It was back in 2004 when the Helio Sequence released Love and Distance, a brisk and bubbly pop record that vaulted the duo onto the national scene. Since then many of Grumptown's bigger indie outfits (Shins, Modest Mouse, Decemberists, et al.) have cranked out their biggest records to date, leaving Helio Sequence fans anxiously scratching their heads and asking, "Where's mine?" I caught up with guitarist/singer Brandon Summers to find out.
MERCURY: What've you guys been up to?
BRANDON SUMMERS: We've been working on the new album forever. It's been a long time in the making. Hopefully we'll have it done in the next two months, by the end of April. At that point, though nothing is set in stone, it looks like it could be a fall release.
What's it like?We're using the same instrumentation as before, with maybe a little more acoustic guitar on this record. I've been really focusing on songwriting—so that anything that you write, if you could just sing it with guitar and voice it would have just as much power as the fully orchestrated song. So that it would be possible to distill everything down to that and still have the same kind of song.
What's taking so long?We're really critical of what we do. It's like a few steps forward, a few steps back thing with us. There are different times where we're like, "We have seven songs," but then we realize that we're trying to put together something really cohesive that's going to fit together at the end. And though this might be a really good song, for the sake of the album we're going to cut it.
Are you doing all the recording?
Mmm hmm. We're recording and engineering and producing it and doing all that kind of stuff. Just like our last record except we're having someone else master it. Though, we have thought about this being the last record we completely do ourselves. I've always been amazed by a band that can go into the studio and bang out an album of 15 songs in two or three weeks. Every band works differently and I think we're a band that needs a lot of time and a lot of space in what we're doing to actually step back and be able to figure out where we are.
Has the atmosphere in town changed since your last album?
I feel like Portland's becoming a better and better place to play and make music. I can feel that. It's not that those bands [Shins, Modest Mouse, et al.] who have put out records that have done really well has anything specifically to do with us. It's not that it's a cause-and-effect kind of thing. Menomena just did a show at the Crystal Ballroom and got a bunch of people together from different bands. There were 25 of us and it was really cool to meet everyone. They were bands that I've known of and it was nice to finally meet them. It feels good to make music in Portland now. It really does.