By Zach Schepis
Photos courtesy of Heat.
Our neighbors from the north might be known for their chilly winds, ice hockey, and maple syrup, but they’re also kindling a heat that might be more in keeping with our sweltering summer.
Seriously, the band is called Heat. If you haven’t heard them yet, get ready for some ultra-wavy, head-bobbing pop-perfection. The songs are explosive in a careful kind of way, in which even the momentary whir of background guitar distortion can add just the right calculated hue to the landscape.
Thankfully, it’s a landscape both catchy and cool. BTR recently spoke with frontman Susil Sharma to find out why.
Breakthru Radio (BTR): I read that you’re a New Brunswick native but you’ve been making music in Montreal for over a decade now. I’m wondering, what were those years like playing with all those different groups?
Susil Sharma (SS): It was a very informative experience, I mean, definitely coming from New Brunswick. It’s great, but it’s the smallest place and growing up, there weren’t a ton of bands touring through. So right away there was a difference coming to the city, being able to check out my favorite bands.
And then I kind of jumped right into it. I played bass in a bunch of different groups. I did a pop band for a while, punk band, a folksy band… I just kind of did that for more or less five years, six years. It was almost like a musical education of what it’s like being a band and touring around.
BTR: So, what made you finally decide to get out of that rotation of bands and finally start writing your own music?
SS: I guess I was just kind of in a funk with doing everything. They were never really the sorts of bands that I wanted, or the types of band capable of amalgamating a bunch of different styles. I’d always played guitar as well, so I took a year of practicing six to eight hours a day and really getting my songwriting chops up. After that I formed Heat with some friends.
BTR: How did you meet the rest of the guys in the band?
SS: Well, it’s funny because I only started off with some demos I was doing. We started as a five-piece, which was pretty much just me grabbing a bunch of my friends and playing some shows at smaller clubs around town. Matt [Fiorentino], our guitar player, was in that lineup.
BTR: I’m pretty sure you had a drum machine even at one point in your lineup. What was that like?
SS: It was interesting, I guess. It was just like, one drum beat for an entire set while we played songs around it [laughs]. I mean, I would maybe go see that band, but I don’t know if now I would be in that band…
BTR: What’s the songwriting process like in the group? Is it more collaborative-based or individual?
SS: It did start with me just doing demos and our first demo even on the EP is a lot of myself on it. But with the final lineup in place now, it’s still a process where I’m bringing in songs but I’m leaving parts open and we’re all kind of on the same page about bringing in our own styles and influences. So, there’s a lot of work done prior to the jam room but then kind of perfecting and polishing it.
At this point it’s an egoless process where we’re all just trying to craft a great song.
BTR: And you’ve mentioned in the past that all the songs, lyrically at least, are about your life. So I’m wondering, do you usually write looking back on past chapters in your life or have you tried writing a song particularly close in time to where you feel you are currently?
SS: It’s interesting, on the EP they’re probably more past-oriented. For instance the song “25,” I wrote on my 25th birthday. So that was very much in the moment. It’s strange now to be 27 and looking back but kind of reliving that character. A lot of the New York material is actually less that Lou Reed-street-poetry-style stuff. It’s a little bit beyond just immediately relating an experience.
BTR: Sure, and speaking of more current stuff, you guys covered Madonna recently. I’m wondering whose idea that was?
SS: That was all me, man!
BTR: Are there plans for more covers in the works going forward?
SS: I don’t know, we’re not refusing the covers. For that one, we were actually asked by our label to do something. Our first reaction is just to be like, which Jesus and Mary Chain song, or which Guided by Voices song, you know, stuff more our style, and eventually we were just like, “Fuck it, let’s take a Madonna song–a song we all love.”
It’s nice to kind of go outside of your genre, if you want to call it that. But at the end of the day, it’s all pop songwriting, so it’s cool to do.
BTR: So what’s in the works for Heat right now?
SS: Right now we have a tour coming up, and it’s just a week. Other than that, a lot of the songwriting has been done for our first album, but we’re perfecting it. We like to do our best and create something that we can stand by.
To hear more from Heat, check out their Bandcamp or tune into BTR’s very own In the Den.