By Jeevin Johal
VANCOUVER – In a condemned East Van parking lot, overlooking a length of forgotten train track, covered by dandelions and rubble, two-piece rock outfit, HEDKS, are beaming; their joy is cutting through the cloudy skies and puffs of green and blue smoke that permeate the neglected scene. Guitarist Twitch and drummer Taser have just listened to the latest mix of their upcoming album, Smiling on the Outside, for the first time, and the results couldn’t be more rewarding and mind shattering.
Smiling on the Outside is a meaty follow up to the band’s 2016 EP, Turnt Up For What, which showcased their gritty, no bullshit aesthetic for the first time and explores themes of celebration and pure, primal instinct, subjects they cover once again on the new record.
“Every song is about fucking and dying,” confesses Twitch. “I mean, it’s open to interpretation, and I would encourage whoever listens to the songs to take what they will from them. But I know what I’m talking about!”
“I mean, it’s called Smiling on the Outside,” Taser confirms. “There’s only so many ways to interpret that.”
Beyond just a study of animalistic urges and inevitable endings, there is much emotion to be extracted from the soul of the new tracks. Twitch howls, not only through her fierce vocals, but also with guitar riffs that cut open your skull and pour champagne onto your brain. Twitch’s guitar work is complemented by Taser’s drumming that rips your skin from its bones with each wallop of her bass drum and mighty crack of her snare. The carnal talents of this duo fuse together seamlessly, making Smile on the Outside a cathartic release that’s experimental, but also fun as fuck to listen to.
Sprinkled amongst the raucous tones that dominate the record are some well executed breakdowns and beats. Songs like “‘68 Impala” and “Malt Liquor” harness hip hop influences that remain impressively cohesive amongst the chaos. The anthemic finale, “Failure,” is a last-minute addition that rounds out the album. Taser, dubious of the song’s future, confesses, “We learned to play and sing [“Failure”] at the same time we recorded it.” The result is a triumphant testament to the feeling that you just can’t always impress everyone.
In Smiling on the Outside, HEDKS has written another raw, unadulterated banger of an album. The band has not lost sight of who they are and remain true to their identity.
“I’m really proud of this one,” gushes Twitch. “It sounds really genuine to our live feel and we really got it down. I loved writing these songs.”
411: Hedks play their album release show July 20 at 333.