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"Floating on a sea of distortion"

Shoegazers Heat Ray embrace ear-splitting volume and waves of fuzz
Published January 8, 2009 by Christine Leonard in Music Previews

‘We wanted to satisfy our desire for serious shoegazey guitar racket’ — Heat Ray aren’t satisfied unless your ears are bleeding
The Summerlad with Gunther & Heat Ray
Broken City
Thursday, January 8 - Thursday, January 8

More in: Rock / Pop

“I’ve always been about creating beautiful noise,” Heat Ray guitarist Aaron Smelski says. “Eventually, it gets to a point where noise turns into ambience. I love how that kind of music can be utterly beautiful and yet, at the same time, brutal like a punch to the gut.”

Bringing the experience he’s gained from a decade with local favourites Hot Little Rocket, Smelski hopes to revive the noisy sub-genre of shoegaze with his new band, Heat Ray. Named for its proponents’ tendency to stare at their footwear rather than the audience when performing, this U.K.-spawned genre captivates audiences with a dreamy, effects-saturated wall of sound presented in a reserved and introspective manner. Smelski, though, is focusing less on reservation, and more on the noise.

“Heat Ray’s style is sonically in-your-face music,” he says. “The intensity is sort of like a numbing bliss. I think a lot of people consider shoegaze to be all low volume stuff with lots of effects thrown in. I’ve always thought there was something missing in that equation: volume. That’s where we cross over into emo territory, instead of trying to convey emotion lyrically, we just turn everything up and let the volume transpire.”

“It’s a lot louder,” says Mann of their larger-than-your-average-garage-band sound. “It’s about guitars first and foremost. Aaron and I have been friends since high school. We were in a band called Lotus Galaxy together and wanted to satisfy our desire for some serious shoegazey guitar racket — and by racket, I mean ear-splitting wall-of-guitars noise. I love having my voice sort of float on a sea of fuzz and distortion. Like a warm blanket of roaring guitar — and I can just sing to my heart’s content. We’ve set out to be the antitheses of a lot of what’s currently popular, and to hopefully inspire a revival of interest in fuzz pedals.”

Once they had tested the waters with a promising three-track demo EP, Heat Ray made a huge splash at last year’s Sled Island Music Festival, charming audiences with their onstage version of a controlled nuclear reaction.

“Sled was great,” Smelski says. “They did a good job of matching local talent with out of town bands. We performed at the Legion downtown with the Spiral Stairs. We’d only played a handful of shows at the time and it was the first time I felt that everything gelled for us. We’re still getting to know one another musically; it’s about knowing when and where to rein back on the instruments to let Sheila’s vocals come through. She’s always been good at being able to take it louder. We always had people complain about volume when we played, but when we turn down they’re disappointed, like ‘What happened?’ That’s our sound — we’re a loud band.”

Continuing to hone their lush pop-rock creations, the intrepid ensemble is poised to enter the studio early in 2009 to record their debut, thanks to the relationships they have forged with other members of Calgary’s musical community. Be sure to pack your earplugs when they warm up the stage at The Summerlad’s “City of Noise” video release show at Broken City on Thursday, January 8.

“We’re going to do some recording with Arran Fisher (of The Summerlad) in the new year and so I’m excited about that,” Mann says. “When we really get our shit together, I’m convinced the result will be something really great. We’re on our way.” - Fast Forward Weekly

"Quick-Hitters: heat-ray"

Things have been quiet on the Pop Echo front lately. After their biggest acts either a) broke up – Golden Hands Before God b) got picked up by another label – Bella, Junior Bloomsday or c) are more associated with another label and are kind of stuck in limbo – The Whitsundays, it’s not shocking that it took some time to restock the talent pond.

But restock they did.

Calgary super group, heat-ray is about to release their debut record, and since the band is comprised of members of Hot Little Rocket (Aaron Smelski), Lotus Galaxy (Sheila Mann), Shiver (Jon Pynn, Joel Tobman) and The Floor (Matt Pahl), it’s not surprising that the debut album – Loveallover - is a powerhouse. You can't have that much experience in one band and not write a few quality tunes, but right out of the starting blocks the band turned heads. Even before releasing an LP, they stole some of the shine from the '08 Sled Island fest and have warmed stages for some of the biggest bands touring through western Canada.

