In concerts, The Heligoats' Chris Otepka spends a good deal of time explaining his songs, often introducing them with strange, funny, byzantine stories that somehow serve as functional explanations for the words he's about to sing. Otepka is a wonderful and under-praised oddball — not to mention the handpicked performer for NPR Music's 100th-ever Tiny Desk Concert — but he invariably makes room for wise, wry observations on human emotions, science and the way things work. His songs are, more than anything else, the byproduct of an endlessly curious mind.
Otepka, who once led the fantastic Midwest pop-punk band Troubled Hubble, often performs solo under the Heligoats name; in fact, he did just that for his Tiny Desk close-up. But The Heligoats' forthcoming album Back to the Ache — out March 19 — finds him fronting a tight, fleshed-out band as he lets his strange ruminations unfurl.
The first song to emerge from the record, "Tofutti," finds Otepka considering the soy-based dairy-free product line as a jumping-off point for his thoughts on our desire to do right by ourselves, feel good and fit into the world around us. The result draws on some familiar Otepka obsessions — the way things interlock with other things, both scientifically and emotionally — while his band's music chimes and charms all around him.