If you haven’t gotten a chance yet to listen to The Hotelier‘s new sophomore record Home, Like Noplace Is There, you’re not only missing out one of the best records of the year, but easily one of the most compelling, intriguing, and challenging records to come out in a long time.
If you haven’t gotten a chance yet to listen to The Hotelier‘s new sophomore record Home, Like Noplace Is There, you’re not only missing out one of the best records of the year, but easily one of the most compelling, intriguing, and challenging records to come out in a long time. The band (formerly known as The Hotel Year) hails from Worcester, Massachusetts, a suburban origin that really provides the perfect filter for their brand of music. Don’t get it twisted though, this band isn’t the stereotypical punk band or emo band or whatever genre you want to pigeonhole them into. In fact, every time you think the album’s going to skew in one musical direction, the next song takes you in a completely different direction, or the lyrics provide much more depth and maturity than you would ever get from that stereotype. Top to bottom, there are few bands that are as exciting and challenging as they are diverse, and The Hoteiler definitely fits that mold.
We got a chance to talk to lead singer/bassist Christian Holden before The Hotelier comes to Strange Matter on Tuesday, August 5th. The outspoken front man had a lot to say about making this new record, the political themes, and so much more.
How’s your year been so far?
Our year’s been pretty busy. I haven’t been able to land a formal job just because we’ve had so much going on as far as how many tours we’re doing. This year so far, we’ve already done three and we have three more left, so the whole year has been pretty hectic.
Haven’t reached that elusive moment when you can support yourself from the band?
No, not even close. We still have many debts that we’re paying back from what we put in so far. I feel like it will be done soon though, but even then, I think we have a while before we’ll be able to support four people full-time.
Reaction for your new album, Home, Like Noplace Is There, has been overwhelmingly positive. By getting such a positive reaction, did the flood gates start to open up from people wanting to book you or work with you?
When we were on tour, we got a bunch of people hitting us up to work with us, like other labels or other management or booking agents. We definitely got flooded talking to those people and a bunch of e-mail in general. But when you’re on tour, or at least for us, you have so much leisure time so it’s never overwhelming. We definitely had time to handle all of that stuff. The reviews were nice though. We don’t stay super involved in those reviews. I mean, we read them, but it doesn’t take too much time out of our day. I think I remember on tour just being annoyed at how many reviews were coming in and how many interview requests we were getting. We just couldn’t stop talking about reviews for probably most of the tour, which is a good thing I guess.
So how did this whole album come about?
Well, we had just been really slow moving as a band after our album came out in 2011 because we were slowly growing at the time, even up until the very last leg right before the new album was even announced. There was a lot of growing excitement that was happening with that first album so we just decided to milk it, really. When we decided to start buckling down and working on the record, it just ended up taking a really long time because we had not even thought about the new record at all. It was pretty much a year of me writing songs. Once everyone noticed I was writing all these songs, they started getting involved, putting down their own ideas, and filtering through it to see what we wanted to put on the records.
Sounds like you had a lot to work with, but the album’s only nine songs long. Did you end up cutting a lot?
I think we were set on those nine songs being part of it. We were not super keen on just anything over nine songs. We like to keep it shorter. We thought about it this way – the album is thirty-six minutes long. A standard record can hold forty-two minutes perfectly, twenty-one minutes on each song, without it deteriorating in quality. It was the perfect amount of time that we needed to fill because a lot of those songs are long and are a little dragged out. We were more focusing on, “We have to fit this on one record and under forty minutes in time and under 20 minutes per side, so let’s focus on doing that.” That’s how the nine songs came to be. We had a couple more ideas that we didn’t put on the record, but it wasn’t like a full song. Like we worked this whole instrumental song out, but we couldn’t find a singing melody that really made the song good, so we just kind of scrapped it.
I’ve heard you describe the album as a political album, but your lyrics don’t really read as such.
Well, it’s political in the way that the situations that are talked about in it come back to a political ground. I think most of the struggles people face in their lives are political struggles. So much of what makes up people’s lives are governed by the social structure and political structure; really, just how power is set up in their world. And I think power is political. It’s completely political when I’m talking about someone who took their life because they come from a working class family where alcoholism is more prevalent. If you grow up with alcoholic parents, they’re more likely to not be able to face their feelings head on in a way that’s healthy. On top of that, that background might teach someone the way to attach themselves to certain people in their life and use them as commodities in their own life instead of treating them as someone who is loved and needed in their life, because that’s how we’re taught to view each other in the world. I think it’s all political and I think I semi-touch on all the little political aspects in each song. The songs are focused more on personal relationships, but while they are personal stories, they all link to these strong political roots that go deeper than who you vote for. Overall, the record is very focused around the life of a suburban teen up until his mid-20s. It’s just mapping out where and why living in suburbia and being sheltered in that sort of environment can lead people to this false world. It’s talking about being physically sheltered and the effect of sheltering on people when they face the real world, and real dark situations of how the world really is. That was the big theme of the album. The effect of that and maybe a little of how to address that, which is ultimately political to me.
