The Heligoats
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The Heligoats

Bellingham, Washington, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2004 | INDIE

Bellingham, Washington, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2004
Band Rock Singer/Songwriter


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Review: Goodness Gracious"

Those who are already familiar with Chris Otepka will know him as the quirky front man of the Chicago-based Troubled Hubble, an underground favorite who were finally thrust into the limelight with their 2005 album Making Beds In A Burning House. Unfortunately for Troubled Hubble fans, the band decided to call it a day just as all the pieces seemingly fell into place for the band to get the exposure they so rightfully deserved. However, after the collapse of Troubled Hubble, Otepka began to focus his creative energies on The Heligoats. I initially thought The Heligoats was a new band, which I suppose it is in a way, but it is in fact Otepka’s first creative outlet pre-dating the start of Troubled Hubble.

Goodness Gracious opens with “A Guide To The Outdoors”, a track that features the calming sounds of insects chirping in the night and Otepka’s deftly played acoustic guitar notes and sincere vocals instantly reel in the listener. The song slowly builds and the band helps Otepka create a song that gets the listener’s feet tapping and begs to be placed on repeat. Slowing things down a bit “Mercury”, is a wistful track that showcases a slightly more reserved side of Otepka’s personality and finds the band meshing an Americana vibe into their sound. “Fish Sticks” is like the auditory equivalent of a sugar rush – Otepka’s frantic strumming and rapid fire delivery blaze past the listener while chronicling two disparate life paths of the song’s characters.

For the most part the tracks on Goodness Gracious flow seamlessly into each other, but the album suffers a bit of a misstep with “Florida Panther” and “Aquifer” being placed back to back. “Florida Panther” is a “blink and you’ll miss it” track and “Aquifer” is a collection of sounds including waves crashing along the shore and people talking and laughing, and serves as an interlude that sticks out like a sore thumb. The album closes with the title track, which serves as a stark contrast to the opening album. While “A Guide To The Outdoors” starts out quite sparse with Otepka singing and strumming his acoustic guitars, but it quickly adds layers and creates a sound that simply envelops the listener, “Goodness Gracious” is sparse from start to finish and gives off a bit of a campfire sing-along vibe.

Goodness Gracious is an album that is charming and welcoming and will instantly appeal to longtime fans of Otepka’s work and newcomers alike. Goodness Gracious may not be breaking any new ground, but Otepka’s quirky lyrics and the strong melodies will keep listeners coming back for repeated listens. I wouldn’t be surprised if Goodness Gracious was a sleeper hit appearing on a few end-of-the-year lists. - Absolute Punk

"Review: Goodness Gracious"

One-man bands usually call to mind images of a comical minstrel barely standing under the weight of a drum-and-harmonica contraption and self-penned songs that probably belong in a sideshow rather than on a CD. But Chris Otepka, the indie rock artist from Illinois performing under the name the Heligoats, cleverly avoids such assumptions on his latest album Goodness Gracious, wielding quirky songwriting with a distinct, undaunted rock style.
It’s easy to lose Otepka’s latest solo project — a follow up to last year’s EP, The End of All Purpose — in an overwhelming sea of stark indie rock, but his style of using quixotic swells to set up each song as a climactic story creates a noticeable hook. With experience from producing three albums with his former band, Troubled Hubble, Otekpa knows how to merge multiple, contrasting emotions together in an alternative sound that transcends mere love poems, moping ballads, or triumphant anthems. Stringing together various notes that surprise even the most faithful indie connoisseur, The Heligoats’ melding of major and minor keys produces a graceful yet catchy sound.
Usually starting off with a simple acoustic guitar overture, each track transitions into a heroic tale complete with cymbal crashes and drumming segments. Currently on an extended national tour with Clem Snide, Otepka’s newest venture, with its intrepid rhythms and harmonies aimed to reintroduce anachronistic qualities back into contemporary indie folk. “Water Towers On Fire” starts off with an acoustic rift that segues into a unique bongo-inspired beat that carries along Otepka’s soulful vocalizations, almost like an unobtrusive metronome.
Instrumental breaks throughout the tracks appear to be his go-to shake up to keep his poetry from becoming too boring, but even without them, Otepka’s songwriting prowess makes itself evident. An instrumental interlude of crashing ocean waters washes over in the middle of the album like a refreshing tidal spray, giving the second half of the album a clean slate for songwriting exploration. Singing of insects and sneezes in “Heat Vents” somehow makes sense as we’re taken into Otepka’s strangely welcoming psyche. And when he reveals bits of himself in the last title track with, “It was an interesting angle to be laying with you/ Say we’re on the same page when you say I should be singing your praises/ Anxiously waiting for the next note you play me,” the gentle authenticity adds a conclusion to the previous songs that linger sentimentally.
Even though Otepka manages to create an album full of surprises and diversity, he nevertheless keeps it thematic by linking each song through an original voice, a heroic style, and idiosyncratic melodies. Beginning and ending with a light guitar, the collection of songs encompasses a perfectly soulful, indie mélange. Somehow, Otepka’s use of blaring beats and raucous sounds throughout Goodness Gracious still produces a soft, sensitive album that testifies to his understanding of human complexities. - Redefine Magazine

