The Helio Sequence - Biography
The Helio Sequence may not be a household name like some of the Portland, Oregon indie bands who succeeded them but they were the band that bridged the gap between the death nail of grunge and the electronic indie pop of the new millennium they inspired. Formed in 1999 by childhood friends Brandon Summers (vocals/guitars) and Benjamin Weikel (drums/programming), the group gained notoriety by recording onto personal computers and mixing IDM electronic music with melodic indie rock. The Helio Sequence not only proved there were other exciting musical avenues for Pacific Northwest bands to explore but that those sweet amalgams could be recorded and produced in a cost effective manner by using modern technology. What’s even more impressive is the duo accomplished most of this as teenagers.
While still in high school Summers and Weikel were working at their local music instrument shop by day and self recording inspired tracks utilizing a dizzying array of electronic effects laced with manic guitar pop in the same shop at night. After self releasing the Accelerated Slow-Motion Cinema EP in 1999, the band signed to local label Cavity Search. Packed with a cornucopia of electronic bells and whistles their debut full length Com Plex (1999 Cavity Search) proved that mixing electronic music with a rock aesthetic could not only work but be crafted into an inspired revelation in the right hands. Their second full length, Young Effectuals (2001 Cavity Search) injected more rock hooks into the proceedings, further honing The Helio Sequence hybrid. Yet despite critical accolades the band remained relatively unknown outside the Pacific Northwest.
After fellow Northwest indie rockers Modest Mouse lost their drummer, Weikel was tapped to take his place, providing percussion not only for Modest Mouse’s breakthrough album, Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004 Epic) but pulling double duty drumming for both of his full time bands when The Helio Sequence joined Isaac Brock and company on the road. Brock returned the favor by allowing the band to record their third full length album in his home studio. Now signed to indie tastemaker Sub Pop Records, the band released the more streamlined pop rock album Love and Distance (2004 Sub Pop) to a divided audience. While some felt the album was lacking much of the band’s signature electronic innovation, others praised The Helio Sequence for taking a stab at more mainstream rock. The duo’s subsequent world tour would prove grueling with Summers losing his voice half way through and nearly ruining his vocal chords by tours end. Keep Your Eyes Ahead (2008 Sub Pop) expanded upon The Helio Sequence formula by injecting Dylanesque folk compositions into their eclectic shoegazer-meets-IDM mix, once again garnering rave critical reviews. By this time other Portland based bands like Menomena and even Modest Mouse were experimenting with similar aesthetics citing The Helio Sequence as a massive influence.