Hot IQs
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Hot IQs

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"Best Indie Pop Band - Colorado - 2008" - Westword


Denver trio Hot IQs boast witty lyrics, shake-your-knee hooks, a hot female drummer, and songs that make you want to dance through an avalanche (one is called "Nightstand," an ode to the perfect piece of furniture on which to get down). On "Duck and Cover," frontman Eli Mishkin channels stellastarr*'s Shawn Christensen and dances along a charged post-punky line. Their latest, Dangling Modifier EP, hits shelves today and will be followed by a full-length this spring. - SPIN

"Best Indie Pop Band - Colorado - 2007"

Recently voted Best Indie Band in Colorado - 2007 - Westword

"Best Rock Band in Denver (2005)"

Why it's tops: Singer/guitarist Eli Mishkin, bassist Bryan Feuchtinger and drummer Elaine Acosta haven’t been together long and already they’ve been to SXSW, kicked out of Vail for rocking too hard and released an amazing debut album, An Argument between the Brain and Feet, chock-full of indie-pop beset with erudite lyrics. In the same indie vein as the Fray and Dressy Bessy, but a little grittier. - Rocky Mountain News

"CMJ.COM Review"

It takes a certain kind of indie sensibility to cover Archers Of Loaf. Often overlooked and underrated amidst the Pavements and Superchunks of the world (and in comparison to frontman Eric Bachmann’s more erudite work as a solo artist), Archers’ latter-day appeal is of the relatively cult variety. As such, Denver’s Hot IQs prove their smarts by concluding the Dangling Modifier EP with a faithful, exuberant cover of Icky Mettle opener “Web In Front.” It’s an endearing finale to a wholly appealing quintet of high-energy, cleanly produced tracks. If the Archers redux is one-half of a memorable bookend, EP initializer “Duck & Cover” understands what a first track should sound like, launching right into its invigorating, mid-tempo take on the Wedding Present’s super-fuzz. The IQs’ strongest asset, however, might be vocalist Eli Mishkin. His theatrical, baritone swagger carries every song to unexpected melodic heights, even on lesser songwriting moments, like when “Retromuff” inexplicably dips into a Weezer-esque coda after sauntering around like a wonderfully slutty Strokes. And indeed––lazy a sentiment as this may be––if the Hot IQs were from a less cold and remote region of the country, they’d be getting nearly as much attention as their super-cool East Coast counterparts.
- Kenny Herzog - CMJ

"Nerd Up"

Nerd Up
When it comes to brainy pop, Hot IQs are real geniuses.
Jason Heller

Published: Thursday, September 30, 2004

Want to see a paradox in action? Try giving IQ tests to Hot IQs.

After staring at the photocopied, stapled piles of paper incomprehensibly for a few seconds, the band's three members -- bassist Bryan Feuchtinger, drummer Elaine Acosta and singer/guitarist Eli Mishkin -- finally figure out what they're looking at. Then they slowly lift the No. 2 pencils in their hands as if someone had just asked them to dig a ditch with them.

Maybe this is the wrong time to spring a test of intellect on the trio. After all, it is one in the morning. Acosta, sick, just got back into town from the East Coast and drove straight from the airport to take part in the interview. Feuchtinger is leaving at sunrise to catch a flight to Alaska. And Mishkin, although not as much of a jet-setter as the others, has achieved an altitude of his own since everyone started downing bottles of Corona two hours ago.

"Oh, I think I've taken this one before; I have a 126," Acosta exclaims, somehow still chirpy. She turns the first page of the IQ test and digs in. Good-naturedly, her bandmates follow, summoning the strength and patience to strain their brains just a few minutes longer.

"What exactly is genius level supposed to be, anyway?" Feuchtinger queries. "What is an Intelligence Quotient even a quotient of?"

They may be in the final throes of mental exhaustion, but the guys in Hot IQs aren't dumb. In fact, you get the hunch that they used to be those kids who wore puke-green velour shirts to school, the ones who smelled like milk and did other kids' homework for them. You know: the dweebs, the spazzes, the Urkels. The nerds.