"Review: Back To the Ache"

The Heligoats, an indie/rock band out of Bellingham, Washington, have finally released their much-awaited album, “Back to the Ache,” and once again we can admire the brilliance of this band and that of genius songwriter Chris Otepka. Towards the end of 2012 we reviewed a collection of works by Chris Otepka and The Heligoats, and were left overwhelmed by their energetic and colorful, yet both simple and elegant music style. Not to mention Otepka’s superb voice and sharp-witted songwriting.

This probably is one of the most underrated bands I have come across in recent years. On listening to their past albums, it was quite clear to me ( and probably to any Heligoats fan!) that most of the band’s would-be peers or more famous counterparts, couldn’t hold a candle to the songwriting, performances and music production delivered by these four guys.

The question is not, how good are The Heligoats? We already know that. The real question is, after setting the bar so high on previous works, can The Heligoats get any better than they already are? And it was with that question in mind, that I sat down to listen to “Back to the Ache.”

First-off the earthy, crisp sound production is a perfect compliment to both Otepka’s voice and his songs. The beauty of The Heligoats’ music is both the casual ease they seem to effortlessly slip into track after track, and the way their songs just manage to stick in your head. At first listen, you’ll always find one or two songs that stand out, and certainly the others sound good too, but not necessarily great. But then, try as you might, you simply can’t get them out of your head. And it’s at this point you realize, that all the other songs are just as great. And by that time, you comprehend just how damn beautiful the album is.

The powerful but simple instrumentation used by The Heligoats on this album, hides the true complexity of the work, and this for me, has always been a major strong-point in Chris Otepka’s music. The album resonates with pure, uncluttered songwriting, which I consider to be the pinnacle of honest sound and performance. Without a doubt Chicago’s Observatory Studios with Erik Rassmussen and Portland’s Jackpot! Studios with Larry Crane lent a solid hand in achieving the band’s sound on this album, but it is ultimately the way that Chris Otepka and The Heligoats construct their songs, that makes them so utterly compelling and appealing.

“Back to the Ache,” is a work of great maturity and insight. Written, sung, played, arranged, and produced with extreme passion. As always, I hate choosing standout tracks on any works by The Heligoats. It’s like preferring one chapter to another, in an enchanting book. Have you ever heard anybody say that a book was good (or bad for that matter!), but that it had a couple chapters that were better than others? So why do we do this with music?

Fact is, “Back to the Ache,” is pretty much like a novel, made-up of little three minute chapters, and if everyone opened their ears to real talent, this would become a bestseller!

Listen to the wistful and poignant opening track, “Good Morning” and observe as it pierces your heart from the get-go; it’s a lovely, delicate, but strong introduction to an overall theme of… Well go grab the album and discover each little chapter for yourself!

…and yes, though it sounds scary as hell, Chris Otepka and The Heligoats have gotten a whole lot better than they already were! - Jamsphere

"Review: Goodness Gracious"

Over the years, Chris Otepka's work as the Heligoats has often seemed like a half-private affair, half-free-floating project courtesy of those who have collaborated with him live and in the studio. On Goodness Gracious, Otepka seems to have found one of the best balances yet between those two sides, a full-bodied affair that still suggests the low-key winter sessions that gave birth to the songs to start with. The band's almost flowing arrangements on songs like "A Guide to the Outdoors" and "Rubber Stopper," the latter with a big post-punk-tinged guitar shimmer on the break, suggests a kindred spirit, if not an exact similarity with groups like the Helio Sequence. On quicker, more rushed songs such as "Fish Sticks" and "Heat Vents" there's a hint of the kind of communal punch so many other indie rock contemporaries especially love as well, but again not to the point where the band seems like they're just trying to borrow or slot into a particular group's approach. This all said, the Heligoats often sound more pleasant than truly remarkable, showcasing gentle accomplishments but not always putting a specific stamp on a sound, with nods verging at points on the overdone (the wind chimes on "Aquifer" could be a tip of the hat to the Beach Boys but just as easily suggest many other groups who have similarly used them over time). Otepka's most underrated talent may be a knack for good lines -- thus on "Water Towers on Fire," "like a phone I wish you were off the hook" -- but overall, Goodness Gracious is a good album, but not quite a great one. - All Music Guide

