INTERVIEW + NEW MUSIC: Hotels
I am continuously blown away by the amount of talented people that reside within the confines of our city of Seattle. Whether it’s poetry, visual art, writing, dancing, podcasting, making music or whatever other crazy rad thing someone does; this city and the residents within are on fleek. Side note: I recently learned what it is to be “on fleek”, so I apologize if I sound like sooooo yesterday. All of this prelude brings me to Hotels, which is the moniker of composer and bassist Blake Madden. His new album Night Showers is an album 4 years in the making and it is one such album that upon first listen, you soon realize you’ve somehow listened to it, like, alllll day.
From Press Release:
On Night Showers, Madden translates Hotels’ usually synth-heavy sound to a largely acoustic ensemble featuring vibraphone, trumpet, violin, and cello. The instrumentation has changed, but the relentless pursuit of hook-laden pop melodies remains the same.
I had the chance to chat with Blake Madden about Night Showers, his first realization of recognition, working in an actual hotel and action figures. I also caught up with Irene Barber, an album collaborator, vocalist and musician about her collective No Genre tapes.
ALSO: Make sure to see Hotels this Thursday at Lo-Fi if you know what’s good for ya.
the mixtape: What are you doing right now besides answering this question?
Hotels: I’m about to mail a kickball to somebody.
tm: What have you been up to these last 4 years? Were you in isolation (as your PR puts it) focusing completely on this new record? Or, was it a mix of creativity and other life things that had you away from the scene?
H: I put out an EP or two in that time, but the live Hotels band went kaput about three years ago. There was some wallowing, self-pity, and ego death that followed. Then I started taking theory and composition lessons so I could understand and communicate musical ideas better in the future. I joined a Prince tribute band. And I finished a novel.
tm: Over the 4 year hiatus, did you at any point feel a certain pressure to put something out so as to not be forgotten by the Seattle scene?
H: Not at all, because we had already been forgotten by the Seattle scene a few times before that. I think worrying about that stuff actually hastened our downfall: We spent too much time thinking about what would keep us present in people’s minds and ‘in the scene’, instead of worrying about making the best music possible and letting the chips fall where they may. The hard parts for me were constantly watching other people perform their own music on stages and missing it very much, and trying to keep what I was working on a secret while simultaneously trying to dispel the notion that I’d given up on music completely.
tm: Night Showers was produced by Seattle visionary producer/engineer/multi-instrumentalist Erik Blood and features guest vocalists Irene Barber [Dust Moth, Eighteen Eyes, Erik Blood], Adra Boo [Fly Moon Royalty] and Nicole Peoples [NighTrain]. Was gathering guest vocals a collaborative decision between yourself and Erik Blood? Please talk a bit about how this all came about…
H: I wanted to have a bunch of singers on the album because I like to include people in the party, and I’m not always a fan of my own voice. I’ve worked with Adra a few times already and I wrote the song “Wildwood” specifically for her to sing. I wanted to work with Irene from forever ago, then Erik started working with her while I was out of action and I got insanely jealous, but hey, let’s just say we had the same good idea. Nicole–and Taryn and Selena of the late great NighTrain–are good friends of mine and I knew I wanted them to sing on “Linnette” from the get go. I had people penciled in to sing songs and parts written for them before I even asked them about it. Is that creepy? Presumptuous? I dunno. I just need a lot of ingredients in the soup.
tm: Can you recall your first realization of recognition, re: your music?
H: Do you mean the first time I understood that people were actually listening to my music? I can’t really recall it, but every once in a while someone emails out of the blue and says something like ‘I love this track. I’ve been listening to it on repeat all day,’ and that kind of thing blows my mind. I try to hang on to those memories as much as possible because in the end that’s all that matters: can you move someone, anyone; can you make their day better?
tm: What does the title Night Showers mean to you?
H: For me it means showering at night, but it is open to interpretation. You could be thinking of a meteor shower, or maybe you’re walking through a park at night, a guy jumps out of the bushes and opens his trenchcoat and flashes you– he’s a Night Show-er.
I shower almost exclusively at night, just before bed, as a way to decompress from the day. And most people shower in the morning right after they get up . These are two totally opposite methodologies, so which one is right and which one is wrong? Maybe you think there’s no wrong way to take a shower and maybe you’re right. But there are a billion other things that fit that same paradigm that we instantly classify as right or wrong, when maybe they’re just a different approach. Sometimes you’re with the crowd, sometimes you’re a loner going in the opposite direction; you present your choice to the world and then deal with the world’s interpretation of it.
tm: I HAVE to ask just because it’s the name of your band…over the years have you had an AWFUL experience in an actual brick and mortar hotel?
H: I used to work the graveyard shift in a chain of dubious hotels in New York City. It was dark–literally and figuratively–bad things happen late at night, and I got to see some of them: people crying and fighting in stairwells, junkies, the dregs. Also, when you don’t see daylight except for an hour or two right when you’re trying to go to bed, your head gets a little messed up. I used to bring my bass to work to pass the time and to keep from freezing in the underheated lobby. My old band had just broken up and I was writing new, different, darker songs for a new project. If only I could think of a name for it…
tm: From Bandcamp:
Hotels will return with: “Great Soups”. What does this mean?
H: The credits to James Bond movies always end with a tease of the next movie: “James Bond will return in ‘Lazer Pizza'” or whatever. So I like to tease the next album in the credits to the current one. The next Hotels album will be called “Great Soups”. Each song will be the name of a soup I love (because I really do love soup), and maybe it will be just about the soup itself, or maybe it will be about the feeling the soup gives me, or a specific time or memory I associate with it. There isn’t enough music or literature praising soup, even though everyone knows it’s the perfect food and the only one that translates across every single culture in the world.
tm: If Hotels was an action figure what accessories would you have?
H: An exploding heart? A gun that shoots tears? A six-demon bag.
tm: What is it about Blake Madden and Hotels that made you want to add him to your “growing tape collection”?
Irene Barber: Blake produces that stylish and elegant soundtrack sound that I pine for. It’s a familiar sound that he takes and makes completely his own. I want the tape collection to be a space to express and support my appreciation for a range of sounds that share in this highly individualistic feel. Adding Hotels was a pleasant surprise. I thought I’d slowly get the collection going with work I was directly involved with this year (Erik’s releases and my forthcoming solo e.p.), and then grow from there. Then Blake introduced me, and gave me the opportunity to contribute to, Night Showers. So in all ways, Blake’s record fits the No Genre theme for 2016.
tm: Why create a collection specific to cassette tapes? Tapes must be making enough of a comeback…
IB: Tapes do appear to be making a comeback on a more mainstream level, but this is due, in part, to the independent bands and record labels that have kept cassette culture alive and well all along. I am not a cassette tape enthusiast. For me, tapes just fit the “doing my own thing” attitude of the artists I’d like to see represented on No Genre. Their distinctive canvas and sound quality make them the ideal medium for the unique artists I want to support.