By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
It's tough to not pay Hoyotoho much mind.
For starters, there's the new Dallas band's flashy live show—which, last Thursday night at 1111 Studios in the Design District, saw Hoyotoho offering up a "videopera" to an arty crowd typically not in attendance at rock shows around the region. And there's the just-as-flashy music video the band made for "Virgin Eyes," the lead single off its debut album, Brutal Beauty, for which last week's show served as the release party. Then there's the support the band's received for that same song from KDGE-102.1 FM The Edge's "Local Show," where it's earned plays and praise in each of the last three weeks' episodes.
In short: There's a lot of ways for Hoyotoho to seep into your brain these days. And ways to stay there, too: At last week's performance, even the hand stamps applied upon entrance to the venue bore the band's name. Meaning? You literally had to rub Hoyotoho off your skin after last Thursday night's display.
Annoying? Maybe. Also kind of smart. Smarter, at least, than most bands around town these days. Smarter than much better bands than Hoyotho, actually.
See, here's the dirty little secret about Hoyotoho: The band's not exactly the greatest thing going around town. Not yet. Could be one day. But for now, let's give credit where it's due: Hoyotoho's ambitious.
"I'm just trying to maybe raise expectations as far as local music shows are concerned," frontman Calvin Chynoweth says.
He really is; the Thursday night CD release show served as proof positive. There, in a non-traditional venue in a part of town not normally accustomed to hosting live music showcases, the band joined forces with the oft-unincluded-in-the-music-scene visual art scene. The event was hosted in a gallery where an art exhibition was taking place. But rather than simply offer up a standard show in tandem with the exhibit, Hoyotoho offered its audience an artistic display worth their attention.
As the band played through its Brutal Beauty album in order, it was flanked on either side by giant projections of videos made specifically for this performance. For each of the album's eight songs, friend of the band Tim Ketchersid had filmed clips of area actors singing into the camera in tandem with the band's record. On this night, the videos played concurrently with the band's live playing. If nothing else, it made for plenty of eye candy.
Sure, the clips may have highlighted some problems (like when Chynoweth flubbed a line in "Virgin Eyes" because, it seemed, he was out of breath with excitement), and they might not have always been perfectly lined up with the band's offerings. But, point is, no one else around town is trying anything nearly this intricate with their live show.
"We're pushing things as far as they can go," Chynoweth says. "Even if it's an imperfect execution, we're trying."
Impressive gumption, maybe, but in the past that's been a problem for Hoyotoho. Not just with videos either. The band's sound—a sort of hybrid of modern rock and electro all culled from opera influences (or so Chynoweth says, saying his band's name is culled from Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries")—is a fast-paced one that's relatively tough to pull off in a live setting. Comprised of varying distortions and tones from song to song, the band had until recently run each of its five players' sounds through a single laptop, where various sound filters were then applied. But during one of the band's first performances, at the Double Wide, the laptop crashed, leaving Chynoweth to play obscure cover songs on his guitar and distract the crowd as his band fumbled around behind him, trying to fix the issue. For the crowd on that night, it was a trying experience. At best.
Then again, par for course here. In sound and drive, Hoyotoho aims for epic results. Good or bad, it gets them. Brutal Beauty is no different. The album has some pretty tedious moments—opening track "ReadyToDieDyingToLive" and lead single "Virgin Eyes" are relatively trashy attempts at some sort of post-rap-rock aim. But there are moments where the band's sometimes too-bold-for-its-own-good outlook works out quite well: "Scheherazade" is a surprisingly catchy nu-disco jaunt; "Born Black," meanwhile, might be the best dancey Muse song Muse has never written; and other songs show an impressive Britpop pedigree. Is it a great album? Nah. But a decent one. A good start.
Chynoweth knows this. He equates the process of creating the album over the past year with going on a search.
"We just kind of followed the rabbit trail," he says. Already, he's looking ahead to the next album. He calls Brutal Beauty an "indoors" record, promising that the next will be "more ritualistic—like it should be listened to around a fire." Again: He sounds pretty ambitious. But, more important, he sounds excited—and determined.
He references his band's operatic influences, cites the multiple faces his band can wear—like the two sides of comedy and tragedy. He talks about all the things he wants to try out, just to see if they'll work.
"It ain't over till the fat lady sings," he says with a laugh.
Given how many area bands have tried less and thrown their hands up in defeat just the same (seven bands in the past month alone, even; see p. 42 for more), you have to admire that spirit.