the AwesomeHots
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the AwesomeHots

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada | SELF

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada | SELF
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The AwesomeHots
The AwesomeHots EP
Published March 17, 2011 by Fish Griwkowsky in CD Reviews

Being compared to The Jerk may not sound so good out loud, but Darren Radbourne and his boner buddy Amy van Keeken remind a person pleasantly of Steve Martin, banjo dueting with Bernadette Peters. By this I mean it all: unfettered, sepia-sweet, old-timey-harmonic ... and charmingly filthy. Van Keeken, for instance, sings about pooing and peeing, and yet this album also contains a song so sad and serious I am here DEMANDING it be sung at my funeral if these two can pull themselves together after they get their bursary Ziggy saltshaker set. Called “I Wait for You,” Radbourne slowly breathes his accordion in and out, always slightly slower than the hesitant beat demands, giving indeed the impression of a dying pet or lover. AVK is meanwhile laying out her tea and toast in the still, waiting for whom or for why we know not. Merely that it is the most tragically patient thing imaginable. I first heard this song performed at North
Country Fair on a jam stage and was paralysed by it. The two are officially playing the Fair this June, as well as Wunderbar Saturday night.

Back to the record, Darren is convincingly bayou to pull off his swampy country blues “Ain’t Been Dancin’”, while “Border Paro’” is a lighthearted lament about getting through to the states. Can you imagine how awesome it would be if you were sexually around by inconvenience? There is also a tribute to legendary whittler Norm Omar.

The song with all the howling dogs is my least favourite, mostly due to animal racism. I quite like the song, just not the howling dogs part, which reminds me of babies crying. A better demonstration of gang vocals is “WhiskeyTown”, anthemic in a beautifully cheerful Carolyn Mark way.

I believe in this music, its drunken theatrics and class-rift portraiture. Folk without pretension.

4 out of 5 Stars


- See Magazine


The AwesomeHots—Darren Radbourne and Amy van Keekan on a host of instruments from accordion and guitar to kazoo and HamperWriter—was born out of hot toddies and a view over the city, late-night songwriting sessions and a brunch gig at the Artery. The end result of all that is a debut EP that is at once rootsy in its lo-fi charm and also a full-on blast of fun. The duo took some time recently to open a window into the creation of the self-titled release.

VUE WEEKLY: How long did it take to make the record, from the initial songwriting through to the end of the recording?
THE AWESOMEHOTS: The bulk of the songs evolved over the course of a year or so. The recordings were done over two weekends in our living room.

VW: Did you write together?
AH: We each contributed one song that we had written previously. The rest we wrote together, usually over our latest hot toddy creation, while recounting our recent escapades.

VW: Would you explain the HamperWriter and the role it played in the creation of the album?
AH: We invented the HamperWriter in the loft. We had bought a kick pedal at the antique/candy store in Nanton, an old laundry hamper from an estate sale and we had Amy's Opa's old typewriter. The assembled parts were suitable for kicking out the jams. It's evolved a bit since then: a better typewriter, some pots and pans bolted to the sides for resonance— that sort of thing.

VW: What were the recording sessions like for this album?
AH: We recorded live off the floor for most of it, but added some horn tracks and chorus afterwards. Patrick Michalak, our engineer/producer, gave us a rule that we could only try three takes of a given song before we had to move on to something else. We wanted the recording to feel like it was just us in the room, like how the band started. Patrick brought out some homemade mics and bugged the room to pick up on the background and make it feel warm and intimate.

VW: Were there any other songs written that were left off the album?
AH: We initially recorded ten songs but we are saving three of them for other projects. Two of them were written as part of a radio play/musical that we've been writing about the fictional town of Breathless.