"I was a straight-A student and that sort of thing," Acosta, a New York native, recalls. "My parents really pushed me. I did ballet and piano for years. I tried to do sports, but I'm not very athletic. In high school I was a cheerleader for a month, but I quit after homecoming because I thought all the girls were fucking bitches.

"I also went to Catholic school," she adds, "but I only believed in God for about four years, maybe between the ages of four to eight. I would pray to God and ask him to send me Ricky Schroeder and Michael Jackson, but he never did. Finally, when I was eight, I was like, 'God so does not exist.' And that's how I became an atheist. I was so in love with those two boys, but I never got them."

The young Feuchtinger, on the other hand, was not as smitten with the Gloved One. "The video for 'Thriller' scared the living crap out of me," he confesses. "When I was a little kid, I was more into the Miami Vice soundtrack. I also used to listen to the radio all day, waiting for Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" to come on so I could tape it."

As if an obsession with Lionel Richie weren't embarrassing enough, Feuchtinger then sheepishly recounts an even dorkier incident from his youth: "I wore glasses for ten years growing up because our optometrist in Texas was trying to milk some extra money out of my parents. When I moved to Colorado, an eye doctor told me that I never really needed them, that I had been wearing glasses the whole time for nothing."

Mishkin was never four-eyed as a kid, but he still had no problem getting his geek on. The group's only Denver native, he spent a huge chunk of his adolescence in Phoenix, and it was there that he began playing a musical instrument -- although it wasn't the kind that won him any popularity contests.

"I started violin when I was twelve, but I quickly learned that it was so uncool to carry a big violin case to school every day," he relates. "There was a lot of taunting. So I dropped that. Pretty soon after, I got into gangsta rap. I went out and got a high-top fade with lines shaved in the side."

The mind boggles. And yet, while listening to Hot IQs' debut full-length, An Argument Between the Brain and the Feet, it's not that tough to pick out Mishkin's love of beats and words. The disc's ten tracks are blasts of torque-whipped rhythms and fragmented melody that have open tabs with Archers of Loaf, Talking Heads and the tones of early '80s post-punk -- only lush and fuzzy instead of grim and antiseptic. Acosta and Feuchtinger mesh like a disco rack and pinion, kicking out the low-end thump with a floor-filling verve. The whole thing is smothered in Mishkin's smoky, husky croon, a mingling of Nick Cave, Ric Ocasek and Dean Martin that rolls in like some velvet-lined, martini-scented fog.

And the lyrics are as gripping as the voice that envelops them. A big fan of wordplay and double entendre, the erstwhile English major rattles off hellishly clever couplets like "I hope you don't hate me/Like I hate you" and "Your breasts were the best I've ever seen/But there's nothing in between." For all the gray matter gushing out of Hot IQs' songs, though, there's a weird sensuousness, a clumsy chemistry that infuses their tunes with a fevered and nearly delirious euphoria. If smart is the new sexy, Hot IQs are the new fucking Duran Duran.

Argument's precision and poise might lead you to believe that its creators are vets of the indie-rock circuit, but Mishkin and Acosta had never played in a real band prior to forming Hot IQs; in fact, Acosta had never even sat behind a drum kit in her life. The two met in 1998 while deejaying at the fledgling Radio 1190 and were friends for years before the idea of playing music together ever sprang up. But after casually tinkering with three songs toward the end of 2002, the duo made its live debut that November under the name Just Odessa -- a moniker that still makes Acosta cringe. "It was horrible, but we couldn't think of anything else," she comments. "We just liked the word 'Odessa.'"

By January 2003, Just Odessa got ditched in favor of the Royal We; soon after, Feuchtinger jumped on board. Unlike Acosta and Mishkin, he'd been around the block a few times as the drummer of local pop outfit Thank God for Astronauts, not to mention the maven behind Uneven Studios, where Argument was recorded. As seasoned as he was, however, he had never seriously played bass before joining Hot IQs.

"We knew we needed a bass player," Mishkin explains, "but we were in this weird position. If we found someone who could actually play their instrument, they were going to be pissed off that we were such amateurs. We needed someone who had good taste in music and could play decently, but not too decently. Then Bryan came along and fit that mold perfectly."

