In the music world, some bands have “it” and some bands don’t. In fact, many don’t.
However, when one does have it, its music hits with an unworldly force that some never recover from. Just shell-shocked fans, barely holding themselves together long enough to understand what happened before succumbing to the uncontrollable urge to pass the experience along to everyone else.
And Urban Heat from Austin, Texas definitely has “it.”
On January 30th the goth synth wave trio descends upon Moe’s Alley with Twin Tribes and Vandal Moon bringing their explosion of visceral energy and emotionally raw lyrics wrapped in a blanket of neon beats.
“I have transformative experiences on stage which is why I think our shows are so raw and violent even though the music doesn’t necessarily lend itself to that,” explains singer Jonathan Horstmann.
“The purpose of doing that is to signal to [the audience] that they’re allowed to do that themselves. They’re allowed to let the music do whatever it’s supposed to do.”
Formed in 2019, Urban Heat began as a way for Horstmann to rediscover himself. As singer for the politically charged, electro-punk Black trio BLXPLTN, years of raging against racism, classism, and police brutality made him disillusioned about how the message was being delivered.
He began using synthesizers as a form of meditation after kicking heroin, cocaine and alcohol in 2018. However, it wasn’t until he met electronics manipulator, Kevin Naquin, that the spark for Urban Heat was lit. The two met on the set of a music video for Austin pop artist, SORNE, whom Naquin performed with.
They quickly recruited bassist and synth player, Pax Foley, and wrote most of their post-punk influenced, 2022 six song EP, Wellness, during the 2020 lockdowns. It perfectly captures the feeling of our modern era, riding a fine line of hope and existential nihilism, fueled by future-retro sound .
“I think it happened naturally,” Naquin explains of their style. “We were all in the same place wanting to do something different.”
And it worked.
The combination of Horstmann’s sonic baritone voice and wild stage presence with Naquin and Foley’s contagious beats and calm, emotionless demeanors hidden under sunglasses has given fans and critics alike the vapors.
Last year they were featured on the cover of the Austin Chronicle and named “One of Eight Austin Acts Poised To Break Out” at 2023’s South By Southwest festival. Almost immediately after they opened at California’s two largest goth/’80s/new wave festivals, Cruel World and Darker Waves, playing alongside acts like Siousxie Sioux, New Order, Tears For Fears and more.
Songs like“Trust” (with lyrics “when we were young the future was bright/no one told us we were buried alive” and chorus “Trust there’s just no future left for us”) and “That Gun In Your Hand” (an emotional cry against gun violence and mass shootings) speak to a lost generation. One that was raised on certain beliefs only to become disenchanted and disoriented, turning to sex, drugs and violence.
“I want to make music that matters and I want our shows to matter,” Horstmann says. “On our last tour, there was a kid who let me know he was planning on shooting himself but ‘That Gun in Your Hand’ was the reason he didn’t and I got to hug him.”
Yet it’s “Have You Ever?”–with lyrics like “Have you ever thought the best would come/till you realize that it had come and gone?” and “Have you ever found your sense of self/just to realize you’re being someone else?”–that put Urban Heat on the underground map and launched them to Tik Tok stardom. The track spread like a virtual wildfire on the social media platform and overnight they went from 75 followers to 3,000 to 30,000 over the course of a month.
Tuesday, Jan. 30 8pm, Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $20adv/$25door. 479-1854.
(For the rest of this story, go to www.Goodtimes)
“Tik Tok is a weird thing, man,” Foley says. “You have people that try to go viral and it doesn’t work.”
“Tik Tok is good for attention but not for building relationships,” admits Horstmann. “Which is what I try to do with our fanbase: build relationships.”
On August 16 Urban Heat is set to release their sophomore album, The Tower. The first single, “Like This” came out last October and the next one, “Sanitizer” drops on January 26th with a new song releasing every six weeks until the official date.
“It’s the first collection I’ve ever been a part of making where it feels like that live energy comes through,” declares Horstmann.
He pauses before adding, “At least for me, and I’m a pretty harsh critic of myself.”
Tuesday, January 30th. 8pm, Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $20adv/$25door. 479-1854.