VW: If you were to trace the musical map that led you to the AwesomeHots, what would it look like?
AH: We like the cheekiness and sass of folks like Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, Bob Wills, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Hank Williams, Marty Robbins and jazz singers like Julie London, Blossom Dearie and Mel Torme. Beautiful music and fun times!
It's tent-meeting gospel meets boozy campfire sing-a-long, MC'd by Dean Martin and Phyllis Diller. V

Sat, Mar 19 (8:30 pm)
The AwesomeHots
With George Ireland & the Boxcar Babies
Wunderbar, $5

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If the name The AwesomeHots conjures images of neon-bedecked synth-tarts opening for LMFAO, you’re wronger than an acoustic keytar.
Instead, The AwesomeHots (Edmonton’s Amy van Keeken and Darren Radbourne) use a HamperWriter a half-typewriter half-hamper hybrid — to tie an ornate bow around their parlour folk-playing, old timey-storytelling, home
instrument-inventing, stage theatrics-loving package.
While the easy repartee of country duo Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra are an easy point of comparison, there’s a lot more quirk and complexity at play with the Edmonton songsters.
For one, van Keeken and Radbourne are a couple, but forming a band together was serendipitous and nearly accidental. “Darren and I, one night, came home at four in the morning, and decided to have an jam session. We sat in the window and starting playing songs,” says van Keeken. “We kept doing that every night and started making up these songs. It’s great ... we can be writing songs when we’re doing the dishes or buying groceries”.
The habit stuck. A brunch show at the ARTery last summer led to more gigs, including opening for Hank & Lily, a show at North Country Fair. “We were planning on just playing one show at the ARTery, but it just grew from there,” laughs van Keeken. “A few months later we realized wow — we are totally a band.” The pair is performing their first headlining show on July 30 at Wunderbar.
“It’s a really good vehicle for stuff that doesn’t fit with any of the other groups that we’re in,” says van Keeken. And there are plenty of other outlets at their disposal. Van Keeken is a member of the Secretaries (Radbourne is part of their horn section, the Brassholes), Dub Vulture, and the Colleen Brown Band. She also hosts rock ’n’ roll sing-a-longs at the Empress Ale House, where Edmonton musicians and audience members pitch in to a collective karaoke experience.
The other furrow is the live performance itself. “When we play shows, we very much want it to be like the Secretaries where all parts of the show are thought out,” says van Keenen. “We think about the through line for every show. At one of our shows, between every song, we would write a little snippet
of a letter to our friend Norman on the HamperWriter. At our first show, we actually made a hot toddy on set. In one of our new songs, ‘The Lady Ghost of Breathless,’ we have a friend Jessica Facette, who comes on and plays accordion as the lady ghost of breathless. It is very theatrical in that way: we
like to dress up and play around with that aspect of it,” says van Keeken. “We don’t want to be constricted by the idea that we just play guitar and sing.”While the band is currently un-Googleable and without so much as a MySpace stream, there are big plans ahead. Recording an album and creating a web presence are just a start; a radio play is already in the works and van Keeken hopes the to tour the festival circuit next summer.
Perhaps there will even be a follow-up to the HamperWriter? Acoustic keytar, I’m looking at you.
- See Magazine


Discography

Self-Titled e.p. 2011
Wayfaring Stranger 2012

Photos

Bio

Amy van Keeken (the Secretaries, Dub Vulture) and Darren Radbourne (the Brassholes, The Lucky Pennies) concocted the AwesomeHots over hot toddies and late night windowsill songs across the rooftops of WhiskeyTown. With a ukulele, a guitar and their trusty HamperWriter (the spawn of a vintage typewriter and a 60s laundry hamper) they play music that draws from a wide swath of influences (oldey timey radio, Hank Williams, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, Kitty Wells, the Thin Man movie series, Julie London and vintage office machines) with a sprinkle of coronet, campy and sometimes dark humour, glockenspiel, accordion and kazoo thrown in for good measure. The AwesomeHots can be as intimate as a duo and as grand as a 6 piece extravaganza. They also debuted their kid's show at the 2012 North Country Fair to great acclaim.

"The AwesomeHots use a HamperWriter a half-typewriter half-hamper hybrid to tie an ornate bow around their parlour folk-playing, old timey-storytelling, home instrument-inventing, stage theatrics-loving package." - Carol Neuman, See Magazine

Recorded live off the floor in their Edmonton living room, their debut e.p. is a cross section of the AwesomeHots' sound. From the dixieland influenced opening track, Borda Patro', to the sparse and haunting closing of I Wait for You and plenty of sing-a-longs in between, this recording is the AwesomeHots in their natural environment.