Perfectly, indeed. Since jelling into the Royal We, the trio has found itself steadily becoming one of the best loved indie bands in town. But after touring with Denver rock powerhouse the Symptoms and contributing to the locally produced film Tough Talk, the group decided to change its name yet again -- this time, to avoid any potential litigation with any of the several acts around the country wielding the same handle. Plagiarizing the title of one of its own songs, the Royal We officially became Hot IQs this spring.

"Bryan came up with it," Mishkin says. "It was a stroke of genius."

"You mean a stroke of laziness," Acosta jabs.

"We were actually worried that the name might be pretentious," Mishkin continues. "One would hope that people realize it's kind of silly. If you meet us or hear us, then you know we're not pretentious. What we do is anti-pretentious. It's poking fun at the posturing in rock and roll, where success has to do with your fashion sense or how cool you are. We're all about shifting that to your mind, to your brain."

Apparently, there are plenty of nerd-lovers in Denver, because Mishkin's approach is working. Granted, it's not as depressing to be a dweeb now as it was in grade school -- to paraphrase Huey Lewis himself, it's gotten pretty hip to be square.

"Between Revenge of the Nerds and Weezer, something happened," Feuchtinger theorizes. "But that's just in the mainstream. Where I came from, it was always cool to wear glasses. It was always cool to be nerdy."

"I always had crushes on boys with glasses," Acosta admits.

Mishkin agrees. "Yeah, usually the dorks are far more interesting."

Speaking of dorks, as the clock creeps farther past one, the members of Hot IQs seem to be growing increasingly frustrated with their pop quizzes. Questions get answered, erased, pondered, skipped. Eyes bleary with fatigue and beer begin to lose focus. Eventually they all chuck their stapled Xeroxes into a pile and call it a night, content in the knowledge that -- like all true nerds -- they have nothing to prove to anyone.

And as for their final grades? Um...let's just say that Hot IQs are definitely hot. - Westword

"Gorilla vs Bear"

The Hot IQs - September 11, 2006

The Hot IQs play intelligent, danceable, fuzzed-out power-pop that the band calls "wit rock" . The IQs have shared the stage with everyone from Built To Spill to Rogue Wave to AC Newman, and their sound is sure to appeal to fans of the new Thermals record. I had a chance to meet drummer Elaine Acosta at the panel I was speaking on, and needless to say, she was one of the highlights of the fest. In addition to the obvious reasons (see above photo), she was also one of the most enthusiastic and genuine artists I've ever met. She gave me a copy of the band's soon to be released, insanely catchy, and impossibly fun Dangling Modifier EP. I'm not sure if these are the finished versions, so I'll share a track from their debut full-length instead:

The Hot IQs Firecracker mp3

Watch the "Firecracker" video here. Highly recommended. Seriously.

Buy the record here. Or buy some Hot IQs panties. Either way. The Hot IQs will also be playing CMJ this year. Check them out if you get the chance. - GorillavsBear

"Best Underground Band in Colorado - 2006"

Voted #2 Best Underground Band in Colorado...

Members: Eli Mishkin (vocals, guitar, robot dancing); Elaine Acosta (drums, bubble blowing), Bryan Feuchtinger (bass, singing, hair).


Local connection: Elaine, originally from Queens, N.Y., got kicked out of Catholic school in Pennsylvania for hiking up her skirt too high. She was promptly shipped to Colorado, where she continues her skirt-hiking antics. Eli moved to Denver to attend The Upstairs Jeffco Medical School (located above the Food Court at Southglenn Mall). He now has a dubious medical degree and can perform hemispherectomies while you enjoy a delicious Orange Julius. Bryan is from Houston. He likes cars. The cars that go boom.

Genre: No Apostrophe Indie Rock

Why do you make music? Other than that we are music Lovers (with a capital L), we make music for that tingly butterflies-in-your-belly feeling one gets when one is on stage rocking one's heart out. In addition, we enjoy finding ever-annoying ways a band can speak in third-person singular.

When did you know your band was for real? When the clerk at the local convenience store knew our band name. We were filling a Big Gulp with nacho cheese and Nerds. He chased us out the door screaming and shaking his fists, "Damn you, Hot IQs. Damn you all to helllll!"

Favorite Colorado band: Matson Jones, where are you?

