In today’s media landscape and typical music cycle, three years seems like a heck of a long time to go without playing a show in a major music market. The Boston-formed, New York-based band Hooray for Earth don’t exactly have the excuse of distance to fall back on – instead the absence of Toronto appearances is a bit more indicative of the laborious aspect of the indie rock outfit.
Reasons for absence in Toronto aside, the room’s rather sparse crowd pointed to the band’s work-in-progress public image. Touring their recently released album, Racy, it was apparent the four-piece is used to a relaxed atmosphere like the one they found at The Garrison on a Tuesday night.
For one, the start of their set sounded more like a soundcheck than an opening number – vocalist and guitarist Noel Heroux kicking it all off with his guitar and plenty of feedback, taking the crowd in with Racy’s lead track: the appropriately titled “Hey”. Things picked up as the band moved into more of the new material, both “Airs” and “Happening” relying heavily on Joseph Ciampini’s percussion.
“Sails”, from their 2011 album True Loves, was well received and fairly adventurous in its tempo shifts. This was an interesting contrast to the material that preceded it and unexpected, given the more traditional approach the new songs seem to have taken.
To be frank, the room’s sparse audience was probably a blessing for Hooray for Earth. For all their virtues and abilities as songwriters, the band battled with (and lost to) an unfortunate mix for the entirety of their truncated 40-minute set. The instruments were way too loud and muddy sounding and the vocals were completely lost in the din. Heroux was probably singing lyrics, I’ll grant him that… But he could have been speaking Pig Latin and the crowd wouldn’t have been able to tell you.
Vocally, Heroux carries his melodies with surprising recollection of the orchestral indie rock of Ra Ra Riot. But while the cadences are similar, the instruments supporting his voice are not. Where Ra Ra Riot clean things up considerably, Hooray for Earth settle in for feedback and a more off-kilter approach.
Not all material was pulled off well though. “Say Enough”, from 2014’s Racy, felt rushed instrumentally in its verses and bridge – the band coming unhinged on everything except the choruses. It’s a shame about that, given the song’s easy pop appeal and its catchy, swirling 80’s synth lines from keyboardist Jessica Zambri. It’ll be big once they figure it out. And hopefully they do.
An awkward dance party emerged in the front of the room with three songs to go, quickly engulfing the centre of The Garrison’s floor as a group of friends shook to “Somewhere Else” and Christopher Principe’s bass led “True Loves”.
Hooray for Earth unfortunately took another misstep in following that up with the comparatively sleepy “Racy”. I get wanting to end on your album’s title track, but it honestly did them no favours to end on a slower number. Thankfully, all was redeemed as they emerged back on stage for an encore of “Black Trees”, which swelled instrumentally like it was written for a climactic, heartfelt movie trailer. It’s the type of song you can imagine onscreen couples falling in love to – and that’s a good thing to be able to pull off.
This was enough to spur on more cheers from the crowd, calling for “one more song!” Heroux returned to the stage to offer up the line: “I promise you, that’s all we got.” It seems Hooray for Earth are on the right track and more than capable of figuring things out. Here’s hoping that they figure out a way to come back to Toronto faster than three years and work out the kinks. There’s a lot of potential there – they just need to realize it. Here’s to also hoping they figure out a better mix. Please.