"Review: Goodness Gracious"

This album has balls. That’s what I like about it. I mean, I like so much more; the melodies, the lyrics, the complementary sequence of songs, the singers voice – its all good. Literally. But sometimes having balls or playing music with a little extra gusto in the loin-area is what sets a band apart from all the other shaggy-haired, acoustic guitar playing indie rockers with weird lyrics. However, simply “having balls” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s some fist-pounding hardcore band with X’s everywhere and a nostalgic boner for random 80’s bullshit; the truth is, I can’t really define what “having balls” means. You just know it when you see it, or hear it. You must experience it. Balls that is.

The Heligoats’ Goodness Gracious took “dude singing with acoustic guitar and singing about feelings and shit” and gave it balls.

This is pretty much the very reason why I can’t get into Vampire Weekend. At all. They play music without balls. If the internet didn’t exist and I couldn’t just Google-image them in a second, my only visualization of Vampire Weekend would be of little asexual woodland centaurs, frolicking through the forest with their little harps, dainty hooves for feet and cardigan sweaters. Because that’s how I perceive them through their music; little hipster woodland eunuchs.

Which is exactly why I took to Goodness Gracious so quickly. Maybe it’s the upstrokes in the acoustic guitar or the lead singer, Chris Otepka’s strong and sincere voice or just the fact that it sounds like everyone in the band is playing hard. Like, literally hitting the drums and strumming the chords with passion, rather than gently caressing the instruments with their delicate rose petals.

Goodness Gracious isn’t just an enthusiastic sprint to the end either. The Heligoats have put together an album that ebbs and flows in tempo and mood; each song framing the next, working as either a building block for what’s to come, or a perfect contrast to what came before. - Pinpoint Music

"Review: Goodness Gracious"

Chris Otepka, the indie rock singer/songwriter from Elburn, Illinois (now residing in Bellingham, Washington) performs under the stage handle, The Heligoats. On the back of the former Troubled Hubble frontman's latest LP, Goodness Gracious, is a black ink drawing of a Nubian goat with a rotor system coming out of its spine and a tail boom on its hindquarters. It's a funny image, but something about it fits the rustic and slightly psychedelic folk-rock contained within.

Otepka's solo project from the vastly under-appreciated Troubled Hubble follows up 2009's The End of All Purpose EP, a straight-ahead, oftentimes grave indie rock release, that got attention from Both The End, and this new full-length, reveal Otepka's gift for coaxing out minor (and major) key melodies out of even the fuzziest rock milieu. He typically starts things off with a simple acoustic guitar figure, before seguing into a bombastic wave of percussion. Case in point: "Water Towers On Fire" begins with an acoustic riff before dropping into a bongo-flecked "bro-down" that pushes Otepka's weary vocals into the ether.

His full band is certainly up to this catchy two-stepping, since they're the Chicago psych-folk outfit Ulysses S. Grant (Mike Mergenthaler, David James, and Steven Mitchell). They all sound the best during the incendiary folk-rockers, such as "Fishsticks" and "Heat Vents." The latter points squarely to the obvious stage name/musical influence of The Mountain Goats, but the quartet also sprinkle in elements of blues, rock, and classic pop into their strummy riot. If you enjoy "Heat Vents," the de-evolution folk anthem, "Fishsticks" is just as thrilling. "Mercury" is a pleasant country rock track about the joys of summer vacation.

Instrumental interludes and lo-fi field recordings keep this release from venturing into stale, late-era Rogue Wave territory. Cicadas show up on the opener "A Guide to the Outdoors" and the sounds of an ocean pier begin "Fish Sticks." The middle of the LP ("Aquifier") utilizes crashing waves as a bridge into the darker themes of the second side. Come to think of it, water is a constant allegory for loneliness, and personal change. The tinkling piano-and-guitar title track hits on that theme and is also one of Otepka's more intimate moments. During the love-lorn track, he talks about a lover that melts his icy heart: "I never knew I was frozen/until you turned on the heat/to reveal oceans of honesty/though not a drop of confidence/so busy treading/just to keep my head above a sinking conscience."

