'Men Without Hats' revive their synth pop sound

CorrespondentNovember 22, 2012 

Men Without Hats.

COURTESY OF GIRLIE ACTION

  • More information Details Who: Men Without Hats When: 8 p.m. Sunday Where: Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave., Durham Cost: $10 in advance and $14 day of show Details: 919-901-0875

When Ivan Doroschuk was moved to resurrect Men Without Hats in 2010, he decided to be a man without familiar bandmates.

So there was considerable skepticism among jaded music scribes when Doroschuk and three hired guns made their debut at the Austin music conference South By Southwest in 2011. But Doroschuk and company won over journalists and fans with a spirited show composed of old hits.

“It was a lot of fun and more,” Doroschuk said, calling from Quebec City. “It was a great time and a perfect start to Men Without Hats. I know I’m the only one that’s been part of Men Without Hats. But I’m the singer, I’m the songwriter. I play the keyboards. I don’t see an issue with me going forward with Men Without Hats. I looked at the family tree of this band and there have been 30 people who have been in it and now I’m the one from the past, who is left standing. I’m the new wave Dinosaur Jr.”

Still, not everyone is happy about his choice. Doroschuk’s brother Stefan, who was part of Men Without Hats during the group’s ’80s heyday when the group scored with the once ubiquitous hit “The Safety Dance,” calls the current Men Without Hats a tribute band.

After pausing, Doroschuk said he would not comment about his brother’s view. “I can only speak about how I feel,” Doroschuk said. “I’m loving this more than I ever thought I would.”

Those words are backed up by the group’s actions. Doroschuk intended to just cruise by going the nostalgia route. In the middle of its 2011 tour, which included hits like “Pop Goes The World” and “Where Do The Boys Go?,” he decided he wanted more.

“I wanted to make new songs,” Doroschuk said. “I was inspired to write new material. It’s fun doing the old songs. I love it, but I have all of these songs flowing through me.”

The muse inspired “Love In The Age of War,” the first Men Without Hats album in nine years. The album, which dropped in May, is filled with crisp, catchy unabashed synth-pop, and it screams 1983.

“I wanted to make an album that sounded like it was made the week after ‘Safety Dance’ was released,” Doroschuk said. “It all just happened naturally. I messed around with some songs and they just flowed. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. I wasn’t going to make a Dubstep album. I wanted to make a Men Without Hats record.”

Doroschuk’s timing is impeccable, since synth-pop is popular again. Acts like The Killers and Matt and Kim are riding the keyboard to the charts.

“It’s refreshing that this sound is back,” he said. “During the ’90s and the early part of the last decade, this style of music was banished to the nether region, but it’s comeback helped inspire me. You look at the audience and you see kids love it.”

Expect Men Without Hats, which will perform Sunday at the Motorco Music Hall, to release another album, which could drop in 2013.

“I’m halfway through the next one as far as the songwriting goes,” Doroschuk said. “Why not keep the momentum going? I’m excited about writing new songs, and the older songs feel fresh since I didn’t do them for a long time since I took eight years off to be a stay-at-home dad. I never would have guessed things would have worked out this way. Fans have checked us out since (‘The Safety Dance’) was on ‘Glee.’ ‘The Safety Dance’ was part of a Tide commercial and then there are the fans from way back. It’s a great time now for Men Without Hats.”

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