‘Hot Hot’ heating up on tour

Andrew Hampp

Indie-pop band coming to Cleveland’s Odeon

Credit: Beth Rankin

Next time you’re walking the streets of a major city and you think you might have spotted Hot Hot Heat, chances are you’re probably right.

The energetic indie-pop/rock band has increased its visibility as of late thanks to Elevator, their first album for Warner Bros. and the follow-up to its breakout independent debut, 2002’s Make Up The Breakdown (Sub Pop). The album has already spawned a hit single, “Goodnight, Goodnight,” whose video features all four band members singing the song’s catchy chorus on a split screen.

Instantly identifiable is the band’s lead singer Steve Bays, whose Justin Guarini-esque mop of curly blond hair has made it hard for the band to go out in public lately without getting noticed.

“I think because he’s got that huge Jew ‘fro, you can’t really mistake it,” Hot Hot Heat bassist Dustin Hawthorne said in a phone interview.

But Hawthorne, who has been with Hot Hot Heat since its early days as a punk band, has never been comfortable in the limelight.

“I kinda just slide under the radar,” he said. “And I prefer it that way. Nobody wants to stalk me, anyway. I have a bad attitude.”

His negative nature aside, Hawthorne seems optimistic about his band’s future and its place in the indie-rock spectrum. Although Hot Hot Heat has been inaccurately lumped under the generic “dance rock” category of bands that includes Franz Ferdinand and The Killers, Hawthorne said he is comfortable with those lazy comparisons.

“It could be worse,” he said. “We could be lumped in with the post-grunge Nickelback crowd.

“The best comparisons we’ve had that are the most apt are Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, which isn’t bad. (Jackson’s) records are pretty awesome.”

Having just come off a successful tour with Louis XIV and The Futureheads, Hawthorne and company are gearing up for the second leg of a U.S. tour that will include Warner Bros. labelmates World Leader Pretend and Eisley, a predominantly female folk-pop group likely to draw a more diverse crowd to an otherwise typical Hot Hot Heat show. The tour hits Cleveland’s Odeon on Sunday.

“I think it’s gonna be pretty cool,” Hawthorne said of the upcoming tour. “It’s kind of cool to show diversity. You don’t wanna sit through bands that are all quite similar.”

One way Hawthorne helps do his part in separating himself and Hot Hot Heat from the rest of the onslaught of indie bands being signed to major labels is through his biggest rock star vice: fashion.

“I don’t have a drug habit. I don’t eat fancy, expensive food. But I do like expensive, designer clothing,” Hawthorne said. “I have no problem spending two or three hundred dollars on jeans and three to five hundred on a pair of shoes.”

So assured is Hawthorne in his personal style that he rarely feels much competitive pressure from other trendsetting bands — except for one particularly mopey dance-rock band.

“I think the only band (I compete with) might be Interpol,” he said. “Every time I see them, it’s like, ‘Aw shit, I gotta step it up even more.’ But I’m pretty confident in my fashion. I know I have a knack for it. I’m constantly searching for clothing. I haven’t seen anybody recently wearing the stuff I have.”

A solid wardrobe intact, Hawthorne said he has high hopes for Hot Hot Heat and he’ll stay in the band as long as he can.

“I don’t have to work a job and that’s pretty rad. As far as myself and the founding members (sticking together), this is gonna be it forever.” he said. “I can’t predict the future, but it’s probably gonna stay the same.”

Contact technology reporter Andrew Hampp at [email protected].