The Helio Sequence: 5 Albums That Changed My Life
With 5 Albums That Changed My Life, we ask artists to gush about the records that affected the way they listen to music and/or make their own music. In this edition, Brandon Summers, of Oregon indie rock duo The Helio Sequence, details his five picks, which include The Beatles, My Bloody Valentine and Frank Sinatra.
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The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
When I was a kid I dreamed of being a novelist. I would sit for hours a day listening to Sgt. Pepper’s on repeat in my father’s big yellow Sennheiser headphones, disappearing into it’s strange world while writing stories about ill-fated mountain climbers, desert expeditions,and imaginary talking bears.
Sgt. Pepper was the doorway to my creative world. It opened up my imagination. And it was the first record I pored over the lyric book to learn every line by heart and decipher it’s every meaning.
In middle school I made friends with “the bad kid” in my class and went over to hang out at his house one day. He played a “secret” record for me that he had been hiding from his strict, conservative parents. After hearing the opening riff to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” my 13-year-old mind was blown.
I knew then that I had to get a guitar and be in a rock band. I became obsessed with Nirvana, got a cheap black and white Stratocaster, and played all of their songs until my fingers bled. Nirvana opened my mind up to the local Northwest music at the time. I picked up tapes by Mudhoney, Pond, Hazel, Sunny Day Real Estate, Thirty Ought Six and other Northwest bands. Hearing Nevermind that day was a flashpoint…the beginning of it all to me.
My Bloody Valentine: Loveless
I was 16 when Benjamin and I had just met. He gave me a copy of a record of this band he was obsessed with. I listened to Loveless a bit but didn’t really get it. I thought it was cool, but a bit messy and noisy. But when we got stoned together and sat down to have a listen it was like a code had been deciphered. All of the noise, bends, texture, treble, and haze made perfect, beautiful sense…a new sonic world had been revealed. I was converted.
MBV (along with The Beatles) were the backbone of our inspiration for starting Helio Sequence and it was our mutual love for Loveless that brought Benjamin and I together to create back in the suburban wasteland of Beaverton, OR.
Bob Dylan: The Times They Are A-Changin’
After months of touring on Love and Distance I had ruined my voice and was pretty depressed and scared about the state of things. A doctor told me to take a month off of singing and I was stuck at home with nothing to do. On a whim I bought Times and went home and gave the LP a spin.
My wife and I had been parted for over a year while she was back home finishing her degree in Czech Republic and “Boots of Spanish Leather” hit me so hard it brought me to tears. The power and honesty of the song were unreal. In the following months I learned all of the songs from the record and would sing them with my acoustic guitar as I slowly recovered my voice. It was like learning to sing and write songs all over again.
Frank Sinatra: Sings for Only the Lonely
Reading through a book about famous recording studios I came across a reference to a Sinatra record I had never heard. I mainly knew him in the stereotypical sense as the swingin’, happy crooner, but after tracking down Only the Lonely my whole understanding broadened.
I became obsessed with his down tempo, melancholy “Suicide Records” on Capitol from the ’50s and branched out to all his records. Listening to and learning all of the jazz standards really opened my eyes to the power of simple songs and lyrics and the deceptive depth they can contain.
The Helio Sequence’s self-titled sixth album is out now on Sub Pop.
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