Peruse “musician wanted” fliers pasted on bulletin boards, walls, and lampposts on any street corner, in any city, and you’re bound to notice multiple bands seeking drummers.
Why? Because drummers are apparently, well, different. The age-old negative stereotype dictates that drummers are flakey, boozy, unbalanced people who sometimes quit bands without warning and disappear without a trace.
Of course, there are many shining and well documented examples of good drummer behavior which disprove the negative drummer stereotype.
The Helio Sequence’s Benjamin Weikel is a stellar example of a well-behaved drummer. Weikel should belong in the drummer hall of fame for musicians who produce innovative music and ingratiate audiences—not the dubious drummer hall of fame for sketchy characters who spontaneously combust on stage.
Weikel deserves praise because he used his experience as a drummer as the foundation for a band that continues to gain momentum, clarity, and depth.
Weikel explains in a phone interview that during his tenure as a drummer with Modest Mouse, he would often contemplate various sounds that he thought should be integrated into music.
“I thought putting sounds together and sequencing them on a keyboard was such an innovative idea at the time,” Weikel says, “but now, I realize that a lot of great bands have done it. All the new-wave bands, U2, hip-hop artists … the list is actually pretty long,”
Sequencing has proved a brilliant and successful tool for The Helio Sequence, adding an aural depth and texture to their music that most two-piece bands sorely lack. Keep Your Eyes Ahead (Sub Pop, 2008) is a luminous gem of record which—in the short span of time it has been out—has already converted legions of new fans.
As the name suggests, Keep Your Eyes Ahead is the ideal springtime album. It is a refreshing record that brims with optimism and gorgeous, airy songs. It is the perfect soundtrack to melting snow, blooming flowers and blue skies, not to mention those disquieting moments of reflection and introspection that accompany seasonal change.
The Helio Sequence’s recent success is especially sweet considering that, for a time, the band’s future was questionable. Vocalist Brandon Summers severely strained his vocal chords following the 2004 release of the band’s previous album Love and Distance. At one point, doctors questioned if Summers would ever sing again.
Summers was prohibited from talking prior to performances, and eventually forced to stop singing altogether.
Weikel explains that, after a period of intense vocal therapy, Summers was able to sing again. Singing along with Bob Dylan songs and jogging figured prominently into Summers’s therapy.
“The first tour we did was a little scary,” Weikel admits. “We wondered, ‘Is everything going to be OK?’ But Brandon has learned warm-up techniques and he knows how to take care of his voice now, so everything has turned out really well. He’s 100 percent percent again and his voice is stronger than ever.”
Summers and Weikel—who have been best friends since middle school—have celebrated Brandon’s return to the stage by playing a series of showcases for their Seattle-based record label Sub Pop, in addition to an extensive United States tour.
“Touring is so exhausting in the beginning. You’re out-of-shape and tired. But we’re getting warmed up and in the groove now,” Weikel says. “We love to entertain and interact with the audience, so it’s always worth it.”
The Helio Sequence played a preliminary date at Park City’s Star Bar in January as part of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.
Weikel says playing an event like Sundance is a great honor, but smaller performances are often more fun. “The atmosphere is never as good as a real show at a festival or a showcase. We definitely prefer smaller shows. But, Sundance was fun because it was so ridiculous. And, we got to see many of our Salt Lake City friends.”
Summers and Weikel have a genuine affection for Utah. Salt Lake City’s proximity to the band’s home base of Portland, Ore. has assured that The Beehive State will continue to be a regular tour destination. The Helio Sequence loves Utah so much, they included two Utah dates on their current schedule: one at Kilby Court on March 10, and a second at Velour this week.
“Big cities are fun, but we always enjoy playing the smaller places in between, because it seems like there’s a little more enthusiasm and appreciation in the places that don’t get every single band,” Weikel says.
The Helio Sequence cemented their recent popularity spike with appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “We were nervous about it because a lot of bands don’t sound good on TV. But it was a really positive experience.”
After a brief pause, Weikel adds, “Stuff like TV and radio appearances are really weird because there’s this added pressure that’s all in your head. You’re always thinking ‘I could screw up at any moment!’ But, of course, you play just fine.”
THE HELIO SEQUENCE @ Velour, 135 N. University Ave, Provo, Thursday March 20, 7 p.m. 24Tix.com