Electro rockers propel forward

By HermineBloom

Since performing in the first time slot at Lollapalooza 2007 after winning a battle of the bands contest, electro-pop trio Helicopters has evolved a considerable amount by acquiring a new member and developing a more mature sound. Comprising the band are Dave Moran, lead singer, lead guitarist and keyboardist; Jason Caldeira on guitar, bass, keyboard and the occasional drums; and Brian Fifield, keyboardist and digital producer.

The Chronicle talked with Caldeira to find out how three songwriters in a band can affect the group dynamic, what they were trying to accomplish with their most recent release and how they feel about being compared to Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service.

The Chronicle: What do each of you bring to the dynamic of the group?

Jason Caldeira: We actually bring a lot of different things to the table, which kind of makes us sound the way we end up sounding. Musically, I’m very much into two styles: guitar and bass, melodic pop rock—indie stuff. I’m also really into electronic, which I don’t necessarily play but I get into the down-tempo, Thievery Corporation side of electronic music. Dave, on the other hand, is a lyricist and he really gets into guys like Paul Simon and David Byrne—just lyricists and longtime songwriters. Brian brings a totally different side to the table. He’s very much into keyboard-based electronica from the mid ’80s.

The Chronicle: You’re all songwriters. How does that work when it comes time to write a song?

JC: We’re all songwriters and it brings a lot of good things and bad things to the table. The hard part is that we’re all very opinionated. The trio thing helps us quite a bit because we’re able to do a two-against-one policy. We don’t all have to agree, because as long as two guys agree we end up going in that direction. We all have individual strengths, though. Dave is much more of a vocals and lyricist guy, whereas I’m an overall vision of the song kind of guy. Brian gets really into the production side of things and how it’s going to sound when it’s recorded.

The Chronicle: What were you guys trying to accomplish with your most recent release, “Sizing Up the Distance,” as compared to your previous releases?

JC: “Sizing Up the Distance” was the first time we were actually writing as a trio. The first album was “How to Fake Fall Asleep” and that was written by myself, Dave and a former band member named Gregory. That was our first soiree into digital production and really playing around with the digital side of things. That was a real shot in the dark. We’d never done that before and we were experimenting with something brand new. Our second album is called “Walking to Be Looked At,” which was an ability to learn from our successes and failures from our previous albums, and halfway through the recording of that album Gregory moved to Ireland. That’s when we went on hiatus and we were deciding what to do next. “Sizing up the Distance” was starting from scratch with me, Dave and Brian. We had learned a little bit about digital production, we had learned a little bit about our sound, but we had to learn more about what we were trying to accomplish sonically. It’s essentially a year-and-a-half old, but we have a new release coming out hopefully in June, which will be even more of an evolution of learning how to write together as a trio.

The Chronicle: How do you feel about being compared to Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service?

JC: I think we got that label early on, which is really funny because I don’t think anyone who hears and listens to us frequently would make that comparison. Our very first album was compared very much to The Postal Service. I think that was largely because The Postal Service was the poster child for electronic pop. At the time, nothing really sounded like that, so anything that came out that had that electronic element fused with a pop element and had guitars fused with blips and pops of digital production was kind of labeled with that Postal Service tag. I think we had trouble shaking that with the next album. The follow-up album really sounds nothing like Death Cab for Cutie. If anything, it sounds like The Postal Service from a production standpoint. I think of it as a compliment, as I’m a huge Death Cab for Cutie fan and I have been for many, many years. We definitely didn’t mind hearing it. I think that most people who spend the time to listen to us and dive a little bit further into our albums, and especially if they see us live, you lose that tag pretty quickly.

Helicopters will play at Quenchers, 2401 N. Western Ave. on June 3. To listen to the band, visit MySpace.com/Helicopters.