When the lead singer and chief songwriter for the Helio Sequence lost his voice mid-tour, Brandon Summers feared it was the end of his career.
During the several months that he spent isolated in silence while his voice slowly healed, Summers gave up whiskey for tea, did vocal and physical exercises and burned through 60 books in as many days to cure his boredom.
As his voice healed, Summers was paying special attention to the songwriting of Bob Dylan and became enamored with the less-is-more approach.
It shows on the Helio Sequence’s subsequent album, the critics’ favorite “Keep Your Eyes Ahead.”
Released last year on Seattle’s indie heavyweight label Sub Pop Records, “Keep Your Eyes Ahead” employs the expected synthesized atmospherics and guitar grooves that mark the two-man band’s signature, but with Summers’ newly discovered penchant for smallness.
“I was happy about how the songs were coming together but there was a definite sense of walking a balance beam when we were writing,” Summers said during a telephone interview.
“It was a delicate time when we knew we had something good and we were going to have to pull it off and and pull it all together for a full album. It was an exacting process.”
The album was tracked with a newfound sense of urgency, with Summers recording vocals spontaneously in closets and living rooms with stream-of-consciousness lyrics.
This latest effort is regarded as a rebirth for The Helio Sequence, the duo of Summers – who also plays guitar, keyboards and harmonica – and drummer Benjamin Weikel, who played keyboard and drums for Modest Mouse for a short time.
“Keep Your Eyes Ahead” has received consistently favorable reviews from indie critics and bloggers, and the Portland duet landed high-profile slots on the summer festival circuit this season, including a second stage billing at Sasquatch in May.
The Helio Sequence played a sold-out show at the old The Blvd. in February and is expected to do so again at the club’s current location on Sunday.
All of the praise and attention the band has been getting doesn’t make losing his voice worth the experience by any means, but Summers considers it a silver lining.
“It’s been a really positive blessing because the album was born out of a lot of tension and hardship,” he said.