Gainesville, Florida's Hot Water Music very well may just be one of the most prolific bands in music today, with countless full lengths, splits, seven inches and compilation appearances.
Hot Water Music are featured on this year's Sno Core Tour, which will be coming to Philadelphia's Electric Factory on March 22. We had the opportunity to talk with Chris Wollard, HWM's vocalist/guitar player about what's up with Sno Core, a little Charles Bukowski and beards.
PULSE WEEKLY: Since you took your name from Bukowski, what is your favorite work of his?
CW: Literally. We're named after it, but it's not for any reason or anything. We all like Bukowski and stuff, but if you asked any of us to pick out our favorite Bukowski books, I don't think anybody would pick that one. It was more just coincidence actually. We were looking for a name and I was reading that book and George the drummer saw the cover and was like, "How about that?"
PW: So Hot Water Music is the name of the book also?
CW: It's a collection of his short stories.
PW: I've only read one book of his, so I'm not completely up on him.
CK: It's not a good place to start.
PW: He's a maniac.
CW: Yeah, he's awesome.
PW: What's your take on punk rock today with bands like Simple Plan and Avril Lavigne being big and the rise of fame for bands like Saves the Day and Thursday?
CW: Maybe that stuff is punk rock, it's not really for me to say, but it's not the stuff I grew up on. I don't really like that stuff, I don't really listen to Simple Plan, I don't really listen to Avril, I don't really listen to music. I don't know, I don't want to talk shit -- it's more just pop music to me. It's pop music, they're just simple songs and that's great, but I don't really think that's punk rock, there's nothing dangerous about it. They're not trying anything new.
PW: It's almost like boy bands with power chords.
CW: But there is just a lot of stuff that is just simple power chords that I do love and I think is great. It's not really for me to comment on. Most people are just doing what they're doing, we're doing what we're doing, but I wouldn't really call that punk rock, but then again, what do you really call punk rock?
PW: So what bands are you a fan of right now?
CW: Well I've been listening to the Ted Leo record; we just got that today. I've been listening to the Doug Martsch solo project, the singer from Built to Spill and Guided By Voices I listen to a lot. Doug Martsch and Guided By Voices are probably the two things I've been listening to for the last couple of weeks.
PW: I read that you and your band were coming across hard times a short while after starting out, were you really that close to being homeless?
CW: It was bad. There were a few times when we'd leave for tour and basically pack up our house . You move into the van, you quit your job, break your lease, you take off on tour and you come back and you crash at your friend's house, you know? You might be homeless technically but you're just crashing with friends. It's not like it was really bad, it kinda sucked but you know, whatever. You get to go on tour, so f--k it. Who cares?
PW: What was it that sparked the interest to get back together after your brief break up?
CW: The fact that we pretty much couldn't stop hanging out with each other. We broke up and we came home and we took a little bit of time off from each other, you know. Then we were hanging out, going to the bar, shooting pool together so we were like, "Why don't we just play?" You know what I mean. I was like, "I want to play with you guys," we didn't break up because we didn't want to play with each other, we broke up because we were driving each other crazy. Once we got a break we realized that all we needed was a break. That was probably the smartest, well not the smartest, but by dumb luck thing we ever did for our band. It really opened a lot of things up when we broke up. It sort of gave us the power to do it; you know what I mean? It will never get so out of hand that we won't be able to say, "F--k everything, our friendship is more important," it allowed us to do that. Breaking the band up really prioritized everything.
PW: Is it possible for you to say which one of your albums stands out as a favorite? My personal favorite is Forever and Counting.
CW: We were talking about this the other day, me and a buddy of mine, because everybody seems to be into a different record. A lot of people like Forever and Counting the best because it's more hardcore sounding. You know, I think every record kinda got this different thing, they represent different eras but to me I think, the first real record, Fuel for the Hate Game, that's where it started, that was the first time we sat down and were like, "Let's make an album."
It's not my favorite, that one and Caution are both my favorites. I like Fuel because it's like nobody knew who we were, we didn't care, it was just the four of us, and no one had really ever heard us before. So it's kind of just a very pure version of what we do, because it was the first time. It was really exciting, we were really doing a lot of brainstorming and really working tight together and taking it really, really, really seriously. You know we do that on every record but, not until Caution, you know, if Fuel is where we started then Caution is where we were headed. They are both really solid to me and they're the only two that stay solid the more that I listen to them.
PW: What are your expectations for SnoCore?
CW: Before we started, I was looking at the line up and you know, Sparta, Glassjaw, Dredg, and I was really stoked that none of the bands sounded like each other.
