It’s been an unpredictable, bumpy ride for Hot Water Music. Forming in 1993, the band seemingly broke up a short time later but reformed in 1998. Just when things seemed to be going well, vocalist and guitarist Chuck Ragan left causing the band to go on hiatus in 2005. Luckily, it didn’t last long as the entire band reunited in 2007 and haven’t looked back since. After releasing their seventh album Exister in 2012, they took a five-year break before dropping their new album, Light It Up.
Five years wouldn’t be considered a long break between albums 15 years ago, but in an era where fans are connected with their favorite bands via social media five years feels like 20. Many fans were eager to learn what took the band so long between albums. Turns out the answer is something we can all relate to, not enough time. “We’re busy. We have jobs and families,” says bassist Jason Black. “We don’t do HWM full time. We’re also not on a record-release-tour schedule with this band. We’re not trying to ‘make it.’ We’re just trying to put out good records and enjoy playing shows we can make time for.”
Recorded in Gainesville, FL, the album was made in four weeks. That sounds like a short amount time for most bands but for HWM its business as usual. “Every record we’ve released–with the exception of maybe one–was recorded in four weeks or less. So [that] isn’t unusual for us,” says Black. Similar to other releases, like Fuel for the Hate Game, the band chose not to hire a producer hoping to get a rawer sound even if the thought of flying solo unnerved them. “We made the decision this time because we wanted to make a more raw, stripped down record,” he says. “And we also wanted to make something that was 100% ours.”
The band took a risky chance and it paid off. Light It Up dropped in September to positive reviews from critics and fans alike. They supported the release with a short run of dates, including a set at Chicago’s Riot Fest, where fans greeted them with welcoming arms. With the album release out of the way, the band has their sights set on touring for 2018. While they have a handful shows in the US for 2018, there hasn’t been any word on a European tour. Black says HWM have no plans to do a “full-fledged tour,” but are “trying to at least get a few shows in everywhere.”
Despite the band’s bumpy history and not being “full time” as Black mentioned, they’ve been making their own brand of punk rock for over 20 years. The genre is still alive and well, but many would argue it bears little resemblance to its 70s origins. People are still having arguments over what punk rock means. So what is punk rock to Black? “I don’t [even] know,” he admits. “I have my ideas but they’re not the same as everyone else’s. That’s something great about punk–it can be whatever you need it to be.”
At the end of the day, HWM isn’t concerned with adhering to someone else’s definition of punk rock. They just want to make good music and have fun while doing it. When thinking back to their new release, Black reflects: “Our goal was to make the best record we could with the songs we had, which is always the goal.” There’s no doubt they’ve achieved this goal yet again with their latest album.
Light It Up is out now. Hot Water Music kicks off their 2018 tour January 5 in Los Angeles, CA. European dates follow in April. Check out their website for a complete list of dates.
Interview conducted by Janine Halcyon