The Hydrothermal Vents Are Ready to Party This Weekend
The Hydrothermal Vents are a Montreal post-punk/dance rock duo whose music is party-ready and introspective in turns. Their newly released debut album Secrets of the Deep! is packed with enough lighthearted material and steady frontline beats to keep listeners energized. At the same time, carefully layered melodies, urgent lyrics and plaintive vocals add a healthy dose of drama.
Reviewers have been quick to link the band’s sound with the Pixies, the Talking Heads and the B-52s. Band mates Tessa Kautzman (from Saskatoon) and John Tielli (from Toronto) appeared to take these heavy-hitting comparisons in stride as they discussed earth’s final frontier and the importance of having fun from their shared Rosemont apartment and studio. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Radio Cannon: How did you two meet?
Tessa Kautzman: We met on Craigslist. I had put up an ad looking for musicians for my band. Then John started playing music for [me] and I started playing for his old project, Metal Kites.
RC: I read somewhere that you bonded over the Pixies.
JT: That’s because I googled Craigslist. Not googled, but I searched it for the Pixies.
TK: And I had put the Pixies as my main favourite band.
JT: So she was one of the few results that came up, which is funny because her music was really folky and nothing like the Pixies [laughs]. But I liked her voice and I liked what I heard. I contacted her and said, ‘I want you to sing on my recordings.’
RC: And once you started collaborating, the music that came out was —
TK: Well, John had a ton of ideas and I was there from near the beginning to develop them into songs. I guess that’s how we collaborated. We worked on lyrics a bit but a lot of the ideas were there before I came into the picture. It’s interesting working with John because he does all of these different versions. They’re similar but he changes things all the time. I never necessarily did that before.
JT: But I can also be a bit bossy about keeping certain things the way they are.
TK: Yeah. He’s a perfectionist.
RC: The ocean is such a present theme in the identity of your band, in its visuals, in your name. It’s also present in many songs. Some lyrics are directly about the ocean. Can you explain the relationship? Is it a conceptual framework?
JT: I just sort of work without thinking too much. It’s stream of subconsciousness. Something happened where I just decided, ‘Oh, there’s these two songs where there’s this underwater theme. I’ll keep going with that.’ I can’t remember if the name of the band came after I wrote [the song] Neptune’s Grave. Neptune’s Grave is about going to the bottom of the ocean to escape and start anew. I was actually thinking the opposite, like maybe we should go to the highest peak. Monte Bianco came to mind. But then we went to the other extreme.
RC: Is there a reason why it was more appealing for you to go deep rather than high?
JT: We call it the last frontier on earth that’s really a mystery still. Thinking of the subconscious, a lot of my words are bizarre and dreamlike. It’s all underwater, deep sea, subconscious, that kind of idea. That part of the psyche seems to suit it.
RC: Reviewers talk a lot about your references. I’ve noticed it’s the first thing they discuss. Is that something you were doing intentionally, to have those references up front?
JT: No. We’re just trying to make good music but we’re also not denying influences. We’re taking them all in. Definitely the Pixies, definitely trying to get some of that in there. There’s no restricting. I’m not going to censor myself because I think overall the effect is something different.
TK: I don’t think it’s a purposeful thing. It just happens when you’re being open. It seems like a lot of the reviews I’ve read are like, ‘They sound like this and this and this, but at the same time it sounds completely different than that.’ I think it’s a really great complement. All of the bands that they reference are bands that we love.
RC: How does Montreal influence the music you’re putting out now?
TK: It’s become more about fun — making fun dance music. It seems so obvious, but it didn’t occur to me until a few years ago. It didn’t come naturally, I guess. Maybe it was just my state of mind, but I was into making more dark, folk, melancholy music. I still really love that kind of music, but performing it after a few years starts to wear on you.
JT: It’s kind of funny how many people don’t think of the idea that music should be fun. I didn’t think of that for a while myself. A lot of my older music was really serious and brooding and melancholy and inward. For me it’s just an escape from that, from myself.
RC: Does this influence come from the Montreal music scene or the city itself or a change in environment all together?
JT: Who knows how much it has to do with Montreal itself or just being in a new place. In Toronto, I was already thinking of doing this kind of thing, but when I moved here the inspiration really started to generate ideas. There’s something about the respect for leisure that Montreal has that Toronto, for example, doesn’t have — the respect for having fun. People want to enjoy life and not work to death, like in other Canadian cities.
RC: What can audiences expect from a live Hydrothermal Vents performance?
TK: A lot! [Laughs].
JT: We’re sort of tied to a mic so we can’t always be jumping around like we might want to. I want it to feel like we’re not a band on stage but we’re a band playing music with a bunch of friends.
TK: It’s always so nice when you get audience interaction. People dancing is what we really, really want. People dancing and having fun just makes it way better for us. It’s nicer to play to an audience that’s willing to be free and not stand there like this [crosses arms] and worry about what other people are thinking of them.