In the two years since their last release, Freak Heat Waves have continued a perpetual process of transformation. Shedding familiar influences from the heavily excavated histories of post-punk and krautrock, the band has now beamed into uncharted territory with the otherworldly sound of their third album, Beyond XXXL.
On this 11-song excursion, alien strains of synth-pop and glam-rock are sandblasted with smooth guitar solos, eerie electronics, and pulsating drum machines propelled into skull-shattering breakbeats. Deeply distorted vocals narrate the narcoleptic trip like a DJ Screw mixtape splicing together John Foxx, John Maus, and The Prodigy. The result is Freak Heat Waves’ most cohesive and captivating release to date, amplifying earlier melodic sensibilities while remaining singularly strange.
DzIn the past we were happy to use identifiable instruments, but this time we were set on creating our own sounds,dz says singer and multi-instrumentalist Steven Lind, offering the album’s unofficial mission statement. DzWe processed everything, blended drum machines with real drums, and re-amped our synths and guitars to get into a mutant futuristic zone. New territory was the goal.
While Freak Heat Waves’ core duo of Lind and Thomas DiNinno have primarily operated from the coastal community of Victoria, B.C., they originally formed in Medicine Hat, Alberta and have now made their most recent relocation to Montreal. Throughout extensive tours of North America, various line-ups of the group have included Cindy Lee/Women’sPatrick Flegel, Fountain’s Evan Jeffery, and Kyle Sherrill of Atlanta art-rockers Red Sea.
Freak Heat Waves’ 2012 debut was recorded with the late Chris Reimer (Women and The Dodos), while their celebrated sophomore LP Bonnie’s State of Mind saw a co-producer credit from Scott Munro (Preoccupations). On Beyond XXXL, Lind and DiNinno hunkered down to self-produce the album almost entirely independently. This process began in the studio facilities of Portland Community College, where electronic percussion expert Shawn Trail assisted with engineering the guitar, bass, and drum machines providing its foundation. Over the next nine months, the duo gave birth to their extraterrestrial baby, painstakingly shaping each sound in a pair of home studios.
Beyond XXXL matches the artifice of its alien pop with lyrics describing chameleonic performers sinking into their self-created costumes. Lind introduces this intention on opener DzSelf Vortexdz as he intones Dzit ain’t an escape / I want a way to transform tonight.dz The slowly swirling DzBad Mutationdz brings a more cynical view, as he describes Dzan ugly subculturedz with Dzmore banter for the audiencedz from someone Dzso realistic your sanity twisted.dz Lind lets his guard down on the glittering romance of DzSoothing Limbodz, but by DzI Can’t Telldzit’s no longer possible to recognize a loved one who has begun to Dzsimulate the taste and the smell.
“Sell A Line” imagines early Roxy Music with Brian Eno’s sputtering synths pushed to the forefront and cultural critiques that could be set in any era: DzTransformation of a western nation / Fake exorcism for the sake of religion / And televise the whole ordeal.dz On DzSubliminal Appealdz, the artist has become a politician: a Dzbelligerent ex-showman / delivering programmed slogan.dz Their tragic metamorphosis is completed on closer DzIn The Dip Of The Night,dz as Lind reveals his revulsion to the Dzprima donna of subversive sounddz spreading smoke and media hoaxes until theDzspotlight shines and then spits you out.dz Yet could it have been himself all along?
Before melting into thin air, Freak Heat Waves unleash the most striking musical moment on Beyond XXXL, which could point to their next transformation. The brain-battering blitzkrieg of DzToxic Talk Showdz may sound completely drum machine driven, yet Lind explains that this self-described Dzgrotesque freak-out ravedz reached its apex with the band’s original mode of instrumentation.
We wanted the album to have more intensity and insanity with an over the top dance number,” says Lind. “That one started with Thomas writing the synth line and the beat on the drum machine. We liked it but weren’t sure how to bring up the energy level, and funnily enough it became one of the only songs that uses a full drum kit. For the rest of the record we were trying to dial things back, but that’s the one song where we got free. We exorcised our demons right before the album ends.”
– Jesse Locke
Recorded between Sept 2015-Jan 2016 by Darto in a cabin in Cle Elum, WA, and our home in Seattle, WA. Mixed in Aug 2016 by Cory Hanson at Comp-ny in Burbank, CA . Mastered in March 2017 by JJ Golden at Golden Mastering in Ventura, CA.
A lot happened between the time we wrote Human Giving, and mastered it. Many people besides Darto made this record what it is. It means a lot that we have such a supportive community who are willing to help us with our ideas. A huge reason we do what we do is because we are constantly inspired by those closest to us. A lot of the songs, and themes in this record are a direct result of our loved ones, many of which had a hand in the sound and vision of it both directly and indirectly. It certainly makes our life very rich and rewarding.
We are extremely proud of this record. Writing, recording, mixing and mastering it was the most intentional musical experience we have had to date, and a huge part of that was because of our special friend who mixed it, Cory. We took a lot of chances on it, and grew exponentially in the process. It felt, and feels like we walked through many doors while working on it, and the place we ended up is very similar to the place where we were as young people first deciding to create. A vulnerable first step towards something larger.
The album comes from the places within us where hope and love exist. Where the focus is not on the self, and where everything is possible. Humans giving themselves to other humans. The power of listening on all fronts. The desired effect is and was to bring hope in some capacity.