Unfortunately, if you read a description of the band’s sound on paper you want to lump them in with the herd of bands revisiting the shoegazey guitar hazes. With so many bands dipping their creative toes into My Bloody Valentine’s pool of inspiration, it’s hard to think any of the newgazers are trying anything unique. While it’s true that heat-ray is indebted to the band, their big walls of guitar and drums have a grittier rock edge to them and the vocals are thickened by solid three part harmonies. Somehow it seems familiar and new all at once.

I've only heard a handful of tracks, but they all lead me to believe this record is going to be one that I play to death. Beautiful melodies, some urban grime that keep your head nodding but still craft a state of melancholic bliss. Bottom line, do yourself a favor and cop Loveallover on August 4th and support another great band on a great INDIE label. - Hero Hill

"New band cheer: heat-ray"

Here's another in a long line of Cannibal Cheerleader shoegazey favorites - introducing heat-ray from Alberta, Canada, a five-piece pop group that combines a two-fold male and female vocal assult with the punishing power of 'Creep-era' Radiohead's three-guitar punchout to create an overall aura of bombastic, glowing guitar-rock that billows and flares like a four-alarm fire. With the recent release of their debut LP LoveAllOver the group has managed to capture a stormy but sophisticated sound that garners instant comparisons to the likes of Catherine Wheel or Ride without sounding like petulant knock-offs or boring retreaders - instead the group sounds equal parts fresh and exciting while still retaining a level of pop pride that echos through ever pedal and amplifier on stage. Check out the group below and prepare to be amazed (also, yes, we're aware the name's not capitalized, that's how it's supposed to be geez). - Cannibal Cheerleader


Boa surpresa o disco Loveallover dos canadenses do HEAT-RAY. Fazendo uma mistura de shoagaze(na melhor linha MY BLOODY VALENTINE) , pegada pop, doses de peso e clima viajante esse quinteto de Calgary é uma das boas surpresas recentes da net. Para conferir o som da banda fica a ótima If Love is the Durg no goear. Para conferir todo disco é só ir nos comentários. Boa diversão. - Kataculture

"Pod Fodder (volume 48)"

14. Heat Ray - Come Closer (Pop Echo)
These guys remind me so much of early Swervedriver, and believe me that's no bad thing. Taken from the debut album "Loveallover" which is scheduled for release on 4th August. - Burning World UK

"Myspace Mondays #4"

-Jorge Luis Borges
myspace monday # 4: Heat-Ray
Last week I discovered a possible new favorite band…


And they’re Canadian!

Now, I know there’s a lot of great Canadian bands, but it seems to be a rare thing for some Canadian Content to get across the border, and when it does, rarely does it sound as good to me as this does.

Not only are they from Canada, but from Alberta. Now that surprised me.

The first song hits with some kind of crazy Dinosaur Jr. Swervedriving against a little Bloody Valentine. The main vocals have that kind of J. Mascis drawl, but the harmonies hit nice and MBV.

Second song moves a little more sexy Sonic Youthy, with some nice Kim Gordon poeticals creeping through the blur and distortion of the guitars.

While there is a newness to the sound, the thing that keeps getting me is the way the songs definitely know their history. It’s not just some new shoegaze buzz band hitting the sounds that they are hearing right now, there’s an old school noise crawling through the chords, making me think of bands like Live Skull and some of the New York No Wave crowd. I don’t know if it’s done on purpose or just a nice sonic accident, but either way – I like it. The song “Take It Down” is so amazingly Dinosaur Valentine, it makes me shiver. - My Life as a Mixtape-California

"Heat-Ray turns up the volume"



With: Boats!!

When: saturday at 8 p. m.

Where: pawn shop, 10551 Whyte Ave.

Tickets: $10 at the door

Heat-Ray frontman Matt Pahl is busy bracing himself for another school year.

The Edmonton ex-pat formerly known for fronting post-punk outfit The Floor and lending his guitar skills to popsters Columbus now lives in Calgary, where he works as a "jack-of-all-trades elementary school teacher."

"Those critters come in swinging hard and fast," Pahl says, "so I'm going to be ready."

But when he's done dealing with the white noise generated by a bunch of kids, Pahl is making a racket of his own with his new fuzz-rock outfit.