Next gig: Aug. 20 Larimer Lounge afternoon BBQ

Our panel speaks: "Tight, bright and more hook-laden than a pirate ship, this attitude-heavy indie trio defies logic with songs that sound both instantly familiar and refreshingly weird."

john wenzel, the denver post

- Denver Post

"Pop Matters Feature"

Denver, Colorado’s indie scene has a crush on Hot IQs. Within a little over three short years of forming, Hot IQs have worked their way into the heart of the local scene, and into the hearts of Denver fans and press. The trio has taken top honors (or close seconds) in past years from annual “best of” lists in the Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, and Westword, and their 2004 debut album, An Argument Between the Brain and Feet, was named Best Album of 2004 by the Boulder Daily Camera. Clearly, Hot IQs have Denver wrapped around their fingers.

Equally impressive, Hot IQs have taken that beguiling charm on the road to audiences around the US, winning over new fans and playing with some of the best bands on the indie circuit today, including Tilly & the Wall, Tegan and Sara, Hot Hot Heat, Spoon, and Built to Spill . Noteworthy performances at South by Southwest, Midwest Music Summit, and the CMJ Music Conference have gathered yet more smitten hearts to their fold. And they’re just getting started.
cover art
Dangling Modifier EP
(Yaw Act!on; US: 28 Nov 2006; UK: Import)
* PopShop
* Amazon
* Amazon UK

Seated around the literally homey environs of Uneven Studios—the living-room recording studio of Hot IQs bassist Bryan Feuchtinger’s central Denver house (itself awarded for its recordings of some of Denver’s finest current acts)—the night before hitting the road to play the New Mexico State Fair, the band notes that while continued growth is the goal, for now their ambitions are more realistic.

“We want to do this as our job,” says Eli Mishkin, the band’s guitarist and vocalist. “We’re not talking stardom, we’re talking, like… rent? If we could pay for our houses here, car payments, insurance, and still tour, we’d be more than happy. That would be the fulfillment of the goal for me. And if we’re not able to do that—if we continue to make people excited by what we do, that’s awfully good too.” Feuchtinger adds, “It’s very very difficult just to break even. That’s the real goal, to do it for the fans. But in order to get out there and play, you have to save up money because you need to drive eight hours to get out of this effin’ town.”

Not that Hot IQs are unhappy where they are. “We’re proud to be a Denver band,” Mishkin proclaims. And in recent years, it’s become increasingly viable to be both a local and national act out of Denver. Despite the limitation of geography that Feuchtinger refers to, the city itself has seen the recent growth of a scene that’s become increasingly supportive and spawned dozens of new acts with a diverse range of styles. And while Hot IQs have managed to spread their music further and further into the national scene, they remain grounded in Denver and aware that they owe their existence to the local community.

Coming together in 2003, both Mishkin and drummer Elaine Acosta were resident music geeks working at Radio 1190, the University of Colorado’s Boulder-based student music station, and one of the only outlets for indie music on local airwaves. Though neither had a background as performers, they both shared a love of mid-’90s indie rock, and as their immersion in the musical world continued to develop, the idea of forming a band of their own took hold.

“It just seemed like a natural progression from liking music to playing music. All the bands we listened to were very DIY, like K Records stuff, and early Built to Spill, and bands like that didn’t sound like they knew what they were doing, though they clearly did, but it made it seem easy,” says Mishkin. Still, the difference between listening to music and playing music is also one of ability and experience, something that neither really had. Acosta explains, “I think they day we started the band was the day I got my drum set. Radio 1190 played such a big role in educating us in music, and the beats were so simple in a lot of the songs, the drums seemed easy, so I got a bunch of tablatures and stuff, and it just seemed really simple.”

With the will, determination, and instruments in place, they set to work learning to play together, starting out trying to emulate some of their favorite music by hammering away at covers of the White Stripes and Weezer. “And we got really frustrated with that, because we couldn’t do it,” Mishkin laughs. Feuchtinger adds, “Covers that never even saw the light of day. Even I’ve never seen them.”

