The Hotelier Want to Cut Through the Bro Culture Crap
We talked to the Massachusetts band about their new album, bro-dudes, and how much they're willing to pay for Brand New tickets.
It’s rarer than you think for bands that could comfortably occupy spaces as perennial headliners to change creative gears completely. Much has been made of Deafheaven’s shift from their more straightforward black metal first album Roads to Judah to their transcendent, critically acclaimed Sunbather; In the punk community, Philadelphia’s Blacklisted comes to mind as a band that had settled into their niche blend of raw, riff-based hardcore, honest and gutwrenching songwriting, and a legendary live show when they decided to go off the rails and make one of the best rock records of the past ten years, No One Deserves To Be Here But Me.
So it’s even rarer when a band that’s just starting to carve out a place for themselves takes a step in a new direction. But in a way, Massachusetts’ the Hotelier was the ideal candidate for this; like Hostage Calm when that band dropped Lens, the band (then known as The Hotel Year) had been pigeonholed as a certain kind of band, despite the reality that they were creating more interesting and thoughtful music than most of their peers. Couple this with the fact that their lyrical content reads like a Propagandhi-era John K. Samson poetry collection, and the band was an anomaly that was just begging to reach new heights creatively.
Their new record, Home, Like Noplace Is There, not only reaches those heights: it leaps beyond them. The album’s introduction (aptly titled, “An Introduction To The Album”) is a Broadway number tailored to kids who grew up on Latterman and/or Mineral; “Your Deep Rest” grooves in and out of the author’s personal reconciliation with the death of a loved one; and the crown jewel is “Housebroken," a rollercoaster ride that uses the metaphor of a pet-owner relationship to dig into the mindset behind an abusive relationship. In short, this is a huge step forward for the band, and it has the makings of a defining record for its genre.
Noisey spoke with the Hotelier vocalist/bassist Christian Holden in the middle of their full US tour with ososoosoo. Listen to “Your Deep Rest” from Home, Like Noplace Is There and check out the interview below.
Noisey: How has the reception to your new stuff been on this tour?
Christian: Pretty great. You know, the shows aren't packed out every night or anything too wild. But like, certain shows have been killer and seeing people know the words to those new songs we released is cool. It's slow but showing that people are already kind of invested in the record. Couldn't really ask for more.
It Never Goes Out came out in 2011 and you've talked before about how the process of releasing it was a huge bummer. Was there ever a point where you thought the Hotelier might be done?
Nah. I don't even think releasing it was the problem. We released it fine in January 2011 by ourselves. I don't get why our label at the time wanted to re-release it or make some weird thing out of it. The bigger issue that came out of the whole thing was being young and never experiencing the biz side of stuff before. Like small internal tension because we didn't know what the opportunities we were being offered meant and we were like, still in high school. But it never soured us to the point of quitting. We were content doing what we were doing at the time I was just more like "fuck the industry." Still kinda am.
When Latterman broke up, they talked about the "bro-dude" mentality that was pervading the shows they were playing at that point. Do you think that's still the case?
No doubt. It's called patriarchy. I feel like calling it a mentality makes it seem less ingrained than it is. It's most everywhere in our world, so our scenes are no different. It happens more blatantly in scenes where women don't hold important positions in that scene. But even in scenes like Boston where some women have taken important roles and do really good work to make spaces more intentional, it seems like it becomes this "passing as a good dude to gain access" thing for some people. Like, cool, you aren't wearing some shirt that makes violence against women seem edgy... but you participate in this mass of dudes pushing all the women out of the front, or talk to me like your woman friend isn't even there, or say weird objectifying stuff about the performing woman artist, or tell a trans-woman artist to "calm down" about their identity, or tell the woman who originally point out these weird dynamics that they are being "crazy" or irrational. It's straight-rooted in how men are already taught to value women.
Did that influence you to move in a different direction on this record?
If so, it wasn't really conscious. But I mean, all that bro stuff is very superficial, you know? So like, there is an effort for the work we were making to cut through that crap and ideally meet people at a deeper level than their outer layers. But I'm sure most artists will say the same thing.
This record has a lot of different sounds and styles shining through it, even within individual songs, but "Life In Drag" is the most unique song musically in your entire catalog, channeling some early Thursday/Planes Mistaken For Stars vibes in it. Was it a conscious decision to make that one stand out in contrast to the other songs? Were you worried at all that it would mess with the flow of the record?
Yes and yes. That's probably the song I feel the most involved with on this record. And while I don't really feel that it's necessary to explain my feelings about it, I felt too connected to really care if stylistically it sounded different (which I don't really feel like it does) to other people. So instead, we just worked hard to make it have it's place in the flow of the record.
One of the later songs on the record reuses some lines from a song you wrote in 2009. That's some serious fucking reach; I can't even remember songs I wrote last year. What was the reasoning for that?
Well, the person to whom I was writing that song (“Discomfort Revisited”) is the same person I wrote to a song on We Are All Alone. I felt the original had an attitude that I wasn't really happy associating with that person, so I kind of took another shot at it. But both were written under similar contexts so it just kind of fit. Good pick up!
In a weird way, this record stuck out to me as specifically made by a Massachusetts band. Angry, yet intelligent about your anger, kind of like the hardcore bands that came from your area (Last Lights, Have Heart, American Nightmare) that didn't thrive off of beating the shit out of people. Did you draw a lot of influence from those local bands?
Wow. Yeah, I mean the scene Chris and I grew up in was where all those Blackstone Valley bands came from so like I went to Last Lights first show and saw of their earlier bands and am now friends with the folks that were in that band. That whole group and the other bands they surrounded themselves with just made challenging music that was honestly ahead of its time. They all sort of set the bar high as far as performance and aesthetic. Last Lights in particular did so lyrically and I'd be lying to say that Dom's work wasn't influential on my writing. It was the norm to be conscious of your angst and disillusionment.
You're a lot more politically outspoken than, unfortunately, a lot of bands that are popular within the current DIY scene are. What's inspired you to write more politically-charged music than some of your peers?
Inspired? Hm. I don't really know how to answer that without just saying "the world" or "the people in my life." You know? Like, politics are the reason the violence or fear of that we live under. It's the reason we give up our time to meaninglessness run by people absorbing power in return for the things we love. It decides the foundations we build ourselves on. It's just life to me and I'm writing about life.
What are you listening to in the van right now?
Kids Bop Sings Monster Ballads.
On a scale from $100 to 400 in StubHub ticket prices, how much does J.D. love Brand New?
J.D. says he once paid $98 on StubHub for Brand New tickets in 2009. But Thrice, Glassjaw, Manchester Orchestra, and Kevin Devine were also on the show. Worth it?
Home, Like Noplace Is There drops tomorrow on Tiny Engines.
Paul Blest is on Twitter, searching for interesting trades for Brand New tickets - @pblest