Sunday, June 17, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Florida Night Heat: The soundtrack to a hot night in Tampa

Most bands wouldn't pride themselves on making "background" music. But then again, Florida Night Heat isn't (by any stretch) most bands.

When they weren't talking about Transformers, Spuds MacKenzie or former Sleepy Vikings drummer and friend Ryann Slauson, the silly, self-deprecating fellas (with some adult ADHD tendencies) of instrumental act Florida Night Heat described a simple, but noble mission.

"If people are having a great time at a bar while we're playing, that's it for us," said bassist Andre Jones. "It's like we're the background music to their good time, and that's awesome."

Guitarist and band ringleader Jensen Kistler is quick to agree.

"Absolutely — highest honors right there," says Kistler. "If we're hanging out with our best friends and they're hanging out with their best friends, and we're all having fun collectively, that's like the mission statement for Florida Night Heat."

In fact, if they ever released a live album, drummer Chris Wood says they'd be compelled to include crowd conversations just to capture the true stage experience.

"I have a recording from Crowbar that comes up on my iPod, and it's just a one-mic recording so you can hear people talking about all kinds of things in the background while we're playing," Wood says. "I think it's the perfect encapsulation of this band's vibe."

Also part of that vibe are slow-building, atmospheric rock sounds that threaten to erupt at any moment. Think crescendo-filled indie that's a little psychedelic, a little Southern and a lot melodic (not totally unlike This Will Destroy You or Explosions in the Sky).

In a nutshell, "it's a soundtrack for when you're doing other life stuff … even laundry," says Jones.

Formed in 2009 during a jam session before a trip to the Florida State Fair, this Tampa trio, like any good band, has evolved over the years.

"When we were younger, we were scared to get loose because we couldn't get back into the pocket if we were too far out," says Wood. "Now we're like, 'Yeah, we can catch this beat again.' "

But to be clear, Florida Night Heat is by no means a jam band. The guys' background in hip-hop fuels their fondness for loop-style consistency, so three-minute tangents or windy solos aren't happening here. It's more like an exercise in controlled arrangements.

"We're not always going to be on the same page of the book, but we'll still be in the book," Kistler says.

So what's next for Florida Night Heat? They've done a CD and a record. Now it's time for a tape, naturally.

"The tape is going to be music for riding a small boat down the Hillsborough River through Sulphur Springs," says Wood in oddly specific fashion.

In other words, it's something that should conjure up a slow pace, manatees and happy river folks.

"It's Tampa post-Dad rock," jokes Jones (who has a hang-up with prefixes like "post" in genre titles).

When they're not playing music, Jensen and Wood work at Café Hey in Tampa and Jones is a buffet busser at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. And in the evenings, you're likely to find them hanging at iconic downtown dive The Hub. They play there a lot, too. In truth, they're kind of Hub heroes. But you'll never hear that kind of thing from them. Humble and happy is their motto.

"We're not going to be MTV darlings," Jones says. "We're an instrumental band of over-30-somethings … so, you know."

And yet Florida Night Heat couldn't be more excited about the future.

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