In the acclaimed HBO crime series True Detective, Louisiana is depicted as hot, claustrophobic and still, the skies always dark and brooding even when the sun is shining. Weather -- or, more accurately, the absence of weather -- became an important device; it adds a palpable sense of foreboding to an already deeply unsettling show.
Over at AMC, Breaking Bad created a similar sense of dread by contrasting dark, windowless meth dens with the perpetually 80-degrees-and-sunny climes of New Mexico. It's always sunny in Albuquerque.
Both TV shows come up a lot in conversation surrounding Toronto's Timber Timbre, which displays a similar knack for the foreboding (a Season 3 episode of Breaking Bad even used the band's song Magic Arrow). When sombre-voiced frontman Taylor Kirk and the band released the aptly titled Creep On, Creepin' On in 2011, it sealed the band's identity as a group of Southern-gothic creepsters whose ink-black brand of doo-wop- and blues-inflected indie rock was simultaneously spooky and sexy.
For this year's steamy Hot Dreams, Kirk was interested in eschewing the haunted aspects of Timber Timbre's music and exploring its seductive side.
"I had never really considered the music I was making to be sexualized," he confesses over the phone from Toronto. "For Creep On, I was referencing a lot of soul and R&B, but I wasn't treating it as sensual."
Kirk might not have found his music particularly sexy, but other people did.
"I started learning that people were getting laid to my music," he says with a laugh. "It was their sexy-time music. I thought that was a personal thing to be told by strangers, but I consider it a great compliment.
"Then I met a dancer at a strip club and she told me she dances to some of my songs. I started to think about that and play with that a bit. Sensuality not something that's necessarily front and centre in white indie rock."
Hot Dreams is noticeably more sexual than its predecessor, often overtly so: a heady mix of sweat and smoke and red neon lights. (It contains some controversy, too; the title track opens with: "I wanna dance, I wanna dance, I wanna dance... with a black woman." For many, it's an uncomfortable, problematic line; we live in a culture in which women of colour are still fetishized. "I considered that the line is dangerous but not a damaging thing to sing," Kirk told Noisey in March. The lyric certainly gets listeners thinking about the way we regard those who are different from us as somehow alien.)
Like the Timber Timbre albums that came before it, Hot Dreams is defined by its cinematic quality, which goes a long way in explaining the TV and movie references that populate reviews (try to find one that doesn't mention David Lynch).
"I went to film school and I made films when I was younger," Kirk says. "And I was very interested in making music for films, but I always found myself in bands." In 2013, Kirk was enlisted to create a score for The Last Exorcism Part II, "but it just didn't work out."
Still, cinema has found its way into the DNA of Timber Timbre's songs. Much of Hot Dreams was written on a trip to L.A.'s idyllic Laurel Canyon. Being in the legendary neighbourhood inspired Kirk to revisit some of his favourite scores from the 1960s and '70s. "The backdrop tipped me off," he says. "It made me really nostalgic.
Jack Nitzsche's score for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Bernard Herrmann's for Taxi Driver -- as well as the iconic work of Ennio Morricone -- all served as inspiration for Hot Dreams. "I love Krzysztof Komeda's score for Rosemary's Baby. And Chico Hamilton's score for Repulsion," he adds.
"In the past, lyrically, I've done things that were cinematic as a device. Describing scenes as opposed to telling stories. This record, it was all about film music. There were specific scores inspired the moods and arrangements."
In fact, there are two entirely instrumental tracks on Hot Dreams: Resurrection Drive Part II and The Three Sisters.
"I know certain people will skip through the instrumental songs," he says, laughing. "I think it's an attention-span thing. Film scores are very unpopular. You go to any used record shop and there's always a surplus."
Kirk is aware of the fact that the music he makes can come with a whiff of novelty. "I always feel like there's a real danger with what we've done going into that spooky, Halloween-music category. I really wanted to move away from that in a way that wasn't kitschy or funny," he says.
He didn't want to creep on creepin' on, as it were. "I didn't want it to be parody."
Hot Dreams doesn't sound like parody -- nor does it sound like imitation or homage. Kirk and co. are five records in; they've figured out what they sound like.
And they've figured out how to execute it all live. Timber Timbre is operating as a four-on-the-floor rock 'n' roll quartet these days, rounded out by longtime bassist/guitarist Simon Trottier, keyboardist Mathieu Charbonneau and drummer Olivier Fairfield.
"In the past, we haven't been particularly true to the recordings, which is confusing and frustrating for people -- disorienting, at least," Kirk says. "Now, it's a bit more of a rock 'n' roll format. It's much more energetic and physical. It's also allowed us to execute some of the older material in a way that's more true to the recordings."