Composed of a selection of notable indie Calgarians including Pahl, girlfriend and vocalist Sheila Mann, guitarist Aaron Smelski (formerly of Lotus Galaxy and Hot Little Rocket), bassist Joel Tobman and drummer Jon Pynn (formerly of Shiver), Heat-Ray's musical background spans more than a decade.

"Heat-Ray basically ended up taking shape when Aaron, Sheila and I decided it would be a good idea to establish a devastatingly loud noise-pop band in the heart of twangy old cowboyland," Pahl says.

The band's deliciously catchy rock is slowly becoming a bigger draw around Calgary, and their debut album, Loveallover (released on Edmonton indie label Pop Echo earlier in August), is starting to make waves.

Part of the attention can be attributed to the band's insanely loud shows, which have battered many potential new fans into submission since Heat-Ray formed in 2007.

Considering Heat-Ray's connection to the sounds of fuzz rockers past -- My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth and Th' Faith Healers -- the band's name, lifted from a common love for sci-fi concepts and H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, makes sense.

"I suppose the biggest thing we've needed to get used to is the tendency people have in assuming we're a comic-book band," Pahl says. "The cool thing now is that the U. S. military has actually invented a real heat-ray gun, although it doesn't really fry people.

"Our music gets very loud and somewhat abrasive in places, so the concept of the 'heat-ray' acts as sort of hyperbole for how noisy we can get at the push of a button -- 'Zooom! Zaaaap! Crowd incineration time!' "

But at the core of Heat-Ray's music lies a strong pop element, something Pahl fell in love with after he disbanded The Floor and joined Columbus. "I'd had enough of adopting that dark, dreary stage persona for the sake of our image, and I was beginning to feel phoney about it. Basically, I just grew out of that thing and I matured a bit. I'm a pretty happy-go-lucky guy when it comes down to it."

Loveallover's textures take shape on a "wall-of-noise" canvas where Pahl and Mann share vocal duties. The result is sensible rock with a mighty punch. "I like the fact that our band has more of a feminine counterbalance than a lot of other fuzz-guitar bands," Pahl says.

Loveallover's opening track, Come Closer, combines hints of Rockin' in the Free World and the sticky sweetness of The Archies' Sugar, Sugar.

"I went to see Neil Young again last fall at the Saddledome," Pahl says. "Myself and 15,000 other fans took that raging, hemorrhaging guitar fuzz right in the gut. It was so potent, not only because of the wall of sound, but because that wall of sound was propelling a meaningful tune forward. That will never go away--at least for me."
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal - The Edmonton Journal

"Your New Favorite Band: Heat-Ray"

Hyperbole (pronounced hye-PER-b?-lee, from ancient Greek “?pe?ß???”, meaning excess or exaggeration) is a figure of speech in which statements are exaggerated. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is rarely meant to be taken literally.

Genius (pronounced jeen-yuhs) refers to a person, a body of work, or a singular achievement of surpassing excellence. More than just originality, creativity, or intelligence, genius is associated with achievement of insight which has transformational power.

Occasionally, we’ve been accused of being a wee bit hyperbolic. But never before have we called a bands’ first album, a work of genius. In this case hyperbole is necessary to describe the strong feelings we felt upon hearing Heat-Ray. Hailing for Calgary, Alberta, Canada, their debut album Loveallover was released in July on Pop Echo Records. From the first second of ‘Come Closer’ to the last gasp of shredding feedback from ‘Vampire Blues Pt. 2', this is a record that makes you swoon and sweat without allowing you a moment to catch your breath. Not since Loveless or Laika, have male and female vocals meshed in such a way that you were left, yearning for more. Not since Swervedriver has an album seemed so demented, yet perfectly poppy within the same song.

This is pure manic genius and we intend for you to take this literally.

Heat-Ray: Come Closer

TDOA: Your band bio references that your group is made up of the pieces of a number of other great bands. Tell the novices among us about your old groups and how you came to be together in Heat-Ray.

