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Bringing the (Heat) Thunder to Doylestown.

November 3, 2014

HeatThunderSmall01Text by Beth Ann Downey. Images by Chris Fascenelli.

Joe Montone is what you would call a “hometown guy.”

It’s a cool summer night in downtown Doylestown and Montone – the frontman for eerie, atmospheric rock band Heat Thunder – is afraid to be interviewed outside. He knows too many people will stop to greet him.

“See, this is what’s going to happen,” he says from inside LA Tacos after a friend taps on the restaurant’s glass and offers a wave. “It’s gonna be wild.”

His hometown feels small to Montone but he’s managed to do a lot for it. Montone is integral to the compact but flourishing music scene that’s cropped up downtown, playing in a local band and booking shows at both Siren Records and Maxwell’s on Main, more commonly known as M.O.M.’s.

“It felt like the hierarchy of people invested in the scene not disappeared … but nobody was able to hold the ropes up,” Montone says of a previous lull in Doylestown’s live music offerings. “So it was super dead for two years. I remember walking around and being like, ‘It’s so quiet.’ Then I started booking shows.”
HeatThundeeSmall02Despite his commitments here, Montone still spends a good amount of time in Philadelphia, where Heat Thunder’s reputation is on the rise. Joined by guitarist Luming Hao, bassist Matthew Philips and drummer Will Chamuris, the band has been gigging frequently and gaining buzz.

Chamuris, who also plays percussion and keyboards in indie rock act Commonwealth Choir (which was also spawned in Doylestown before the bandmates moved to Philly), says creating a connection with an audience is made easier by the free, open space Heat Thunder creates with one another as musicians.

“Joe does a great job of creating a really healthy writing space where we can all just kind of be free,” Chamuris says. “I think that translates to our show, that we’re really putting ourselves into the music. I think people respond to the honesty of the music. There’s just no guard up. It’s just, ‘These are our songs. We’re going to play our hearts out and I hope you like it.’”

“It’s sort of like I’m bringing the skeleton,” adds Montone. “I’ve been in situations where I’ve been in bands and it’s like, ‘I’m just going to play this.’ But letting the space be open and shared is super important to me.”

Over the summer, this sharing and caring band released its new single “River Song,” which was tracked to analog tape at Headroom Studios in Northern Liberties by engineer Kyle Pulley. A music video for the song “Wearin’ Black” is also in the editing phase and tentatively slated for a fall release.

Heat Thunder keeps busy, all while playing a steady slew of shows in Philly and Doylestown. Montone lived in the city previously but his job, friends and the quaint vibe of his hometown keep him happy.

Plus, he’s still got some work to do building the local scene to go from “hometown guy” to “hometown hero.”

“I feel as though it is pretty important to have a local scene to call your own,” he says. “It’s super important to get exposed to music from somebody else. I feel like that’s what’s also detrimental to the scene here. So many kids will just go on a website and be like, ‘This is what I listen to … This is what is being, like, fed to me.’ But I feel as though I wouldn’t have such a giant range of musical inspiration if it wasn’t for that initial push to be like, ‘This is all shared and this is passed down.’ So I think that is part of the reason why there isn’t a thriving local scene. No one is sharing right now.”

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