The Pier: Hotting Up with Iration
On a scorching California day, we caught up with Iration front-man Micah Pueschel, who led us through an exclusive track-by-track breakdown of the band’s August 28th, 2015 album release of Hotting Up. Over the course of our discussion, Micah revealed his collection of back-stories, inspiration, and subtle homages behind all nine tracks that you’ll only find here.
You can purchase Hotting Up on iTunes by clicking HERE!
“I wrote ‘Reelin’ quite a while before we started recording,” says Pueschel. “It was one of the first songs I had written in a group with ‘Nothing At All,’ ‘Hotting Up,’ and ‘You Know You Don’t Mind’ for the album.”
The band released “Reelin” on April 27th as the first single for their new record, and fans immediately took notice of the change in direction the band took with the song, which Micah described as being full of, “Big drums, hard-hitting bass, and synth and rocking guitars.” All elements not typically found in Iration songs.
“It came together really nicely when I wrote it,” says Pueschel of the song. “One thing that was key for me on this song was how it drops out on the chorus and then hits, which I really though was different as opposed to having the chorus come in and hit really hard. We got in the studio with [Producer, King David The Future] and we really wanted to focus on drum sounds and bass to make it really big and punchy…We recorded at EastWest Studios in Hollywood, which is world renowned for their drum room, and that’s where Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, and Rage Against The Machine recorded. Pretty much every big rock record of the last twenty-five years or something has had drum tracks cut in that room. So we got in there, rented a vintage drum kit, vintage black beauty snares, and we really went the whole distance. Even though it is reggae, we wanted it to sound big and I think we accomplished that.”
Listen: Iration – “Reelin”
2.) Stay Awake
“This is a song that Micah Brown wrote, or started,” says Pueschel.
“He had the basic form, like the verses and chordage and stuff, and we all liked it, so then he finally brought it to Dave and they hashed it out together at his studio in LA and they made a basic demo track that’s similar to what you hear on the record. I ended up writing the second verse for the final version of the song, but what’s really cool about this track is that it’s not the kind of song that I wouldn’t have written, it’s a totally different style, and I think it’s good to have that. That was kind of a Micah Brown original thing that ended up becoming an Iration collabo. It’s very unique in the way it sounds and that’s what I love about it. You can really hear Micah’s influence on that track.”
Listen: Iration – “Stay Awake”
3.) Lost and Found
“This song is in the same vein as ‘Dream’ where it’s a reminiscent song about our childhood growing up in Hawaii. Sometimes you feel like you’ve lost touch with your roots or with who you were when you were a kid. There’s just these memories that bring you back to your center and bring you joy and that’s what this song is about. I thought it was really cool because we were able to use ukulele on a song, which is something we’ve been trying to do for a while, and we got Jeffa Vegas from the band Onetwo Tree to do that. Then we got Micah Brown to play the slide guitar on it and it sounded really cool. That’s one of the songs that for me, I can just listen to and really enjoy it just because it kind of strikes a cord with me. This was one of the songs that was tough to get to come together, but when it finally did, we were like ‘Yes.’”
Listen: Iration – “Lost and Found”
“This was a song that we wrote during the pre-production stage. King Dave and I got together at my house in Santa Barbara and I just had some chords, I think it was like E minor and B seventh or something like that, and I liked the combination of the two chords together, and then he had his computer and keyboard and we kept playing back and forth on a loop. Then I just heard the melody for the hook in my head and I ended up writing the song very quickly.”
Pueschel then went on to explain the Motown origin behind his opening lyrics.
“For some reason that first line of ‘you want it, you got it’ came about because I had heard that song ‘Cruising’ and I felt like it just fit. I love that song; it’s kind of like an Ini Kamoze type thing. I really love Ini Kamoze and this song was kind of a tribute to his style.”
There is also another subtle homage to a 70s classic hidden on this song.
“When I go ‘Don’t stop ringing the bell,’ there’s a little bell sound from ‘Ring My Bell’ in the background.”
Listen: Iration – “Midnight”
5.) Hotting Up
“This was the song that we had in mind as the rockier track on the record. I originally wrote it on acoustic so it didn’t sound the way it does now obviously, but the idea was to write a song where the hook would be kind of an interesting phrase.”
Although the phrase is rather unique, Pueschel taught me that “hotting up” is in fact a grammatically correct phrase.