Aaron: Sheila and I are old high school friends and had played in Lotus Galaxy (www.myspace.com/lotusgalaxy). We were a very ethereal and lush sounding and were once called a 4AD farm team band which was very fitting. After we ended, I moved on to Hot Little Rocket (www.myspace.com/hotlittlerocket), an indie rock group. With all our touring we had be-friended an Edmonton band call The Floor (www.myspace.com/thefloorband) and ended up playing quite a few shows with them. Matt was their singer and whenever we met he and I would always talk about our love for guitars, pedals and shoegaze music. When Matt decided to move to Calgary, Sheila and I jumped at the chance to start a new project with him. We recruited Jon and Joel to finish the heat-ray line up. Both played in a popular Calgary band called Shiver (before myspace).

TDOA: When people leave one band to join another they generally take one of two clearly defined directions. They either veer as far away from their old sound as possible or they take their favorite elements of the old band and incorporate them with their new band. Which direction best describes how each of you have approached Heat-Ray?

Aaron: Heat-ray definitely started with a mission statement to play a musical style that was different than our previous projects. The intention was to try writing, playing and creating sounds that we’ve never been fully able to do before due to constraints in our other bands. That being said, I think we’ve amalgamated the best elements of our old bands into what we’re doing now as you really only end up sounding like yourself at the end of the day.

TDOA: Reviews of the band liken you to a who’s-who of our favorite bands; My Bloody Valentine, Catherine Wheel, Ride, Swervedriver, Dinosaur Jr., etc.. Can you talk about the impact these bands had on your music?

Aaron: When I first heard Dinosaur Jr., Swervedriver, Ride and My Bloody Valentine, I remember feeling almost sick from a concussion…like my whole world and how I heard music had been smashed in. I couldn’t comprehend it but was simultaneously enticed by the violence and beauty that I heard. It was like everything that I listened to before didn’t matter anymore. Heat-ray has really been about trying to communicate that initial gut feeling I got from listening to these bands.

Oooh Yeah

TDOA: Some bands eschew comparisons to other bands for fear of being pigeon-holed. Do you agree or do you think it’s a logical “welcome mat” for potential fans?

Aaron: I’ve never had a problem with being compared to or comparing myself with bands that I like. I find it an easy way to communicate what I’m trying to do and a validation that someone else has understood what I was aiming to accomplish. Right now a working title for one of our songs is Sonic-Harvey which really speaks for itself what it turning out to sound like. When I hear of a new band, I always ask who do they sound like and get frustrated when I hear just rock or pop. etc. No band is 100% original and it’s the resulting variance of failing to emulate others perfectly that makes music evolve.

TDOA: The first time I heard My Bloody Valentine or Laika, one of the things that endeared me to them was their use of male and female vocals in a way that didn’t endlessly repeat itself on every record. With Laika, the division of vocal duties was a source of conflict which eventually led to the demise of the band. During the songwriting process, how do you make the decisions on who’s going to sing on each song? When you perform live or as you sat down to determine which songs to put on the record, how do you resolve the “let’s use the song I sing on” dilemma?

Aaron: Matt and Sheila have fought it out every step of the way regarding who sings what and how to sing it. But it’s goes beyond them as we’re a very conflictual band with little patience and big egos. Compromise is really tough with us but we do try to make sure that everyone has a say in the writing and performing. That might be the problem with having played in so many previous bands as we all think we know the best and only way to do things. So far no one has taken their ball and gone home yet. I hope we don’t end up like Laika too soon as I we’ve just gotten started and think we still have a lot good potential to write some good songs. I’m a really big fan of how great Matt and Sheila’s vocals sound together.

TDOA: The production on the album doesn’t sound like a small indie band from Canada. One of the things that jumps out at me is how each song “sounds” different. Tell us about the recording of the album, who produced it and how you make a sonically dense record on a small budget.

Aaron: The recording was done by Calgary producer, Arran Fisher. We actually were aiming for a raw, live off the floor sound and did so by recording the bed tracks live in our rehearsal studio (which is a sound proofed double garage). The resulting big sound probably came from the many guitar overdubs we had done after the beds were done and Sheila’s wanting for a “high fi” vocal production. Each song is very different probably due to the unique vision we had for every track during the writing process. For example “Oooh Yeah” is our attempt at writing a Misfits style song while “Take it Down” is really an effort to emulate a classic Creation label sound.

TDOA: Is “If Love is the Drug” intended to reference the Roxy Music song? If so, can you tell us how you came to be a fan of Roxy Music?

Aaron: Total coincidence. I don’t think any of us like Roxy Music. Brian Ferry looks cool in a suit though. I think we’re not convinced that Love IS the Drug while Roxy Music is quite clear on the matter.

