HILOTRONS
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HILOTRONS

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2001 | SELF | AFM

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2001
Band Pop New Wave

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An eclectic musician and composer in his own right, Mike Dubue and his bandmates were successful in cementing Hilotrons as one of the more multifaceted acts that the festival had hosted up to this point. Backed by a handful of talented local musicians in keyboard player Adam Saikaley, guitarist Alex Moxon and a rhythm section of Phillippe Charbonneau and Pascal Delaquis, Dubue led the way through a set of material drawing from synth-pop, alt-rock and even reggae.

"Give it up for the machines," he exclaimed, while triggering a battery of interstellar sound effects and synth stabs on the wide array of keyboards and electronics before him. While some in the audience took to dancing along to the infectious tunes, others stood bewildered at the raw, otherworldly electro-pop on display. Such feelings generated by Dubue's music are only a fraction of what has made his work with Hilotrons recognizable both here at home and across the nation. - Exclaim!


There's an eclectic corner of Canadian music that has been empty for the past five years, begging for the return of Ottawa's Hilotrons. Thankfully, band-leader-turned-one-man-band Michael Dubue is back with a collection of songs that pick up where 2008's Happymatic left off. Recorded mostly on his own, after dealing with scheduling conflicts with other members, Dubue enlisted a number of extra hands to help out on At Least There's Commotion, including Jeremy Fisher, Jim Bryson and Sacha Gabriel. Opening track "Venus At Your Back Door" is a cheeky synth-pop number that's an aggressive kick into a loopy world that unravels into a sequence of songs that's as schizophrenic as the subject matter. "My Number" is a soulful jam that swells into a string-infused ballad of sorts in just under three minutes, right before the two-part opus of "She Knows My Condition," which ushers in a circus-like whirlwind of tumbling percussions, manic pianos and synths. Even with all its twists and turns, At Least There's Commotion is a neatly cohesive piece of work that highlights all of Dubue's strengths and proves that, conventions be damned, he's one of Canada's most unique songwriters.
(Kelp) - Exclaim!


By Vish Khanna
Ottawa pop rock geniuses Hilotrons hone a timeless sound on the excellent Happymatic, and the multi-layered result is more rewarding with each listen. Even as other bands strive for the quirky tightness of Devo, Talking Heads and the Police, Hilotrons master the artful, immediate energy required to achieve something both sophisticated and infectiously danceable. Without posturing or fanfare, "Lost in Yichang” just gets going, with Mike Dubue’s slick, impassioned voice hooking listeners into the intriguing world of Happymatic. Songs like "Dominika” might be sugar pop but they’re nutritious enough to justify the tooth rot, and are nice appetisers for the thoughtful production and new wave grandeur of "Lovesuit” and the incredibly catchy "Deep River,” which gives Spoon a run for their money. The music here is cocky and manly but possesses a self-aware charm. "Emergency Street” has this vibe, even with a chorus of women singing the hook, as does Paul Hogan’s "Teen Dreams.” The lone anomaly to this brash dance rock comes via a tribute to the band’s hometown, with a starkly winsome cover of the now-defunct Kepler’s "I’m a Parade,” which is wonderfully arranged and executed. Happymatic is a simmering, note-perfect party record by Hilotrons.

Who do you think might gravitate to your new wave sounds?
Dubue: I hope the kids do but I’m not too sure. I was just trying to record Combat Rock basically and this is what we came up with. I really love that album and I always get into debates about Combat Rock with Clash fans but it’s wonderful.

Though upbeat, do you think these songs are dark?
I tend to think they’re slightly angry or despondent. Happiness doesn’t really come automatically to me. Not that I’m a tortured artist or anything but there are a lot of dark themes and I’m self-conscious talking about it. I do like to think that a couple of Paul’s songs are about ex-girlfriends of mine.

Why cover Kepler?
I used to play in Kepler before Samir [Khan] moved to Toronto. I love that song and I’m a big fan of his songwriting. We cover songs by people we know, such as Mike Feuerstack of Snailhouse and Wooden Stars, and Geoff Pye of Yellow Jacket Avenger. John Tielli’s part of that crew too and I feel like I know all of my favourite songwriters in person. - Exclaim!


Every band I've been in has stunk. Fun to play in, yes; impressive to watch for the few friends who don't play instruments and can't detect the fuck-ups, perhaps. But a genuinely good band, a band whose music will make people change their plans to be in its presence, that maybe even makes other bands in the same scene better -- not as such, no. Naturally envision the soul-crushing jealousy I experience of musicians whose most central outlet (because they are in many good bands) is so universally understood as "oh, they're fucking great." Imagine it changing, morphing into offended disbelief that any such band isn't signed; the discrimination of every song I find uninteresting suddenly turned into a stab at a band as purely enjoyable as the HILOTRONS.

Comprised of Ottawa mainstays and local veterans, what's made most remarkable by the experience of the band's five members is the particular brand of unpretentious, straightforward New Wave pop that they play. Bella Simone, the band's sophomore outing after a similarly accessible, self-titled debut, breezes across the course of its fifteen tracks with the unimpeded fluidity of a meticulously assembled dance mix, weaving seemingly simple Cherry Coke melodies into production values and song-writing shifts that underline the band's varied knowledge of its craft. The HILOTRONS aren't making claim to undiscovered countries. If there were any justice they'd be taking over this one.