“It doesn’t sound correct, in America we don’t say ‘hotting up’ a lot, but it’s actually grammatically correct. I’m a huge soccer fan so I watch a lot of Manchester United and Premier League, and the announcers say it a lot. They’ll say something like ‘the atmosphere is hotting up,’ and I thought we could use that to describe a relationship. Basically the motif is that the guy is in a virtual winter for a period of time and then he meets somebody and the relationship starts to heat up. I thought it was cool imagery and I think a lot of people can understand that concept.”
Listen: Iration – “Hotting Up”
6.) Nothing At All
“When we started playing this song in the studio, I had this pedal that’s like an octave pedal, and I had never really used it on anything. I used it live when I was playing guitar by myself because we had songs that had guitar harmonies on them and I didn’t have a second guitar player, so I would use it to kind of add a second guitar effect. When we got Micah Brown I didn’t have to use it anymore, which was nice, and so I was like ‘I haven’t used this for anything in a while so let’s mess around with it.’ I really just saw this song as something that would be cool to do live because it has a good beat and that middle section where it kind of drops out, and it has this spacey ambiance kind of thing happening. Dave really has his handprints on this song as far as the beat goes.”
Although the song was conceived as an experiment in sound, Pueschel added a touch of depth in the song’s lyrics.
“I guess it’s kind of like that Gotye song ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ because it’s all about this guy knowing that he’s in love with somebody that’s unattainable or not real. Sometimes you want somebody but you realize the only place you can have them is in your imagination.”
Listen: Iration – “Nothing At All”
“I wrote this one on acoustic and I never thought it would end up the way that it did. ‘867’ was like my homage to ‘I’ll Be Watching You’ by The Police, which is kind of a creepy song. I thought it was kind of interesting to see how they pulled that off, and I wondered, how do you pull off making a song like that? Everyone’s been jealous, everybody’s seen an ex with somebody else, and how do you make that accessible to the point where it’s not overly creepy? I don’t want people to feel like they have to take a bath after hearing the song. That’s what the goal was and I thought I made it cheeky enough to where it wasn’t creepy. On the pre-chorus I wrote ‘all you do is talk, talk talk, why don’t you just take a walk.’ He’s watching them, and they’re not doing anything, but he’s out there obsessing over the number.”
“I’ll Be Watching You” had a unique sound for its time, which is another trait it shares with “867.”
“Dave definitely brought this one up a notch. I think he really wanted to put his mark on one of the songs and this was the one. There’s a lot of crazy synth sound. We didn’t want to do a whole record of songs like this, but we wanted to do at least one because that’s [Dave’s] wheelhouse. I think it’s cool because it’s the most unique sounding song on the record and it kind of opened us up to a different place that few bands in the genre go to.”
Listen: Iration – “867”
8.) Guns Out
When I listened to this song for the first time, the piano arrangement reminded me of the one from Elton John‘s “Benny and the Jets.” After hearing that several tracks on Hotting Up were inspired by older tunes, I had to ask if this song was in fact inspired by the Elton John classic.
“When I wrote that song, it was in a weird chordage. We couldn’t get the rhythm of it so we kept putting it on the back-burner because none of us could get it and I couldn’t really hear it in my head. So when I got together with Dave, we were just sitting in the living room and he was playing piano and we were trying to figure out how to get it. So instead of the standard reggae offbeat we tried an on beat and I was like ‘dude that kind of sounds like Benny and the Jets.’ So then we were jokingly playing it and funny enough the song only worked with that piano rhythm. We didn’t go full ‘Benny and the Jets’ on it, but we put it in there so some people could hear it. We recorded ‘Guns Out’ on this bad-ass grand piano and I thought it was cool to pay homage to ‘Benny and the Jets’ because I love that song.”
Listen: Iration – “Guns Out”
9.) You Know You Don’t Mind
“This was the first song I wrote for this album, like maybe a year ago. Basically, I really liked the chordage. It’s a major chord reggae song so its just A-B-A and it varies across between those three chords. It’s a simple reggae song but I really like the idea of doing a running chorus. I like doing one or two of those very simple reggae songs. That’s what ‘Falling’ is, that’s what ‘Wait and See’ was, that’s what ‘Mr. Operator’ was. It just goes back to doing that straightforward type of reggae thing, that’s how we learned how to play music and it’s very much in our wheelhouse to do that. We obviously want to push ourselves, but it’s nice to have one or two songs on the record that we could just lay into.”
Now that you’ve gotten some new insight into Hotting Up, try listening to it again, or check it out if you haven’t already. Whether you hear it differently or not, this discussion gives us a small glimpse into the artist’s mind, and shows us that inspiration can come from anywhere and anything.
Listen: Iration – “You Know You Don’t Mind”
You can purchase Hotting Up on iTunes by clicking HERE!