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Intelligent design

Getting smart with Denver's indie-pop Hot IQs


Young guns go for it: Elaine Acosta says every Hot  IQs song begins life as an Archers of Loaf rip-off.
  • Young guns go for it: Elaine Acosta says every Hot IQs song begins life as an Archers of Loaf rip-off.

Hot IQs' Elaine Acosta speaks knowledgeably about mental disorders (she's a psychiatric nurse), international travel (favorite city: Barcelona), and renowned architects (the group just recorded a song called "Goudy Versus Wright: The Royal Fisticuffs"). Plus, as Spin magazine so thoughtfully noted, she's a "hot female drummer." All in all, not bad for someone who likes to hit things.

In fact, the appropriately named Denver trio has been named "Best Indie Pop Band" in the Westword Music Showcase Awards for two years running. Although worlds apart musically, Hot IQs began life as a duo in the White Stripes "guy guitarist-plus-girl drummer" formation. But Acosta insists that she and frontman Eli Mishkin are not brother and sister, which helps explain how he turned out Jewish and she turned out Asian.

"And we aren't ex-husband and wife, either," says Acosta, who adds, for the record, that "Meg White is definitely not one of my influences. I guess the thing we do have in common is simplicity. I know that Jack White doesn't want her to practice, because he wants her to remain at a rudimentary level so everything sounds simple. Whereas Bryan [Feuchtinger, bassist/producer] and Eli wish I would practice more, so that we could bring things to a more complex level."

Like early Talking Heads, Hot IQs' quirky pop straddles the line between simplicity and sophistication. That influence finds its way into some of its best songs, including "Firecracker" (with it's Byrne-worthy "Out of my gun / And into your burning heart") and a brand new 7-inch called "Houndstooth" (whose release and accompanying video will be celebrated when Hot IQs headlines the Bluebird Theater on Friday).

In addition to Talking Heads and Franz Ferdinand, the band is also frequently compared to Archers of Loaf, to which Acosta pleads guilty as charged.

"Every time Eli writes a song, I'm like, 'You can't use that riff,' or 'That part can't go there, otherwise it's going to sound like that Archers of Loaf song.' And that still happens today. So some things haven't changed; every song starts off as a rip-off of an Archers of Loaf song."

Not that the group limits itself.

"Gosh, I think we've ripped off just about everybody," say Acosta. "But the whole music industry does, so we're not alone as far as I can tell."

Fortunately, Acosta was well prepared for the life of a musician by her training in the field of psychology. She figures anti-social personalities are prevalent throughout the business, especially at the top.

"I would imagine all record executives are anti-social types you know, people who have no remorse or guilt for smashing people's dreams and things like that."

No matter, since Hot IQs managed, without record executive assistance, to tour the country, play Red Rocks three times and build a loyal fan base, with Acosta happily ensconced behind her kit, blowing bubble gum the whole way. ("My mouth gets really dry when I get nervous and when I'm playing, and so it just helps to start a flow of saliva," she explains.)

As for the allegation of high IQs, Acosta says the band members like people to think so, but aren't so sure themselves.

"We are not the most un-intellectual band ever," she says. "But sometimes being smart and being too introspective is not the best thing for a band either. Who knows? We'll see."

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