Singer and multi-instrumentalist Noel Heroux’s dedication to his craft, while impressive, was once drawing him into a vortex of sleepless nights and musical stagnation. But since Hooray for Earth’s frontman left Boston and put down stakes in New York, his demeanor and the band’s sound (not to mention its future) have brightened considerably.
The group’s newest EP, Momo, a buoyant blend of echoey vocals, dreamy synths, distorted guitars and elastic beats was released exclusively on eMusic last December, after some of its songs were passed around at ABC and landed in the hands of Dan Harris, an ABC News anchor and indie-music enthusiast who decided to do a feature on the band for Amplified, the network’s music show. But this lucky chain of events only unfolded after years of toiling in obscurity and Heroux’s self-imposed musical confinement.
Hooray for Earth began in 2005 as a melodic post-grunge band with what Heroux calls “cynical angry heartbreak lyrics,” and for years Heroux, the primary songwriter for the band, mostly lived in rehearsal spaces so he could completely commit himself to his art.
“My whole time in Boston was a little screwy,” says Heroux, sitting in a friend’s South Williamsburg apartment. “It was just like all I did was record and live inside the world of making music… It’s not being homeless, but it’s not a healthy way to be. None of the rooms ever had windows, and I used to chainsmoke, so it’s like you’re living in this cloud of smoke. And I would deprive myself of sleep so I could keep recording.”
And though his motivation was admirable, and ultimately paid off, his was a fairly gloomy existence. But during this “dark period,” as he calls it, he frequently traveled to New York City to visit his thengirlfriend (now fiancée) Jessica Zambri, who fronts the spooky synth-heavy Zambri. In the summer of 2007, after he’d finally had enough of sunless, smoke-filled days and nights, he came to Manhattan to play a show with Hooray for Earth.When the rest of the band went home, he stayed. Surprisingly, moving to the most densely populated city in America had an immediate soothing effect.
“It really is backwards. Boston just drove me crazy because I had nothing to do, Heroux says. “New York being so overwhelming… makes me more calm, because I’m like, ‘I’m one of these however many million people, and I just need to chill out and not take myself so seriously.’” And compared to the windowless haze and noise of heavy metal bands practicing 24 hours a day in Boston, his Manhattan apartment was a bit of a refuge, and he simultaneously reduced the pressure he was putting on himself and started listening to “super-fast, glitchy nonsense” from Aphex Twin to Autechre, and the entire Warp Records catalog.
“Maybe it’s just the speed of everything, but my electronic music obsession became my main thing,” he says.
And though Hooray for Earth was officially on a break, Heroux was still writing and recording music in his apartment and beginning to bring in more electronics and move away from guitar-based rock. By 2009, Heroux had regrouped with a new focus, and the band decided to continue as a dual-city project, with two members in Boston, and the other three in New York. And recording
For Tanlines, this new era refocuses the for what would eventually become Momo began in earnest.The upbeat synth-pop of the EP’s first track, “Surrounded By Your Friends” is indicative of Hooray for Earth’s stylistic shifts, with its bouncy synths, shiny tambourine beats and Heroux’s shimmering voice singing the encouraging lyrics “In the end you’re surrounded by your friends” over soaring vocal harmonies. And of course, Heroux connects this new optimism in his music to the corresponding change of perspective he’s found in his newly adopted city.
“All the music I’ve been making since I came here is more positive,” he says. “Things just totally skyrocketed in the feeling good department… It’s good to have the crazies far behind you.”
Hooray for Earth
Feb. 24, Cake Shop, 152 Ludlow St. (betw. Stanton & Rivington Sts.), 212-253-0036; 8, $6