After two critically acclaimed albums on the small Northwestern label Cavity Search, The Helio Sequence--the Portland duo of Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel, best friends and bandmates since high school--knew they had to do something else.
"We wanted to do something that was closer, dryer, with less reverb," Weikel says, fishing around for an explanation to the departure that is their third album, Love and Distance, an hour before taking the stage in Chicago for the first tour date of a five-week run behind the record. "For us, it was something that was a little more fun and a lot more colorful. We felt like it was time."
To make the change, Weikel and Summers found a new label, cutting a demo for Sub Pop and working with the Sub Pop representative that had first put the band on the air as a DJ at Los Angeles' KXLU years earlier. The two looked at over three years of material, chose more than 20 tracks to record for a "scratch CD" and then made the cut with that warmer direction in mind.
In the midst of recording the final product, Weikel and Summers set out on a tour with Modest Mouse, Weikel replacing the missing-in-action Jeremiah Greene behind the kit for this year's Good News for People Who Love Bad News and nightly in front of the biggest and youngest crowds he had ever seen. The duo finished the work on the album in Isaac Brock's practice space after the tour. Love and Distance--a stereo-spanning record brimming with the exact hopefulness and subtlety-infused density the band had set out to capture--is a record clearly under the influence of the age and energy of the crowds on those tours, a Wayne Coyne-influence Spiritualized, but sunny-side-up.
The critical backlash to this change of stride was as harsh as it was unexpected, though. One writer griped, "Growing up doesn't have to mean growing bland, but it seems to be what happened to the Helio Sequence."
"I don't read album reviews because I don't want to let it affect our direction... .We're just The Helio Sequence," says Weikel, surprised when he hears the narrow comparisons some more jaded critics have made. "Our old stuff sounds like this band, and so does the new stuff. In the end, I hope people would be able to accept really different albums from the same band."
The Helio Sequence plays Lincoln Theatre along with The Talk and The Secret Machines on Friday, July 16. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 in advance.