So how do these guys manage to keep the creative juices flowing after four full-length albums and seven years in this fast-paced business? Bays explains that the song-writing process has changed considerably over the years: “I would love to be able to write music all day everyday, but I find that the older I get the more important it is to be inspired – the songs that we tend to keep are the ones that are legitimately inspired.” The trick is to never stick to the same routine, to try new things and undergo new experiences in order to inspire a new song.
For this album, they began the writing process on tour – writing on the back of the tour bus and at airports, working on demos in airplanes and hotel rooms with a mini guitar and a laptop. They found themselves with a seemingly finished album after six months of recording, but they kept writing and realized that this album had more potential than its prior incarnation. And after two years, it seems they’re back in business.
Hot Hot Heat knows the pressure of being back in the game. With their increasing popularity over the years and the subsequent demand for yet catchier music than their previous output, Bays acknowledges the difficulty of working under pressure. “You need to work at ignoring that pressure.” And when it starts to creep up on him, he stops reading any music press and steps away from the band for a while. “If you’ve got to take five years, then you’ve got to take five years.”
Even from the beginning, Bays shied away from convention. Four years after learning to play the piano at age 8 by ear (with total disregard for the sheet music method), he jumped around the underground music scene playing in everything from punk bands to jazz trios. But he never planned on making a career of this musical ability; “the main thing was that I was always involved with what excited me. I made hundreds of short films and always chased pretty much whatever stimulated me and excited me. I was never really goal-oriented.”
So without any particular direction, you’d think he would have gotten lost in the system. But he was driven by creativity, and to continue to create he knew he had to maintain the “fake it till you make it” mentality. Don’t be so quick to think it’s all a façade, however. This newest record proclaims this identity in that it is “a lot more aggressive” due to reinvention of their sound. Bays wanted it to be more sophisticated as well as adventurous so as to evoke a sense of escapism. He knows that’s what it takes to make it. “If you look at some of the most successful bands in the world, musical skill is a given but the thing that got them there is identity, and I think identity only comes from being a passionate person with eclectic taste without the fear of being rejected. The more you can detach yourself from fear, the more likely you are able to carve an identity into the realm of billions of bands – it’s a pretty important thing, I think.”