Failure as a cover act led the fledgling band into writing its own material, and deciding on the need for a bassist. Though Feuchtinger is the band’s most seasoned musician, he’d never played bass before either. Having been drawn to an early show on recommendation of a friend, Feuchtinger was intrigued enough to approach Acosta after the performance. “I was talking to Elaine, and she said something about needing a bass player, and I thought, ‘Well, I guess I can play bass,’” he recounts. After being handed the job after one tryout, the band played its first show in its current lineup a mere two weeks later, performing at a local Pavement tribute show. Two months later, they began recording their debut; two months after that, it was completed. The final ingredient came together when the band settled on it’s name.

After discovering that their first moniker choice, the Royal We, had been previously used by a number of bands, they settled on lifting their name from the title of one of their own songs. “‘Hot IQs’ was the first song we ever wrote. We work backwards in this band, so we stole our band name from the song,” Mishkin explains. Resting on a simple hook and the dry wit of the line, “I don’t know about your attitude / We like hot girls with hot IQs”, both the song and band name helped give the trio an identity early on, highlighting their geek-chic presence and emphasis on smart and generally clever lyrics. Mishkin admits, “I think that’s something that migrated from my first passion, which is writing. I’m sort of obsessed with language, so I sort of bastardized that love and brought it over to music.”

That same combination of primitive technique, simple hooks, indie melodies, and lyrics with a wry sense of humor are what characterized An Argument Between the Brain and Feet, and helped sell it to critics and audiences. True to their influences, Acosta’s beats tick along in basic patterns that give the songs an open framework for the terse chords and licks from Mishkin and the low pulse of Feuchtinger’s bass. But the most immediate focal point is Mishkin’s voice, with its low, rounded baritone croon that usually hovers somewhere in the range of Iggy Pop, Interpol’s Paul Banks, Elefant’s Diego Garcia, and Urge Overkill’s Nash Kato. Though undeniably pop, Mishkin’s vocals give a drawling, almost lounge feel to tracks like “Wendy” and “Buyer’s Remorse Code”, even while “Firecracker”, “Fusion & Yeah”, and “The Mascot Is Winning” offer broad slabs of slacker rock tension.

Coming out as it did in 2004, Hot IQs were oddly lumped into some ill-fitting dance-punk comparisons, obscuring the band’s roots in the Pixies, Superchunk, and Archers of Loaf. Feuchtinger quips that he blames it on the short-term memory problems of the press, and adds “I think we have one song that is really dance-y. Maybe two. I guess they use the word ‘dance’ very loosely. It’s puzzling. I don’t know; maybe it’s laziness, or maybe they hear something that we don’t.” Mishkin agrees, “It’s relatively indie pop-ish, I think. Upbeat, fairly melodic, but it certainly isn’t dance-punk, and I don’t think it’s very retro sounding. If it is retro, it’s not from the ‘70s. More like the mid-’90s.”

But if misappellation was a matter of timing or trends, the band certainly managed to win over Denver media and establish itself as one of the area’s up-and-coming acts in rapid succession. Hot IQs attribute the majority of this initial success to the growth of Denver as a Mountain States music capital. “Personally, I think [the Denver scene] has grown a lot in the last five years,” says Feuchtinger. Acosta confirms, “It’s definitely a good community. The bands are pretty much the fans, and there are just so many bands right now.” Feuchtinger adds, “That’s what makes a scene. Denver’s never really had that before, that support. Scenes only happen when bands support each other.”

Parlaying that local support into national attention is more difficult. Isolated by the mountains to the west, and the plains to the east, Denver has a tough time drawing interest from outside its borders. But more than this, Denver has always stayed fairly under the radar, and is only recently picking up from a slump in local support in past years. In spite of this, thanks to word of mouth and key appearances around the country, Hot IQs have managed to help change a few minds. Feuchtinger notes, “The fans know about Denver a lot more than the bands [we play with]. They’re hearing more good things about Denver, and the music, than the people in the music industry.” Acosta adds, “At the last couple of festivals that we’ve done outside of Denver—South by Southwest and the Midwest Music Summit—the Denver Post is there, the Hi-Dive is there, the Larimer Lounge is there, putting on their own showcases, which is bringing Denver to the forefront of music right now.”