Were there any bands or any specific sounds you were listening to help shape this record?
No, I think I consciously refused to listen to other music while I was writing the songs. It’s stressful enough trying really hard to write an album you really like and believe in without having to compare it to other works or make them sound like other things. Because of that, I was consciously not listening to anything while I was writing it, just trying to make songs that I felt came out naturally and weren’t anything that was influenced by anything I was listening to.
I wanted to talk about the song “Your Deep Rest,” which is just on another level lyrically than a lot of music in today’s world. Where does a song like that come from?
I don’t know, really, for the most part. Most of the lyric writing that I do, I’ll kind of sit in my room and start playing guitar to the song and thinking of a melody for an hour or two. After that, I’ll sit with a notebook and sleep deprive myself until I’m in the weird state of mind where I’m like almost asleep, but not really. From there, I’ll just write, and it comes out much better than if I were to write at 1pm or 7pm. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t even write the lyrics. I say I don’t know about the song because of that, but part of the song does come from a situation that happened with my ex-girlfriend. The story is creative non-fiction in the way that it didn’t actually happen, but it was on the verge of happening in the relationship. I had to physically step away from something that was that serious and the song was something that I played over in my head a billion times, because I felt our relationship was that close to happening. I felt I needed to write about that or being on the verge. I could just see how the whole thing played out from start to finish.
What is it like to perform a song like that live?
Usually when I’m singing, I’m not being brought back to those thoughts. When I’m performing, I’m just in this zoned out, purely visceral movement of playing that I don’t usually think about the songs in that deep context. It’s usually fine. It doesn’t ever affect me. I think the act of writing the song got every sort of emotion that I needed to get out. Those experiences are years in the past now too. I could talk to somebody about this forever and not really break down, whether I’m playing or not.
How do you think your new album compares to It Never Goes Out, your first record from 2011?
In my opinion, it’s very different. I think when we were writing It Never Goes Out, it was much more of an “experimenting with sound” album because we didn’t know what we were doing. We knew we were trying to take our older pop punk sound and push it to a more emotional, but also simultaneously more political leaning. It was lining up exactly up with us being teenagers in high school. We had a lot of angst and we didn’t know where to direct it. I don’t hate the album, but there are a lot of songs I don’t want to play ever again, just because I don’t have fun playing them and I don’t think they’re great songs. But it was a very “youth in revolt” album and I feel like naturally, the album that came afterwards is a really solid follow-up. The first one was this big whirlwind of “let’s take back power over of our own lives” from the point of view of kids in this world who feel totally alienated. The new album looks at what happens when you do have that power over your own lives as well as this solid perspective. It also talks about how we are all dealing with each other without outside force. For the sake of it not being like, this feel-good “yeah, fight the power” [statement], it follows up nicely with this darker aspect of what that all means once you get it and have control. I think the songs are more involved in the new album, and kind of follow a more cohesive idea too.
With the success of the new record, have you seen a lot more interest in the first one?
Not really. I feel like the people I still see talking about the record are the people I saw talking about the record years ago. We did have an all right amount of buzz around that record though. People knew about it and people were either into it or they weren’t. With the new album coming out and the change of the name, people were either only interested in the new album and didn’t care about the last album, or they didn’t know the last one existed. But yeah, not too many people getting more interested in the last record. That might change when we reissue it, which we’re doing next year on our current record label.
I have to ask about your opinions on the “bro scene” in music today since you’re pretty outspoken about it.
This is the thing. I have pretty strong political views, I guess in comparison to other people. You probably heard me talk about it a lot because people like to interview me just on that. I get annoyed at how people represent it when I talk about it, because I don’t know if you saw the Wondering Sound interview where the title was “The Hotelier Battles The Bros“… I think that is an extremely annoying title in that we are a band of dudes, and our identities don’t have us battling bros as much as women usually would and are actually battling bros. Right off the bat, it’s not something I like to sensationalize about our band. But I’m always down to talk about it. I would never call it the bro scene though; that seems like the BS thing other people call it.
