California based Indie-Rock band Hot Flash Heatwave came to Toronto last month for a show at The Monarch Tavern. Before the show, Ted (Bass and Vocals) and Adam (Guitar and Vocals) sat down with me for a chat at Track & Field Bar. We chatted their new album Sportswear, artistic processes, TikTok, and more. Check it out:
How is touring going right now?
A: It’s definitely more complicated. Our Euro tour got rescheduled and a few of our bandmates have gotten covid. Ted got it, but somehow I didn’t get it.
T: It definitely adds stress and I don’t think everyone is really comfortable going out.
A: I think on the other-hand it’s also sweet to be back and playing again! It feels really good in that way.
Where are you guys most excited to play on this tour?
A: I’ve been looking forward to Montreal. We went there years ago and it was a really cool experience so going back will be super fun.
T: I’m stoked to go to all of our stops! It’s been a long time since we had a tour.
A: I’m stoked to be back in Canada, and to go to the south, we haven’t been there in a long time. Every show is exciting.
Congrats on ‘Sportswear.’ I love the album - talk to me about it. Why is it named ‘Sportswear’ and what does the album mean to you guys?
T: We kind of had this new wave sound that we were consciously bringing inspiration from some of our favourite bands from that era of music and we had this name in mind that ties in as this tongue and cheek reference to the commodification of music. It’s like a category of clothing (category of music) that’s a label that misrepresents it as a whole.
At one point those labels mean one thing, and then as a Sportswear trend proliferates then it means something else. It has an interesting quality to it that’s kind of sarcastic to me, which I love.
A: When I think of Sportswear, I think of sleek, shiny, decals and motorcycles and all of this different stuff, and I feel like the way we produce our songs kind of have a similar quality; something polished, in motion. It’s an ambiguous blanket term that describes the record.
The artwork is bright and busy (in the best way possible), who made it?
A: It’s kind of nauseating with the bright greens and reds, like a neon Christmas vibe.
We collaborated with a design company in San Diego. They had a lot of cool ideas!
Who are some artists who influenced the album?
T: 80’s artists like - The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, the Banshees.
Some more modern bands who pull from that soundscape that we like are Men I Trust and Porches.
Where did you spend most of your time writing the album?
A: It was pretty spread out across three years. We started individually and then there was some time during the pandemic where my relatives had me house-sitting their house and I moved our band and all of our equipment in. We lived there for 9 months and recorded every day.
After that, we moved back into Ted's place in the country in the Napa Sonoma area.
T: It’s been our HQ for awhile now, my Mom’s house.
We did that and then we added some finishing touches in Oakland with Jason.
My current favourite song on “Sportswear” is “m o t i o n s.” I’ve perceived it in two ways: one being stuck in the same motions every day, but then also going with the flow of life and allowing things to happen and being okay with the ups and downs. I’m curious to know what the deeper meaning of this song from your perspective?
A: I feel like it can be applied to anything. Just going on autopilot it can be like, “Every day I wake up and drink coffee and feel sad and talk to this person on the phone,” ya know? But part of it for me, personally, was about this cycle of time where I kept breaking up with the person I was dating and then getting back together and doing that over and over. In some ways I tie that in, but I also leave it ambiguous because it can be applied to a lot of situations. Ted did a lot of lyrcizing on that as well .
T: I thought it was interesting how we have all of these phrases that apply physical movement to an emotional space, or a feeling of being stagnant in your life. You're moving around and going through the motions, but you feel stuck. All of our words for that are related to physical place and yeah. We were playing with that a lot in the lyrics.
It also references this Cookie Mueller book "Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted black." It's a really sick book that's a collection of her stories and has a metaphor that's about moving, but not being able to see where you're going.
In addition to the song, I thought the video was so abstract. I love how you play with colours, camera angles, and locations. Id love to hear about the process of making this video.
Ted: We worked with our friend Ryan Molnar who we've done a lot of photos with. He's very talented as a photographer and expressed interest to us in trying to direct a video. We embarked on that project with him and got help from some of our friends who we've worked with in the past. Our stylist Stone from Portland who came out to help us partially to credit for all of the colourful outfits, she's a very talented stylist.
A lot of it was also Ryan scouting out good places with his photographic knowledge. We drove so much, like 500 miles in one day. We were in LA then we drove hours to the coast and then to this salt flat, and then we drove all the way to this beach in San Bernardino which is where we did the shot driving on the beach. But, the first day that we drove there, they were at capacity so we have to drive three hours out of LA to get there, and we couldn't even shoot.
Ted: And, our stylist had already flown back so he was styling us on Facetime.
Where were the desert shots?
That was a salt flat two hours out of LA, west of Bakersfield. It was pretty far out there.
It was trippy because you're just driving in all of this deserted flat land and then theres just this salt flat.
It makes sort of an infamous drive because its so bare out there. We've played in Bakersfield and we asked locals what to do out there and they were like, “There's nothing to do!”
I’ve spoken to a lot of artists who have seen growth on Tiktok. What are your thoughts on the platform and has it impacted your work at all?
For us, it took us a second because when we first started messing with it, my impression was that it was for teeny boppers doing dances. But, then I realized we can just do what we do all the time, because we've been making a ton of videos forever since high school, funny little skits or just us being weird. We've been applying that and just doing silly shit that shows who we are as people. We haven't had that much success, but it's really fun because even with not many followers you can get thousands of views on a video. In this weird way, I feel like your'e gambling.
Ted: The thing I'm interested in that you were bringing up is the social media affect on music. I think it goes deeper than music though, it's how we engage with everything. I feel the affect of doing shit for Tiktok. It seems like you can sort of commodify everything if it's just through social media, everything's on a playlist.
Music wise, music is sort of cheapened to just a vibes playlist where you don't really engage with an artist or have that relationship with them anymore, so that's what it brings up for me. We're down to play the game but we also try to make a record that’s really special. I think it's really cool to have a more in depth experience listening to a record chilling in your living room instead of just playing Indie Vibes on Spotify, doing your workout or whatever.
A: I think being able to blend the worlds in my mind is ideal but yea, it's easy to see it as one or the other and I feel like the algorithm makes it seem very heartless, not about the soul. It's about what's going to have the most likes or views.
When making music or art, I feel like it's always important to remember the reason you make it, because it can be hella discouraging to be like, “okay i need to make something that's going to be viral and capture the attention of someone in like 10 seconds or I'm fucked.” There is still a lot of music that is classic and when The Beatles documentary came out, everyone was talking about The Beatles and everyone still loves them,s and they weren't making music for Tiktok but they're still one of the most classic bands of all the time. I think its good to give back to the basics.
T: I think what Adam is trying to say is that were the next Beatles.
Any artists you can recommend from San Francisco?
Small Crush, they're a really cool girl fronted dreamy/surfy classic San Francisco sound, west coast music.
Interview by Gemma Mastroianni.