospheric with hints of Santana and The Doors.  It also has a little jazz influence and then there’s a great guitar solo towards the end.  What can you tell me about that one?

I really appreciate classic rock and that sound, definitely a huge Jim Morrison and Santana fan. But at the time I was more interested in focusing on a simple groove rather than the fast-paced riff. I wanted to see the mileage I could get out of a simple but catchy chord progression and see how a song can form out of that. Usually, I really complicate things while I'm songwriting, but this song was written on a “first thought, best thought” basis . That being said, regarding the post chorus harmony guitar line, I specifically remember thinking to myself “what would Santana do here”. 


Have you had much feedback from older fans about these different sounding songs?

The main feedback has kinda just been how we always seem to be improving. Though the songs are different, you can still hear our voices and our characteristics that make us The Hi-Tops. We definitely write a diverse catalogue of music but we kinda always know that it still sounds like us, and we’re not trying to sound like anyone else. 


Even though the other songs are all heavier there is still plenty of diversity within them.  “Shiver” and “Pretender” both have a bit of a punk punch to them, while “Change of The Season” is more classic rock and “Criminal” has a big stadium sound to it.  Is the diversity something you consciously strive for or does it just happen?

I think it comes more naturally. We of course never try to write the same thing twice, and definitely never wanna be bound to one genre. We all pull from so many different influences that change week in and week out so naturally the ideas change and the songs change with them. When we wrote “Shiver” the band was listening to a ton of Billy Talent. With that we just wanted to write a song with that level of intensity and that level of Ian D’sa riffage and I think we came as close as we could! Conversely, when I wrote "Change of the Season", I was listening to a Billie Eilish live concert and wanted to write something with a pop like hook but tied together by solid song writing. 


Do you see the band continuing to have more diverse songs and musical directions on future releases?

This past EP was recorded in May of 2022 so we have been sitting on these songs for a while. With that we have written a ton of other songs and I can guarantee that the next catalogue of releases is going to continue to be just as diverse. 


You have a really fun video for “Change Of The Season” that’s reminiscent of some of the classic, somewhat goofy, videos that use to be all over MTV.  Can you tell me about that?

One of our favorite movies ever is Boogie Nights. We talked to the director of our music video Chris from “Melodic Imagery” and basically said we wanna fuse Boogie Nights, with the “Sabotage” Beastie Boys video, with the “3s and 7s” Queens of the Stone Age video. We can't compliment him enough, because he did a lot of the heavy lifting on that one and really brought it together. That one was really just us trying to be as goofy as possible while putting together a killer music video. 


I read that the band was initially called House Hippo.  Is there a story behind that name and why the change?

We honestly just were ready for a change. House Hippo was fun but we kinda just felt we grew out of it. 


What are your plans for supporting the EP now that it’s out?

We are heading for a small little Canada tour here in June! We're playing in Edmonton June 17th, Toronto June 22nd, Montreal June 23rd, Hamilton June 25th, Frogfest in Alberta June 30th and finishing off in Calgary at the Palomino July 1st. All the ticket links in are available in our bio! 


Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

If you’re in town for any of the dates listed above! Come on down, we would love to meet ya! Follow us on Instagram @thehitopsband.

(Sodeh Records)  (The Hi-Tops / The Hi-Tops - Facebook)