Hot IQs have the chance to continue this outward expansion this Fall, as the band is releasing a new EP, Dangling Modifier, and a second full-length planned for early 2007. The new EP finds the band taking a big step forward in arrangement, crafting more intricate melodies, and having generally congealed into a tighter unit. “Retromuff” continues the tradition of witty lyrical observations, almost sarcastically commenting on the odd genre-lumping that occurred with the first album, while actually riffing on indie fashion statements. “Let’s Inflate” shows their pop sensibilities crystallizing around more intricate guitar parts. And “Elephant in White” merges those strains into a powerful, tight indie rock tune that suggests a well-crafted direction for Hot IQs moving into the future.

As Mishkin states, “It’s more representative of where we’re at now. The old one, we really didn’t know what we were doing. Now we barely know what we’re doing.”

Of course, whatever they’ve done seems to have been right, blind luck or not. Whether Hot IQs will continue to charm the Denver local scene in the face of increasing competition from talented new acts remains to be seen, but the band is already focusing its sights on the broader national and international stage. And with two promising releases to help spread the word, and a slew of road trip touring stops in coming months, chances are the crush will spread and yet more people will confess to liking hot IQs in the coming months.

* * "Retromuff" MP3
* * Multiple songs MySpace

- Pop Matters - Patrick Schabe

"URB Magazine"

July : 2007

It's actually hard mentioning Hot IQs without mentioning that they are a very attractive band. Seriously, their drummer is the personification of gorgeous with stunning eyes and....back to their music.

They have a serenading art rock voice to match their subtle but frenzied guitar hooks. Songs like "Retromuff" carries a charm that just enraptures while your whispering the lyrics...their enthusiastic performance will have a positive effect on your IQ. - URB


Debut Album "An Argument Between the Brain & Feet"
Released 2005 - Morning After Records / spinART Records

Dangling Modifier - EP
Released by Yaw Act!on - 2007

Houndstooth 7"
Released by Rococo Records, Coming 2009



Former college radio DJs decide to pick up instruments for the first time to create the same music they so passionately support (inspiration comes from bands like Archers of Loaf, Pixies, the Kinks, Beat Happening). What results is a sound that is witty, self-reflexive, playful - yet also filled with raw tension. It is a sound that connects to the kids dancing in the front row and the crossed-arm-hipsters right behind them - who can’t help but tap their feet and nod their head. Lead singer Eli Mishkin’s haunting voice croons like twice-removed English royalty, only not pretentious. More like it’s straight out of some indie rock Julliard (an impressive feat as he has no training, formal or otherwise). His guitar is thick and fuzzy and commanding, a sword of authoritative swagger that turns you into a head-nodding mess. Elaine Acosta’s drums snap and ting. Sometimes they flare, but most of the time they subtly keep the bottom at that…perfect…gait. She blows bubbles (gum) while playing, and you almost think it adds to the song’s overall percussive nature. Bryan Feuctinger’s bass meanders, plumbing the nethers and instilling a sense of the familiar while at the same time keeping you guessing. His breathy back-up falsettos, too, are soulful coos, loving whispers, patient adornments.

This sharp-tongued and soft-hearted band has been eliciting buzz since the release of their debut album “An Argument Between the Brain and Feet” and their critically acclaimed self-released EP "Dangling Modifier," touring the country with like-minded bands Tegan and Sara, Built to Spill, & Tilly and the Wall. They have also shared the stage with amazing acts like the Walkmen, Spoon, the Killers, and Hot Hot Heat, just to name a few. In addition, this Denver based trio has played renowned festivals CMJ, SXSW, MMS, and NEMO and recently were named 2007's Best Indie Pop Band in Colorado (Westword). Hot IQs play music because it feels good – a tragic rarity these days – and it’s written all over their faces, which is refreshing and invigorating, as they prepare their sophomore record, “Follow the Architecture.”

"The IQs’ strongest asset, however, might be vocalist Eli Mishkin. His theatrical, baritone swagger carries every song to unexpected melodic heights..." CMJ.COM

"Denver trio Hot IQs boast witty lyrics, shake-your-knee hooks, a hot female drummer and songs that make you want to dance through an avalanche." - SPIN

"Tight, bright and more hook-laden than a pirate ship, this attitude-heavy indie trio defies logic with songs that sound both instantly familiar and refreshingly weird." The Denver Post