The self-titled sixth album by The Helio Sequence began with a friendly competition. Several of the duo’s friends within the Portland, Oregon music scene had been playing “The 20-Song Game.” The rules were simple, playful and ambitious: Songwriters would arrive in their studios at prearranged times and spend all day recording 20 complete songs. When they were finished, they’d have a party, listen to the results and talk about the process of simply making music in the moment. Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel took the spirit of the game to heart, and forged ahead writing a new record.
“Negotiations was a very long, introspective process,” remembers Summers of the band’s 2012 Sub Pop LP. “We shut ourselves off from the world and disappeared down the rabbit hole. That’s how we tend to work, but we wanted to try something new, open and immediate.”
In May of 2014 they began arriving each morning in their Portland studio with the mission of making as much music as possible in one month. They just played, recorded ideas, added layers, and eventually cut the loose takes into rough shapes, steadily building songs from their cavalier sketches.
When June arrived, the duo sent their 26 finished songs to 31 friends, fans and family members. They asked each person to rank their 10 favorite tracks. By summer’s end, they had the 10 tracks that shape the breathless and magnetic The Helio Sequence—a record so named because it’s a kind of clean restart for the longtime pair, a revamp of their process and a revitalization of their results.
The Helio Sequence is a renewed push forward for the band, depending on an effortless kinetic energy. It points to the pop that’s bound Summers and Weikel for so long. Indeed, there’s a delightful candor to The Helio Sequence, an openness that is a rare and special feat for a band about to enter its third decade.
“It’s less about curating yourself or trying to put yourself across how you want to be perceived,” says Summers. “It’s about having a conversation with people and giving them something that’s who you are.”