EXPECT IT: late May (Rise)
(PHOTOS: Kevin Kirchner)
It’s almost surprising to hear Hot Water Music are relatively relaxed as they record their new album—their first since 2004’s The New What Next—at the Blasting Room in Ft. Collins, Colorado, with producer Bill Stevenson (who also recently helmed another legacy band’s new album; read our recent In The Studio piece with the Bouncing Souls for more on that). All of the whispers and reservations from outside detractors—it’s HWM’s first album in eight years, they’re on Rise Records and not Epitaph or No Idea, their best days are long behind them—haven’t penetrated the cushioned walls of the famed studio, according to guitarist/vocalist Chris Wollard.
“Here we are,” he says, calling from a laundromat a half-block away from the studio. “It’s been eight years, and we feel almost tighter than ever, playing-wise. If we really thought about it, we could try to play what everyone expects us to—or what everybody wants us to—and there hasn’t been any of that. The whole time it’s been, ‘Let’s do what we wanna do, let’s write the songs we wanna write, let’s not think about it too much.’”
Wollard gushes about the comfort of the Blasting Room, which has eased them back into the recording process. “Bill and Jason [Livermore, engineer] are so behind us, so positive, not pushing us to change the songs, and letting us hash things out,” he says. “It’s been awesome. And whenever we do ask them for input, they always have great ideas. After so many years, this is our band; we’re gonna do it our way. Hopefully, everyone will connect with it—but we have to connect with it first.”
The 7-inch Hot Water Music self-released last year (“The Fire, The Steel, The Tread” b/w “Up To Nothing”) also helped the band get back into active band mode. “That was just to get us back in the motion of writing and recording—just kind of testing the waters a little bit. That ended up being a really cool thing for us, because we produced it ourselves and didn’t really ask what anyone thought,” he says, laughing. “Not that we’ve ever had a problem with people pushing us with what they want us to do, but it was good to do that and not have a label involved after [being inactive] so long.” However, the band—Wollard, guitarist/vocalist Chuck Ragan, bassist Jason Black and drummer George Rebelo—largely recorded their parts for that release separate from each other, as they’re now spread on opposite coasts. (Wollard and Rebelo still live in the group’s hometown of Gainesville, Florida, while Ragan makes his home in northern California and Black lives in Seattle.) Recording together in a studio for the first time since 2004 hasn’t been a huge adjustment—perhaps because they’ve been in close quarters for the duration and they’ve been hashing out song ideas, both independently and together, for well over a year now. “We came in here, and for the first few days we just set up in one of the small studio rooms, jammed out and did a bunch of demos, close to twenty songs,” says Wollard. “Then we boiled it down and we’re working with fourteen. It’s been totally fun. There’s a little apartment here at the studio so we don’t ever really leave—the only time we left was when we had a show with Descendents [the other night]. I grew up listening to them, it was just totally awesome and it was our fifth show with them in the past year.”
“There’s definitely always been my songs and Chuck’s songs, but sometimes they change [once we bring them to the studio],” he continues. “Once we play something for George and Jason, they obviously are gonna add a lot to it. Having another guitar player that sings, once we all get in a room together there’s a lot of pushing and pulling, giving and taking. We brought a lot of songs that we’ve been working on our own, but in the last year we’ve been doing a lot of shows, so all these tours and little trips we take, all those soundchecks are us practicing and writing. We were doing a lot of jamming, it just wasn’t in our old warehouse—it was kind of the same it’s always been, maybe just a bit more relaxed. Everyone lives everywhere now, so we had to make it work in a different way.”
The band has plenty of material from which to choose for their Rise debut. Although it’s undecided how many songs will actually make the record, they’ll be recording nearly 20 songs, Wollard says. “We’re doing fourteen right now that we’ve done the drums for, but we wrote close to twenty, maybe more. We’re doing this record, and that’s what we’re focusing on right now, but we’re also able to do a couple 7-inches on our own, so I think we’ll probably record most everything we have and since we had a lot of fun putting out that 7-inch on our own, we’d like to keep being able to do that. There’s gonna be a lot of material coming out, that’s for sure.” Wollard also noted that the band is ahead of schedule—they’ll wrap recording sometime during the second week of February—so it seems likely that the majority of these new Hot Water Music songs will see the light of day sooner than later, either on the album or on a 7-inch.
In regards to lyrical themes, Wollard echoes Black’s sentiment from HWM’s Most Anticipated 2012 piece: This record will darker than the band’s previous work. “It’s definitely different; we’ve all been working so much as the years have gone by,” he says. “In one way, they’re different, but in another way, they’re not. It’s easy to see the progressions. I think it’s a dark record for Hot Water. I mean, it’s not a metal record,” he says, laughing. “It’s hard to say if there’s a real theme. But there is some darkness. Jason thinks it’s kind of aggressive—and it is—but it’s a punk rock record, so it’s supposed to be. It’s not a negative record—but it is a bit dark.” alt