If Love Is The Drug

TDOA: Your artwork makes it clear that there’s a couple of guitar pedals going on there. Can you indulge the guitar geeks in the crowd and tell us about your setup?

Aaron: Matt and I very much have a revolving door in terms of the pedals we buy and use, so I can’t even remember which ones were on the album. Right now, Matt’s a big fan of Coloursound pedals and really sticks to only one when we play live. However, he has a Fuzzface and Interstellar Overdriver, plus an old Fender fuzz-wah that he pulls out once in a while. Currently I’m having fun with the Death by Audio Fuzz War with a Ibanez Tube King which I run through a Boss DM-2 and a MXR Carbon Copy. I also have a old 8TI fuzz wah that’s great to play with in the studio. Joel’s using a Devi Ever-Soda Meiser through an Electronix Submarine bass boost pedal which really sounds heavy and cool.

TDOA: I grew up in Detroit, so I’ve always been well aware of the many great Canadian indie bands. Can you talk about the support you get from Canadian crowds? I’m not sure people in the U.S. realize how fervently Canadians support their own.

Aaron: It’s been a gradual build for in terms of establishing a good fan base. We started playing just at the tail end on the whole Canadian trend for indie bands to play with 10 people on stage with harps, accordions, banjos, and glockenspiels. So to come out swinging with fuzz-noise guitar and amps dialed to “11? was met with some distain. However, we’ve been gradually winning people over and are really building quite a solid base. Canadians are really very loyal to their favorite bands but that can also be a drawback when your different from the sound of the day.

TDOA: What’s next for the band? Will you tour the U.S. with this record? Any plans to play festivals in the U.S. like SXSW?

Aaron: We’d love to play SXSW. It’s got to be the best music festival anywhere. I think we’d also like to try to head down the west coast as we have some good friends in Los Angeles. I’d really like try to play a bit in the U.K. as well as we recently made some friends with a good Scottish band called Keser following the Calgary music festival Sled Island. A recent idea kicking around is to maybe try to get into Electrical Audio in Chicago with Steve Albini as his pure analog approach might be a great way to capture our live sound.

For more information about Heat-Ray and to order their debut album, visit their MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/heatray77

You can also check out more great bands by visiting their label at: http://popecho.com - The Dumbing of America


Never Forever (3 songs - Ltd Edition Blue Vinyl 7 inch + download)
Recorded with Dave Alcock, February 2010
Released June 2010 on Pop Echo Records (POP0014)

Loveallover (10 songs/40 minutes)
Recorded with Arran Fisher (The Summerlad), March, 2009
Released August 2009 on Pop Echo Records (POP0011)




In an age when the lines between pop, electronic and rock are increasingly blurred, when it seems rock bands are more likely to lug Mac books than Marshall stacks, the guitar-driven assault of Calgary, Alberta's Heat-Ray is a refreshing blast of pure rock energy. Drawing on the legacy of bands like My Bloody Valentine and Th' Faith Healers, Heat-Ray add pop hooks and a pure rock'n'roll sensibility to the classic wall-of-noise template to create a thoroughly modern take on shoegazer rock. Winning audiences and puncturing eardrums with their devastating live show since 2007, Heat-Ray brought their sonic attack to home stereos with Loveallover - their scorching 2009 debut release on Pop Echo Records. They followed that up in the summer of 2010 with Never Forever, a tasty blue-vinyl 7 inch single/digital download release. With a line up featuring Calgarians Aaron Smelski (Hot Little Rocket and Lotus Galaxy), Sheila Mann (Lotus Galaxy), Jon Pynn and Joel Tobman (both formerly of Shiver), and transplanted Edmontonian Matt Pahl, (The Floor, Columbus), Heat-Ray are no strangers to the studio or stage. This veteran savvy is apparent on both Never Forever and Loveallaver, as the band offers catchy pop-based hooks while pushing the edge of noisy experimentalism. With Never Forever and Loveallover, Heat-Ray have re-established shoegaze as a vital genre while pushing it in new directions.

Sounds like: Silversun Pickups, Swervedriver, Eric's Trip, Skywave, Neil Young, Dinosaur Jr., PJ Harvey, My Bloody Valentine, Th' Faith Healers