Math Blasters

Head Honcho Brings Math Rock to POP

  • Head Honcho are keeping math rock alive in Montreal

Math in itself may not be something to look forward to. Math rock, however, is a different story.

Far from the kind of music you’d hear in the Canadian Top 40, math rock was birthed in the late ’90s from other genres ranging from hardcore punk to avant-garde jazz. It focuses on atypical guitar-driven rhythmic structures and irregular time signatures that sound mathematical in nature, hence the name.

Quickly becoming one of the go-to-bands in the genre’s Montreal scene is Head Honcho.

Head Honcho is a two-piece, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Steven Whiteley and drummer Brandon Waldon. Both musicians hail from the U.S. originally—Whitely from New Jersey and Waldon from Chicago—but the duo is now based in Montreal.

They recently embarked on a North American tour, with just a drum kit and Telecaster guitar for their onstage set-up. But technical limitations often provide for creative expansion, and the pair isn’t deterred by the challenge at all.

“Being a two-piece, energy is our mantra,” said Whitely.

“We have to be more energetic as a two-piece and we try to channel that energy into our shows where the crowd can feed off of it.”

The two are dedicated to their craft. Seeking quality over quantity, the band spent over a year writing and recording their debut self-titled EP.

Released in July through Montreal label Stack Your Roster, the EP has already made waves with its fast-paced and occasionally bipolar tunes indicative of math rock. Verses oscillate between timid melodic guitar lines and driving foot-tapping riffs, reminiscent of ’90s emo band American Football or Japanese math-rockers Toe, while choruses are often delivered with soaring group vocals and drums that lay down an undercurrent of complex, mosaic-like beats.

Waldon says that math rock influences such as Piglet have contributed to his style and intensity, but that he’s drawn inspiration from big band jazz percussion as well.

Whiteley, meanwhile, attributes his roots and approach in songwriting to emo bands such as You Blew It! and Grown Ups.

Head Honcho is currently working on a second smaller release, expected to be out by the end of the year. If getting lost in sudden tempo changes is your thing, you can find Head Honcho on Sept. 26 at Le Quai des Brumes, where they’ll be playing a showcase set with fellow Stack Your Roster label-mates Gulfer.

Head Honcho // Sept. 26 // Le Quai des Brumes (4481 St. Denis St.) // 9:30 p.m. // $10

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