The album's opening trifecta interweaves broad-stroked keyboards with the careful, detailed picking of Paul Hogan's guitar. It's an interesting Odd Couple-ling, and one that could very well have relegated the band to the peripheries of gimmickry, but the move defines the band's sound while simultaneously elevating them from New Wave imitators to tributaries. Though the melodies are the spectacle of the band attraction, it's the masterful and knowing production, and the way it marries the band's two defining elements, that will draw in the music nerds. The guitar throughout "Look, Wow" and "Should've Come Over" echoes with Buggles reverb while Michael John Dubue growls and mash-potatoes through his self-styled landscape of robots and pillow fights. "Up in Your Space" jives with the unapologetic seriousness of pop, which admits that a relationship that is sung about is, at that moment, the only important relationship on the planet. "Astroman" and "Born a Dancer," for all their intentional silliness, see each member's contribution interlocking into sleek, economic powerhouses without wasted moments. The album's title track shimmers through its many moods, tip-toeing gingerly across the water one minute and re-establishing its 4/4 stomp the next. If there is a line that exists between local acts recording on friends' laptops, hoping to sell enough CD-Rs to fund a small tour, and a band truly capable of playing monster shows nightly, Bella Simone is evidence that the HILOTRONS have crossed it.

The success of Bella Simone can be measured by how quickly it will become a part of your daily listening, or by the number of people at the band's shows who dutifully sing along with each of Dubue's absurdist fantasies. But, ultimately, it's the unquantifiable that best expresses the separation of one band from the rest of its pack. New Wave's students are legion, and HILOTRONS' musical goals the same, but there is something that strikes in the album's early moments that says if I could be in a band this good only once, I'd consider my work done. - cokemachineglow.com


Discography

To Trip With Terpsichore - 2015 LP (Label Records / Record Centre Records)

Sing Song w. David O'Meara - 2014 LP (Coach House Books)

At Least There's Commotion - 2013 LP (Kelp Records)

Happymatic - 2008 LP (Kelp Records)

Bella Simone - 2006 LP

S/T - 2003 LP (Re-released in 2006 on Music For Cats Records)

Porch Dweller - 2002 EP

Photos

Bio

Mike Dubue: Vocals/DX7/Moog/Stylophone/No-Input Console
Alex Moxon: Guitar
Philippe Charbonneau: Bass
Pascal Delaquis: Drums
Adam Saikaley: MPC/Synth

We are HILOTRONS. Simply just a band, like other bands… but not as good as The 
Jesus Lizard. We approach music transcending the idea of genre, making musical statements or asking musical questions, accepting the responsibility of growing, learning and evolving as musicians/composers while embracing the absurd, darkness and humour of life. We also super-dig movies and stand up comedy! Never looking for any sort of balance, we try to reflect ALL of this in our music and on our records, delivering high energetic non-stop performances to engage your mind and dance your ass off!
We’ve been a band for 14 years and have released the albums Porch Dweller (2002), HILOTRONS S/T (2003), Bella Simone (2006), Happymatic (2008), At Least There’s Commotion (2013), Sing Song (2014) and To Trip With Terpsichore (2015). We’ve also scored films from the silent era (including The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari, Back To God’s Country and Carry On, Sergeant!) and perform the music to the films as live cinematic events.

... AND HERE IS SOME MORE HISTORY
HILOTRONS is an Ottawa band started by Mike Dubue in 2001. The line up was Mike, with Paul Hogan (Guitar), Philip Shaw Bova (Drums) and Phillip Victor Bova (Bass).  In 2002, they released an EP called Porch Dweller.  Paul suggested the name HILOTRONS and in 2003, they release their first self-titled LP.  

Philip Shaw Bova was replaced by drummer Robin Buckley and Phillip Victor Bova was replaced by bassist Damian Sawka.  HILOTRONS continued to play shows, with bands such as Arcade Fire, The UnicornsThe Von Bondies and The Constantines.  Over the years, there were a few more band line up changes (Jordy Walker and Chris Seibel on Synth/Percussion) and eventually they settled on Mike, Paul, Damian, Philip Shaw Bova and Mike Schultz (Synth/Percussion/Back-Up Vocals).  In 2006, they released their second LP Bella Simone.

In 2008, HILOTRONS signed to Kelp Records and released their third LP Happymatic, which was short listed for Polaris.   

In 2009, Dubue toured with the band The Acorn for a year.  He also began scoring music for films from the silent era and presenting the films with a live band, chamber ensemble or orchestra.  Eventually, the HILOTRONS began performing and co-writing scores, including The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1919) and a wide variety Canadian short and feature silent films.  

In 2013, Dubue went into the studio with Philip Shaw Bova and eventually released their fourth LP, At Least There's Commotion, on Kelp Records.  For shows, HILOTRONS turned into a duo, which was Dubue and Adam Saikaley (MPC/Synth).  Eventually, Alex Moxon (Guitar), Philippe Charbonneau (Bass) and Pascal Delaquis (Drums) joined the band and they continue to perform as a five piece.

In March 2014, HILOTRONS and author David O'Meara released a digital record with Coach House Books called Sing Song.  The album features Dave O'Meara reading selections from his 2013 book A Pretty Sight with music composed by Dubue.

To Trip with Terpsichore (TERP-sick- oree) was released in digitally February 2015.  Spring 2015, sees the band on a brief East Coast tour to celebrate the release of the vinyl version.

Band Members