The big thing is that I’m surprised by it. When I got into music, I got into music because it brought me to a deeper level of understanding myself and the world, and that’s what I’ve always wanted. I feel like music brought me to where I am politically, and I’m amazed to be a part of this musical community that is for the most part apolitical. They’re either apolitical or just don’t even want to talk about things that are controversial or conflict arising; whereas I feel like that everything that is good comes out of some form of conflict, and conflict is healthy, essentially. [The music community is] just like it is in the real world, that there is this level of huge entitlement in ways that dudes interact with each other, in that they don’t interact with women. And that kind of alienates them from the whole world of music in the way that they feel like. I don’t know – it’s a big thing that’s hard to kind of generalize.
Well, is it something you see at shows a lot or just in society in general?
It is just a reflection of a society, but I do notice it at shows a lot. I go to a show and I can see this like callous disregard for other people’s space at shows. For instance, when someone starts a mosh pit, it’s all just dudes who think that, just because that’s a social cue, it’s okay to start running into other people who are just standing and watching a band. With things like moshing and crowd surfing, the people with bigger bodies are obviously going to have more fun in that situation, and women just generally have smaller builds than men. Women aren’t prioritized when those situations arise. Like last tour we were playing more on stages and when people were crowd surfing, people would run off the stage and their feet would hit the people in the front who are standing there to watch, and they just land on more people. It’s not that great of an environment. It does exist in bands too, not just the crowd. The band is responsible to say if that should or shouldn’t happen during our set. Not a lot of people encourage it, especially when it’s a hardcore thing that birthed in hardcore because it’s more chaotic. Because hardcore’s about that whole sort of thing, people think that can translate to any form of music, especially ours, which is just sad and doesn’t make sense to me. There doesn’t seem to be a prioritization of women in the whole space which I think is a thing that goes on in the whole world, and that’s more my problem when I think of the so-called “bro scene.”
Do you feel like you’re one of the only ones who notice it?
I feel like there are multiple layers. There are people who don’t notice it at all, there are people who notice it and don’t say anything, there are people who notice it and do something passively, and there are people who just go for it. For the most part, it kind of alienates me and puts me in awkward situations, but I’d rather be the person who is talking conflict. The people I allow in my life know that’s going to be something that happens with me and you can either accept it or back out. I’m not the only one who talks about this type of stuff, even though it may come off that way. Pretty much every woman I know that’s in a band talks about it to some regard, and there are plenty of scenes that are more cautious to that stuff and would call it out right off the bat. There are plenty of bands with men in them that feel the same as me, too. I don’t feel left out. I think most people understand and they get it, but they’re not going to say anything because of the conflict that would come out of it. And that’s not me.
To wrap up, I know you said you guys read most of the reviews that came out for the new record. What were some of the weirdest things you read that was said about the band or the album?
Some kid said that we are the same sort of whiny emo-pop that brought emo into its dark ages. I think that was him flexing his knowledge of emo history (or lack thereof) because that whole thing was an industry thing more than a band style thing. I feel like there were some really weird things that were said in really positive reviews, believe it or not. Because of the song “Life In Drag,” I remember for a while everyone thought I was transgender. I understand it so it’s not really that strange, but I remember people thinking and saying it a lot, so I had to deal with it. It was just strange that I can’t talk about that without people thinking I’m transgender–not that that’s a problem, but it’s a little close minded. It wasn’t as strange as someone who venomously hates our band for whatever reason though. It’s fine because I feel like anyone can interpret music in whatever way they want, whether it’s positive or negative, and it’s just as valid. It’s all interpretable.
A really weird thing that happens is when you’re a band that gets any sort of positive reaction and there are people that it won’t click with. It just doesn’t click with them and if they see your name a lot, they’ll start questioning why they’re seeing the band so much. They’ll get so angry and they’ll be almost militant about it. They’ll scream to anyone about how they don’t like this band, because they need that affirmation from other people who don’t like it. It happens a lot more in popular music I know, but I definitely see it from time to time with us too, which is just strange. It’s like you can’t just say “okay, I don’t like it,” and be done with it.
Well, I appreciate your time, Christian, and we look forward to seeing you at Strange Matter soon.
Yeah, I ate at Strange Matter once when we were in Richmond and the food was great. It was a pretty cool place too, so I’m really excited to play there again and get to see Richmond.
The Hotelier will perform at Strange Matter, located at 929 W. Grace St, on Tuesday, August 5, along with Foxing, Little Big League, and Boxer. Doors open at 5 PM. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door, and can be ordered here: foxing.eventbrite.com.