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Hot Hot Heat get it together

Former indie favourites return to the fold after disappointment with major label



WHAT : Hot Hot Heat

WHEN : Thursday, Sept. 23, 9 p.m.


COST : $15

Steve Bays's voice is graveled and he sounds tired. Or bloated. His band, Hot Hot Heat, has just finished up at a waffle house in Hubbards, Ohio and we all know about the food quality in Smalltown, U.S.A. It's a little stop on a massive eight-month-long tour, with only a few brief stops at home in Vancouver. Such is the life.

"I'm just doing little things to stay entertained," he said. They're shooting some tour diaries to post on their website to pass the time. Their tour van has Internet, which makes a big difference. And they try not to drink too much.

"You see a lot of bands that are just starting to do the touring thing and it's funny, they're partying like it's their birthday every night," he says. "But it's very emotionally draining, you get homesick easily if you do that, I find. That's not to say we don't pound a few beers. That would be an understatement."

The man speaks from experience. They had their fun. They were the B.C. Buzz Band in 2002 after they dropped their debut album Make Up the Breakdown , led by the indie standout Bandages. It was a radio staple at a time when indie rock was surging upward to dominate both critical and mainstream tastes. Pitchfork, arguably the most influential musical trendsetter over the past decade, named the album #20 of the best 50 albums of 2002. They were on the cover of magazines. They traveled the world. Life was crazy different and it got to their heads, Bays says.

"It is a weird thing because it's one these jobs where there's a constant review panel watching you and critiquing what you do all the time. It's a really bizarre thing, especially for a job that's so creative."

That review panel hasn't been all that kind to Hot Hot Heat the past few years. The reviews were less than stellar for their next two albums. Pitchfork turned on them and a lot of it had to do with their jump from an independent to a major label. Bays said they made the jump to Sire Records (owned by Warner Bros.) for the money. The money to record, that is. To record albums. That's all he cares about. He wanted to record in the studios he had read about growing up - the studios any kid with musical ambitions dreams about - and the success of Breakdown had earned them enough clout in the industry to actually pull that off.