Hilotrons: Over The River And In The Studio

"We keep it up on YouTube because it's funny how many people go to it because it's two girls wrestling," says The Hilotrons' Michael Dubue with a laugh. "They wrestle for money on the Internet. So they cut one of their fights to one of our songs."

- Dara Hakimzadeh
Photos by Sheila Busteed

posted August 1, 2007

Hilotrons: Over The River And In The Studio

     After unloading their equipment for their set at this year’s Ottawa Bluesfest, Michael Dubue and Mike Schultz of the Hilotrons reveal that they’ve just finished their third album at Ottawa’s Bova Sound studio. However, the two band members admit to being frustrated with the local music scene – a frustration that has driven frontman Dubue over to the Quebec side of the Ottawa River.

     “I run a pizza shop in Wakefield and it’s the best. I like that better than playing music: making pizzas,” says Dubue with a smile.

     “I’ve got this little hobbit of a hole in a place tucked away and it’s great. I live with a lot of spiders and I have a nice piano,” he says. “Solitude, playing piano all the time, reading and smoking dope – it’s perfect.”

     “I’m really down on the city,” he continues. “I think I’ve just spent too much time here and we, as a band, unfortunately haven’t been getting out of Ottawa as much either.”

     Schultz adds that this is a reality for most Canadian bands, given the large geography of Canada and the logistics of having to travel long distances to tour.

     “Bands that tend to get out there tend to be young, gung-ho and maybe slightly idealistic and have some kind of way to fund it as well,” he says. “I guess the reality is we’re getting a little bit older. The good news is that our musical outlook is maturing and I think we’re a really good band (as a result).”

     Formed in 2002, the Hilotrons – consisting of Dubue, Schultz, Paul Hogan, Damian Sawka and Philip Bova – has made a name for itself in Ottawa for its energetic live shows, which often incorporate fans dancing on stage to noises that could have been created in the ’80s. The band’s third album is scheduled to be released in the coming months.

     “We’ve put out two records now and we thought the second one was pretty marketable. We came close a few times to having it distributed and in the end you spend a certain finite amount of time doing that,” says Schultz about the band’s sophomore independent release, Bella Simone, in 2006.

     “Not to correct what you said, but I think we got fucked,” interrupts Dubue.

     “Okay we did,” responds Schultz, who won’t name names but points out that every indie band comes to a point where it has to give up courting the industry and focus on putting out more music.

     “It’s mastered and we’re trying to see if someone wants to put it out,” says Dubue of the unnamed third record.

The Hilotrons feature article

     Time and creativity are especially a balancing act for this group since some of its members belong to other Ottawa bands, including the Empiricals, Boycrusher, Ukrainia! and Double Pumpers.

     “Sometimes you get an idea and you try to put the song forward to a group and there’s a temptation to throw that song in the melting pot. In the end it may be an amazing idea, but it just won’t work for that group,” says Schultz. “So we have a couple of different groups,” he says.

     He adds that the Empiricals are heavily influenced by South Asian surf rock and Bollywood tunes while Boycrusher feeds off of early ’80s U.K. pop.

     “About this time last year in San Francisco, I had a song stuck in my head, an idea that I had. It was pretty evident at an early stage that it was going to be a Hilotrons song,” says Schultz about the song “Emergency Street,” which will appear on the next album.

     For the record, Dubue courted a lot of his friends who are also Ottawa musicians, including Sarah Hallman, Sacha Gabriel, Luke Martin, Jeff Hardill, Lisa Poushinsky, Janice Hall and Jim Bryson.

     “For one particular song, there’s a big collaboration and we needed a big choir of female voices and Mike called up everyone,” says Schultz.

     While the guys say they’re currently working out the track order and artwork for the LP, there are no firm plans to make any music videos.

     The band’s last video, “Born A Dancer,” was a fan submission and featured the Rumbelinas.

     “We keep it up on YouTube because it’s funny how many people go to it because it’s two girls wrestling,” says Dubue with a laugh. “They wrestle for money on the Internet. So they cut one of their fights to one of our songs.”

     Dubue concedes that at the time it seemed like a great idea, but the video concept seems silly now. “I like making little untypical videos.”