Introducing The Helio Sequence
Do you like John Lennon? Do you like UFOs? Read on.
Chances are, you’ve never heard of The Helio Sequence. That’s okay. Few people outside of the indie rock bastion of the Pacific Northwest have. But word is quickly spreading about this young duo from Beaverton, Oregon, whose music can best be described as what John Lennon might sound like if he were singing while piloting a UFO. With big, blossoming pools of synth strains meshed with guitar squeals that stretch across the universe, all set to dizzying drum breaks, The Helio Sequence manages to at once sound organic and electro-futuristic.
It’s impressive to realize that keyboardist/ drummer Benjamin Weikel, 25, and vocalist/guitarist Brandon Summers, 22, have been making music professionally for the last five years. It’s even more impressive to hear Summers tell us about his band’s ever-growing array of clinically insane groupies they’re collecting. If you like what Summers has to say, be sure to check out The Helio Sequence show at The Bottom of the Hill on March 22.
The Wave: To people who have never heard The Helio Sequence, how would you describe your sound?
Brandon Summers: Loud. Rock/pop music with keyboards and a twist to its songwriting. We get a lot of strange comparisons – everything from Tears For Fears to King Crimson, or Pet Shop Boys meets My Bloody Valentine.
TW: What are the side effects of listening to The Helio Sequence for extended periods of time?
BS: Probably disorientation. It depends on which album you’re listening to as well. The first album (Com Plex) is a little nicer to the listener in terms of being able to kick back and vacuum your apartment to it. The next album (Young Effectuals) is more of a listening experience and I would expect it makes people’s heads very full.
TW: Is your band popular enough yet to get any really bizarre fan mail?
BS: We don’t get mail per se, but we do get extremely strange emails. I guess you could say that we’re popular enough at this point to have really weird people stalk us. There are girls that are at every show that are… [laughs and lets his words trail off]… Well, there’s this one particular girl who really likes Benjamin and she’s at every show and never says anything, but she just kind of stares. Sometimes we’ll meet someone in another part of the country and then you’ll walk outside and they’ll be sitting at the coffeeshop right outside your apartment and they’ll be like “Oh, hi!” And you’re like, wait a second, this is a little too strange. Then there’s this one older guy in Cleveland – a sort of liberal-minded conspiracy theorist kind of guy – that’s always riding around on roller skates in the crowd. He knows the lyrics to all of our songs. One time he gave me this really weird tract on global politics and veganism, but I couldn’t really tell because (the words) were all double-typed over. He gave it to me in complete secrecy after a show. He was like, [whispering] “Here, take this.”
TW: It could have been worse. The guy could have been wearing Rollerblades.
BS: That’s true.
TW: You guys must be on the right track if you’ve got that kind of weird sh*t going on.
BS: Yeah, I think our music just attracts that sort of thing.
TW: What’s the first song you learned on the guitar?
BS: “Polly” by Nirvana.
TW: How do you recreate your densely layered studio sound when performing live with just two people?
BS: I think there’s a misperception as to how we write and how we sound. Let’s put it this way, everything that’s in a song is in there before we lay it down in the studio. We’re not the kind of band that goes in and lays down the song and then puts a crapload of overdubs. We usually don’t build a song up like that. We have everything in place before and then we record it. It works better that way because Benjamin sequences keyboards and samplers – we play that stuff back and play everything together in real time.
TW: True or False: Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” is actually a pretty good song.
BS: (Laughs) God, why did you bring up that song? I would say true, but it’s not my favorite. Ben would say absolutely false and then you’d hear about it for 20 minutes.
TW: What about Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face,” a good song, true or false?
BS: False. But let me ask Benjamin real quick, hold on. [He repeats the question to Benjamin.] Wow, Benjamin says true.
TW: What’s the last record that really blew you away?
BS: Both of us have been listening to The Joggers. They’re a Portland band that just put out their own album, a self-release thing. They’re awesome.
TW: What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you this week?
BS: On Friday night we were hanging out with Isaac (Brock) from Modest Mouse and that was a pretty weird night.
TW: What movie have you seen more times than any other film?
BS: Probably Planet of the Apes.
TW: Best live show you’ve ever been to?
BS: I particularly enjoyed a Mouse on Mars show and a lot of the Modest Mouse shows.
TW: What three records should be mandatory listening in our nation’s high schools?
BS: Blink 182, Incubus… no, just kidding. Remain In Light from The Talking Heads. The Lonesome Crowded West from Modest Mouse is a really good album. And Revolver from The Beatles.
TW: What makes you angry?
BS: The world political situation. That’s kind of broad, but I’m kind of angry that things are as messy as they are right now.
TW: Do you have any recurring dreams?
BS: Actually, yeah. There’s one recurring dream where I’m walking around somewhere that’s a cross between an insane asylum and a department store. There’s people walking around in white robes and they’re selling clothes – really tacky clothing like beige women’s skirts from K-Mart. And I’m running around trying to find my way out. I realize I’m not on anybody’s side, but I know who’s not on my side and that’s the people walking around in robes. There’s also a resistance group that’s trying to help me get out. They’ll pop up every once in a while and give me information on how to get out, but I’m not affiliated with them and I never really trust them. I’ll be hiding in a clothing rack and one of them will tell me to “run toward that shop – there’ll be an elevator there.” I’ll run over there, not knowing if it’s a trap, and I’ll find it. At the top floor, there’s this room that I can’t get into, but I eventually get into it. It’s darkly lit like a bad Los Angeles nightclub and there are stairs that go up in either direction and for some reason, I can never bring myself to go up the stairs. But then something will happen where I get pushed out of the room or attacked by somebody.
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