“I think that something like five people showed up to our first gig. I’m always a bit surprised that anyone beyond those five people would be interested in the band, to be honest” says Susil Sharma, frontman of Canadian post-punk trio HEAT. “I guess we’ve got a bit of a loser’s mentality in that regard.”
That “loser’s mentality” may have served the band well so far, with the past few years seeing HEAT garnering a cult status within their own scene and propelled onto an upwards trajectory. “About four years ago, I started making home demos of what became the initial HEAT songs. I’d been playing bass in Montreal groups for a few years and wanted to start my own band and explore writing songs myself” says Sharma, who joined forces with fellow guitarist and pillar of the band Matthew Fiorentino, amongst others, to write their debut EP Rooms. “We played loft shows and dive bars for about a year – and were terrible! But Raphael (Bussieres, bass) joined, and we’ve been pretty consistently gigging and writing our way up ever since.”
And all the hard work paid off, with HEAT earning their spot on 2015’s edition of Canadian new music festival, M For Montreal, a turn which spun into a load of international press including features in NME, The Guardian, Q and Clash. “[M For Montreal] do a great job of developing and showcasing local talent! Once we were on the radar and played the festival, they helped us put on showcase bills all over North America and Europe” Bills of which included prestigious new music festivals like SXSW, NXNE, CMJ and The Great Escape. “For a young band to have those opportunities is a big deal.”
It is doubtful that many would take the time and effort to help nurture a band to achieve their full potential, but the atmosphere in the Montreal indie scene is seemingly welcoming and inclusive for all who have the desire and drive to be involved. “Montreal is a great place to start a band! Aside from the relatively low cost of living, it’s a very supportive place for artists – I don’t know how we could be doing this in any other city.”
Sharma himself has been quite the mainstay in various Montreal circles, having moved there when he was only 17 and sticking around for a further eleven years. “Before HEAT I played in a bunch of different bands and, honestly, very few people cared about them, but this time around we got a lot of support in the beginning and it’s been huge in helping us to develop. From pretty early on, we were given lots of cool support slots and local press, and that gave us a lot of momentum to keep at it and aim high.” And for HEAT, aiming high includes the privilege of supporting one of their favourite bands – the mighty Primal Scream. It’s safe to say that Sharma is a fan…
“We fucking love Primal Scream!” he exclaims. “They’ve been one of my favourite bands for a really long time so it was very special to share the stage with them [at the Danforth Music Hall]. We actually met a couple of them briefly; I think they were pretty tired but it was a real treat and they killed their set. I was just excited to see a Primal Scream show, let alone be a part of it!”
It’s yet another iconic band that HEAT have the pleasure of being of being associated with, having in the past been compared to the likes of Jesus and Mary Chain and Echo and the Bunnymen, and drawing influence from 80’s acts My Bloody Valentine and The Smiths. “It’s a template and a touchstone we work from, for sure. I don’t know how well we pull it off, but it’s the sort of music we love and it’s flattering to get comparisons. Beyond the aesthetics, I just love the songwriting.” It’s a sentiment that permeates their recently revealed single, ‘Lush’, with its grooving bassline, shimming guitar and addictive chorus.
“We played around with it in a very Kurt Vile sort of vibe before I took it home and made a demo with an old Yamaha keyboard from the 80s that my older sister had given me,” says Sharma. The result is but a taster of the assault that the band have in store for us in the forthcoming months. “Our first record, Overnight, is coming out in January and we just want to play as much as we can in support of that. We’ve booked a Canadian and US tour so far and are working on booking more right now. More or less, there’re two things that I absolutely love about being in a band: making records and playing shows. We’re so excited to do as much of those things as we can.”
Do you feel that those within the Montreal scene are supportive of one another’s creative projects?
For sure! There’s a healthy bit of competition but ultimately, I think that anyone in the scene is just happy to see a Montreal-based project find any measure of success.
Who in Montreal should we know about?
I don’t really follow the local scene very much, but off the top of my head The Foggies, Chocolat, Solids, Red Mass and Femminielli are all cool bands. I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of acts… My favourite Montreal band of all time is Demon’s Claws. I don’t think they play together anymore, but they were the best. You should look ‘em up.
Are there any independent record stores worth knowing about?
There’s a tonne of local independent record stores that plug local bands’ records and gigs. Aux 33 Tours, Phonopolis, Oblique, Cheap Thrills, and Sonorama are all cool.
If I weren’t a broke musician, I would own lots of vinyl. I had an okay collection at one point, but I sold them all to buy guitar pedals…
How do you try to give back to the creative community?
I let other musicians smoke my cigarettes.
HEAT’s current single ‘Lush’ is available now.