PW: Yeah, I noticed that too when I saw the line up.
CW: Like, COMPLETELY different bands, and I love touring like that because that means every band on this tour can do whatever they want, you know what I mean? Like we can all just do the weirdest shit we want and still it will kind of make sense because the show is all kind of all over the place, so I was really stoked about that. It allows us to play some of our more groovy songs; some of the more improvised kind of stuff we do on stage.
PW: So you've been able to find yourself doing what your expectations were now that you've been on the tour for a while?
CW: Yeah, pretty much. You know, and I don't think any of the bands really knew each other and I haven't seen anybody even have a disagreement with each other, everybody's getting along so well and I'm pretty sure everybody's strangers so it's really neat, it's a cool tour.
PW: Are you disappointed that the tour isn't going through the Southeast of the country, closer to where you are from?
CW: I'm mega disappointed. I was bummed out about that, but at the same time it's not really like SnoCore belongs down there [Florida]. It kinda bums me out because we're going all around the country with these bands and I don't think they know how awesome the scene is in the South, you know? And it bums me out when tours don't come through because that means people don't get to see Atlanta and Orlando and Tampa, Gainesville, Chapel Hill and Charlotte and Columbia. We've been touring there for years and it's a bummer that we're not going near any of 'em.
PW: What is the scene like in Florida?
CW:It's a bigger stage than you'd think, it's pretty much all over the place. South Florida is really, really urban, obviously. Lot of hardcore, lot of hip-hop, lot of techno down there. We live closer to Georgia than we do Miami and we live in a college town so half the people in our town are college kids so it's the middle of the state. There's not a beach around, so you have a bunch of college kids sitting around putting songs together. It's a different vibe. Then you have Tampa; Tampa's always had a pretty strong metal scene, really strong punk scene.
PW: What kinds of things does Hot Water Music do whenever you have a break?
CW: Um, well we just had the longest break we've had in five years, we took three months off this winter and Chuck [Ragan, vocals and guitar] went out to Mammoth in California and did like a month and a half long snowboarding trip, I went out to LA and did some writing with some friends of mine out there for a few weeks and pretty much the rest of the time we were all just chillin' in Gainesville hanging out with our friends and visiting our families as much as we can, just getting back in the writing mode for me. Now that we're on this tour, we set up this really simple electronic drum kit in the back of our bus and run it through this little mini recording system and pump it into our stereo and we're fully demoing in the back of our bus. The whole break I was just kinda getting ready for that and working on some ideas and getting ready to start writing again.
PW: Are you happy on Epitaph?
CW: Yeah, man. When we first signed I was a little scared because it's such a big label, but actually they made sure that we met all the people at the label before we signed and made sure we got to see how they run it because they didn't want us to feel all nervous because they knew we all worked with small labels before. It's kind of always been like that, ever since we met them it's like whatever it takes for us, you know; they're always behind their bands one hundred percent. It's really nice to be able to work with people that you feel like you can rely on and know they're not gonna f--k up. They know what they're doing, you know that they believe in it for the right reasons and when you're working on a record it's really nice to feel like when you get done, you're gonna be able to hand it over to your friends who run this great label, it's really nice while you're working to be able to feel like somebody else isn't going to f--k it up once you get done with it.
PW: What's next for Hot Water Music?
CW: After this tour we're going to Japan, New Zealand and Australia and then after that we're going back over to England and all over the UK and then after that we're doing another full-on big States tour. During all this we'll be demoing and writing a new record so hopefully by the end of the year we'll be making some real headway on it.
PW: Who does your cover art?
CW: Scott Sinclair. He's up out of Boston. Actually, he's from Sarasota, the area where we're from, that's how we know him, he went to art school and that's when we all met him. Our first tour was with his old band, so he's just like an old friend of ours. When we first started he was like, "Hey, if you need any artwork just let me know," and when we finally got a record and started working on it we were like, "Hey, got any paintings?" That's how it's gone since then, but now it's more like we work together, we send him the lyrics, we send him the demos, we talk about themes with him and ideas, the points that we're working on within the songs and he does his interpretations of those ideas. So now we are working together. Before we were just friends that were doing our own thing and happened to start a really cool little relationship.
PW: Any chance we'll see the beards come back?
CW: I have a full-on beard right now. I don't know if I'll still have it, they're always growing. That has nothing to do with anything though, but yeah, that's funny .
For more information, which you really shouldn't need since Hot Water Music should be permanently featured in your stereo and vocabulary, check out www.hwmrock.com.
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