Portland-based indie rockers Helio Sequence made life a little easier by making it a little harder for their most recent album. After the grueling writing and recording process for their 2012 album “Negotiations,” they decided to shake things up. Inspired by some friends playing a game called the “20 song game,” wherein participants try to compose 20 new songs in one day, they decided to set a one month time limit for themselves to create their new album.
“It was really liberating,” says lead singer Brandon Summers. “Any creative process, you run into roadblocks, whether there’s a day that you don’t feel very creative, or if there’s one line that you’re just having a hard time getting.”
But there's no time to dawdle over songs when you're on the move. “The amazing thing about working in this way was that we would have anywhere from 10-15 songs in different forms of being done at any given time. So if we ran into a roadblock, it’d be like, I can’t get a vocal on this song, I’m going to work on bass on this one. And inevitably, out of the 10 that were on the table, something inspiring would happen.”
The duo decided to name their creation after the band itself, due in part to the all-encompassing nature of their output. “When we came out of it, we had 26 full songs, and after stepping back and listening to them, there’s just a huge variety of stuff,” explains Summers. “It just felt really defining to us, at least in the moment in terms of all the things that have influenced us in the past, and all the things that we know to be our tendency as writers. So that’s why we decided to call it 'The Helio Sequence.'"
Summers, who has two young kids, found the schedule on this project a little easier than the last one, which saw him looking after them during the day and recording at night. This time through, the kids were a little older. “Every morning, they have to go to school and be on the school bus at 7:30, so I’m at the studio by 8:30 or 9, and Benjamin’s more the type of person who is almost going to bed at that time,” Summers says with a laugh. “I would work the first part of the day independently, and we would meet up in the middle half of the day and work until evening, and then he would take the stuff that we’d worked on and add his synths and overdubs and ideas. The album process was almost like an 18 hour day between the two of us.”
That Portland spirit
The city of Portland has, in the new millennium, made quite a name for itself as a a hub of indie music. Does that mean there's a specific Portland sound at this point? "The amazing thing about it is it’s less a sound that comes out of the region and more a spirit, and you can hear it. Like there are metal bands — like a band like Red Fang — that have a similar spirit to something like even Helio Sequence, which is more pop kind of a sound, or something like the Thermals, that are a punk band. There’s still this general vibe that comes across," explains Summers. "I’ve thought about it myself, that maybe it has something to do with the weather and how it kind of forces you in on yourself for a portion of the year and then there’s a joy to this kind of coming out."