Power to the People

NYC’s Hooray for Earth has come a long way from dirty bathrooms and paltry audiences

January 9, 2013

Hooray for Earth — including vocalist Noel Heroux , center — was recording in upstate New York when Superstorm Sandy hit . The band later curated a benefit for victims.

Noel Heroux was only a high school freshman when he played his first show in New York City. He and his band, Hooray for Earth — which included close friend and bass player Christopher Principe — drove down from Boston to play the venerable punk club CBGB. The show was not triumphant.

“We played for two friends,” Heroux says, “and there were two people there drinking who were forced to listen to us. And I’ll never forget the bathrooms.” (The club’s disgusting facilities are the stuff of gross legend.)

More than a decade later, CBGB has joined Joey Ramone and Johnny Thunders in rock ’n’ roll heaven. Hooray for Earth, meanwhile, has relocated to Manhattan. Heroux and Principe are the only remaining members from that high school lineup, and with new drummer Joe Ciampini, they’re playing larger clubs with nicer bathrooms.

They’ve gradually become a mainstay of New York’s indie scene, thanks to a sneaky combination of rock guitars, inventive electro and brass samples and anthemic, catchy choruses. Heroux is the band’s chief songwriter and a talented multi-instrumentalist.

For Hooray for Earth’s critically lauded 2011 album, “True Loves,” Heroux played most of the instruments himself and managed to do a lot with very little. Nevertheless, when it came time to start on a follow-up, he wanted to capture more of Hooray for Earth’s volatile live sound, which meant more involvement from Principe and Ciampini.

In October, the trio decamped to upstate New York to begin work on the new album, which meant they were out of town when Superstorm Sandy hit their adopted hometown.

“Somehow, we were in the only town that didn’t lose power,” Heroux says. “We kept recording, but we had the TV on in the background. On one hand, we were happy to be away from danger, but on the other, we had a lot of friends in the middle of it.”

When they returned to Manhattan, Heroux curated a benefit concert for Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, which was hit especially hard.

“We raised a lot more money than we planned,” he says, “so it was a great thing to be able to do for the city after everything it’s done for us.”

Inside Track
Never/Figure,” from Hooray for Earth’s latest 7-inch single, showcases two faces of the band. The “Never” section is full of sculpted, droning synths and samples, emphasizing ambience over melody, while the “Figure” section is a blast of smart, catchy, high-drama alt-rock.

Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; with Bear in Heaven; Sun., 8 p.m., $15; 202-667-4527. (U Street)
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Stephen M. Deusner · January 9, 2013