Hot Flash Heat Wave Offer Glimpse of New Direction

On 'Grudge,' SF indie rockers maintain vitality as they merge into retro-futurist lane.

By most definitions, a grudge requires two people: someone to hold it, and someone against whom it may be held. But if you ask Adam Abildgaard, singer and guitarist for San Francisco-born indie band Hot Flash Heat Wave, there is another, much more common kind of grudge:

“I kind of think of it as, when you’re down on yourself, it’s almost like you’re holding a grudge against yourself,” he says. “We create these conversations in our heads where we’re our own biggest hater.”

It’s all in my head,” he croons on the chorus of “Grudge,” the band’s new single, which was released via Bandcamp last month. The song hints at another new direction for the constantly evolving group — a style not quite like the garage rock of the HFHW’s early material, and not quite like the cabana appropriate pop of last year’s Mood Ring. Abildgaard is calling this new style “futuristic retro robotic rock.”

Mood Ring went in a looser, R&B-psychedelic direction,” he says. “We have some elements of that in the new music we’ve been working on, but with all the bedroom pop music out there, I wanted to hear some more rock music mixed in with everything.”

Where Mood Ring was floaty and weightless, on “Grudge” the band is very much embodied, snapping to the beat with rediscovered physicality. Unlike the loose rollicking of Neapolitan, the band’s surfy first album, “Grudge” has a shiny, almost mechanical quality to it. With a rhythmic verse and a chorus that sounds like Abildgaard singing over a roomful of computers crunching numbers, the song often resembles a 1990s vision of music in the year 2020: androgynous cyborg rock built on warez and Encarta CD-ROMs.

“That’s kind the point of our new music, the kind of retro future, Y2K club kid, tactical hardware energy,” says bass player and singer Ted Davis.  

It all makes for an interesting counterpoint to what is, at heart, a tender (and catchy) song about learning to forgive yourself. 

“I got into songwriting to work through things,” Abildgaard says. “It’s really healing to write about some of the lower times in my life.”

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