In another person's hands, this sentiment would come off as hackneyed or, (even worse) Jack Johnson-esque. Thankfully, Otepka keeps his lyrics and music grounded in reality, even when he's melodically airborne. It all comes back to that image of a helicopter goat—if you can let down your guard for awhile, The Heligoats have plenty to offer your ears. - Under the Radar

"The Heligoats: A Bright Mind Gets 'Brutal'"

In the three years since the dissolution of his wonderful pop-rock group Troubled Hubble, Chris Otepka has poured himself into a one-man band with a silly name: The Heligoats. He built a home studio, only to have to tear it down and rebuild it, and he's fussed interminably over his elaborately orchestrated new songs, which sport special guests (including powerhouse drummer Kenny Aronoff) and some of the strangest lyrics Otepka has ever written.

He may seem to be courting an image as some sort of wild-eyed, oddball obscurity, especially as he tosses off unsettling lines in the ambitious "Kind/Brutal." (As in, "I wanna eat your skin / while you talk to yourself.") But in person, Otepka is as easygoing and unassuming as pop-singing eccentrics get, not to mention a wittily engaging songwriter who's just weird enough to achieve true brilliance.

"Kind/Brutal" seems to explode in about 15 directions at once: As its title suggests, it's two songs in one, but it's nowhere near that simple. As the track builds into a wall-of-sound epic, Otepka amps up the fanfare, complete with blaring horns, carefully buried discoveries and left-field insights such as, "It's so easy when you're unwanted / It's so easy to stay true." Throughout "Kind/Brutal," Otepka keeps piling on the ideas. But at some point along the way, they actually cohere, forming a bittersweet look at two misanthropes who stay together, in large part, because they don't deserve better. - NPR

"The Heligoats: Brainy In The Best Way"

The Heligoats' Chris Otepka writes songs that are brainy in the best way: clever without straining for cuteness, wry but never smug. Ideas flow out of him in a barrage, which means that a song about science — like "I'm Pretty Sure I Can See Molecules," by his ludicrously underappreciated former band Troubled Hubble — ultimately unfurls into a knockout commentary on what we're made of, what our lives mean, and how the two notions intersect.

"Fish Sticks," from The Heligoats' forthcoming album Goodness Gracious, requires multiple listens to pin down its meaning; the song churns so urgently — it's so overstuffed — that it can be hard to parse. At its core, though, it's about a guy who starts a biosphere in a swamp, only to discover that doing so alienates him from both the world he's escaping and the one he's made for himself.

Whichever side of the fishbowl he's facing, Otepka doles out observations and sonic adventure with tremendous generosity. He writes like someone who's always taking things apart to see how they work, who's obsessed with circuitry and ecology, so it's no surprise that his songs practically burst with intellectual curiosity. Otepka may yearn for evolution to reverse itself — "Let's just turn back into amphibians / Let's just tread until our legs give in / and start over" — but his mind will never slow down enough for him to find that kind of simplicity or peace. Thank goodness for that. - NPR

"Take A 'Tofutti' Break With A Wonderful Oddball"

In concerts, The Heligoats' Chris Otepka spends a good deal of time explaining his songs, often introducing them with strange, funny, byzantine stories that somehow serve as functional explanations for the words he's about to sing. Otepka is a wonderful and under-praised oddball — not to mention the handpicked performer for NPR Music's 100th-ever Tiny Desk Concert — but he invariably makes room for wise, wry observations on human emotions, science and the way things work. His songs are, more than anything else, the byproduct of an endlessly curious mind.

Otepka, who once led the fantastic Midwest pop-punk band Troubled Hubble, often performs solo under the Heligoats name; in fact, he did just that for his Tiny Desk close-up. But The Heligoats' forthcoming album Back to the Ache — out March 19 — finds him fronting a tight, fleshed-out band as he lets his strange ruminations unfurl.

The first song to emerge from the record, "Tofutti," finds Otepka considering the soy-based dairy-free product line as a jumping-off point for his thoughts on our desire to do right by ourselves, feel good and fit into the world around us. The result draws on some familiar Otepka obsessions — the way things interlock with other things, both scientifically and emotionally — while his band's music chimes and charms all around him. - NPR


The End of All Purpose EP (Greyday Records, 2008)
Goodness Gracious (Greyday Records, 2009)

-6 weeks on CMJ 200 charts, peaked at #31.

-The track "Fish Sticks" featured on NPR's All Songs Considered.
Live Free/Let Loose, Split w/ Sam Humans (Greyday Records, 2011)
Loose Ends EP (Greyday Records, 2012)
Back To the Ache (Greyday Records, 2013)



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