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Hot IQs – It’s Now Cool to Be the Smart Kids

Eli Mishkin – lead vocals, guitar
Bryan Feuchtinger – bass, vocals
Elaine Acosta – drums

Chocolate milk, tight pants and a savvy wink of the eye are just a few toys in the Hot IQs bag of tricks. Add in just one year’s time since they first penned a song, and you’ve got the makings of one of Denver’s hippest pop indie bands. If you were to tell that to Elaine Acosta, their drummer, she would probably giggle at the “hip” portrayal. Eli Mishkin would also deny that persona and has through some cynical lyric lines. But the cool kids love ’em, from Denver to Los Angeles.

Having to deal with the pesky band name legality, the threesome retired the Royal We moniker for the new name Hot IQs, and released a new CD this week, An Argument Between the Brain and Feet, which is the first release on a brand new local label, Morning After Records. Having heard their previous demo, it only took 30 seconds or so to hear how the artistic quality has risen like a flooding river, going from the bedroom to the studio, polishing previous material into shining diamonds and adding new gems to the set. Even the CD artwork, created by their friend Kelsey Brookes, sports a smart, yet urban design.

From song to song, “Wendy” to “Have Nots Have Knots,” the chords are richer in texture, the emphasis of instrumentation has changed for the better, and they’ve even thrown in a few treats of vocoder and complex guitar work. Eli elaborated with me on how they’ve gone from 0 to 60 in the past six months.

Kaffeine Buzz: How was the experience of going from a self-made demo to the reality of all the ins-and-outs of recording and mixing?

Eli Mishkin: I found the whole process fascinating. The recording techniques, mic placements, tones, etc. Bryan (our bass player and owner of Uneven Studio) did a fantastic job recording the album. We mixed the songs with Andrew Vastola, and mastered it up in Boulder at Airshow Mastering. I can’t wait to do it all over again soon.

KB: “Hot IQs have quickly amassed an army of ‘too cool for school’ indie minions” was mentioned in your bio. I would agree with wholeheartedly after checking out your shows and hearing “Iggy Pop,” which actually takes a poke at that indie kid. That song was kind of kooky and very fun, but it seems like overall your music has a more serious (“The have-nots have knots in their bellies again”) yet “Ovaltine” nature. I still detect a bite of sarcasm of sorts, “if it wasn’t for language we’d make sense,” right? What’s going through your mind when you get inspired with a given song’s theme.

EM: There’s some sarcasm in the lyrics, sure. Snarkiness if you will. You know that feeling you get the split second before you fall asleep, the falling sensation? That’s when the lyrics pop into my head. I rush to go write them down. On the way to the light-switch I trip over the clutter in my room, stub my toe, bonk my head, split my lip. Perhaps this is the cause for the sometimes serious tone to the lyrics: the writing process causes so many bruises.

KB: There’s a deeper, brandy-steeped warmth to your voice on this album. Is it that the recording was able to better capture that quality than a venue’s sound system or have you been taking voice lessons?

EM: Actually, I just started singing when we started this band. So, a year and half or so? No formal training, no real talent. I’m pretty happy with how the vocals turned out on the album though. I think my voice has improved by playing out a lot and practicing. I m sure it couldn’t hurt to take a lesson or two, but they’d most likely tell me all the things I’m doing wrong.

KB: You guys have come quite a long way in just over a year, both musically and professionally. How has that process been and what has transpired for you guys personally and as a whole?

EM: Well thank you. We all still work hard at our day jobs and we’ll probably do so until we don’t have to. We work hard at the band too. It’s a source of a lot of good times and in the short amount of time we’ve been playing, a source of a great many memories. Like anything you care about, it takes a certain amount of sacrifice and patience. At this stage, consider the band a hand-me-down sweater: We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got plenty of room to grow.

KB: How has your songwriting process evolved?

EM: I still write most of the songs, bring in ideas to flesh out as a band. The cool thing is we no longer have to play 4 covers to fill out a set. We have the luxury to pick and choose from the 15 or so songs in our arsenal. Wait — arsenal sounds too military. Let s call is a picnic basket. Yes. A picnic basket of songs too choose from.

KB: What were you guys doing individually before you came together? I heard Elaine is pretty new to the drums, but what about you and Bryan? Been playing for a while and in any other bands?

EM: We all started at the instruments we play with the advent of Hot IQs except for me: I played guitar in my room for 8 years before garnering enough courage to take it to the streets. I just started singing in this band because we had lyrics and songs and no one to sing them. Bryan started playing bass a few weeks before he joined the band. He s also a great drummer – he’s been playing for over 13 years (and still plays in local band Thank God For Astronauts). Elaine and I were DJs at Radio 1190 and became friends up in Boulder. One day, we were sitting in her apartment complaining about the state of music. Everyone needs to be a band at least once and she decided she would rock it as a drummer. We went out and bought her a drum set. She rocks it as a drummer! The rest is history.

KB: How is it working with Dan Rutherford’s new label, Morning After?

EM: It’s great to have someone on your side. It’s very exciting to see a new label in Denver, something that can match and broadcast the phenomenal music being made in this town. Dan and his crew push us to become a better band, both professionally and musically. This is a good thing. I hope the label can bring well-deserved exposure to other bands that rock this town on a nightly basis.

KB: Have you made some good connections through your opening gigs for national acts? How was the west coast tour and what were the details (did you tour with other bands headlining)?

EM: As far as the national acts, we were all a bit surprised at how down-to-earth most of these “big” indie bands are. We really got along well with the Thermals. We’re hoping to play with them on our upcoming fall tour. The Minders were a great bunch. Sleepy Jackson & On the Speakers, also very nice people. It’s not so much about connections in the business sense. It’s about being able to gleam what makes these bands tick. They not only make music that we love and respect, but for the most part are able to just make music without the burden of day-jobs. That’s what we hope to learn from them. That, and how they keep their pants so nicely creased and their teeth so gleaming white.

KB: What are your plans for your fall and spring tours?

EM: Our November fall tour is slated to take us to Utah, New Mexico, California, and Portland. We’ll tour the east coast in the spring and hopefully Japan next summer to do a weeklong residency at an “American Style Bar” in Tokyo.

Denver’s music scene is continually growing in diversity and quality, and the contribution from the Hot IQs is yet another notch on our bedpost. The band starts spreading the love this Friday, October 1, when they headline the Morning After Records launch party and CD release party for their new album, An Argument Between the Brain and Feet at Lipgloss in Denver. They’re back again on Friday, October 8 with Chris Brokaw, and Francophone, Ecclectix at Climax Lounge, Denver and on Friday, October 29, Larimer Lounge with the Delgados and Crooked Fingers.


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