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Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Thanks to the expansion of The Rumble parties to now six cities a month, we're discovering a treasure trove of new artists in each market thanks to our partners in each city, and one of my current favorites has been finding out about HOTELS, a band from Seattle. They've done a great job of postering the city, as everywhere we walked we say the details for their upcoming show at the Sunset Tavern on August 8th. We requested and received their full-length, 'Where Hearts Go Broke' (Hidden Shoal Recordings) from their camp, and instantly the office had a new crush. We've started playing tracks like "Kite Fight" and "Cafe Martinique" on the Future Sounds radio show on WOXY recently, but this time we got personal and got in touch with the mastermind behind Hotels, Blake Madden, and captured this interview.....

FS: New York/Seattle? Why two cities?

BLAKE MADDEN: The band was started in NY around 2003 while I was living there. I made a personal choice in moving from NY to Seattle in 2005, but I didn't think the band had run its course yet, so instead of going the disingenuous route of starting a "new" band with the same sound and even pirating some of the same songs, I figured I would just set up a west coast division, with some new songs and some shared older ones.

FS: Hotels is a hard name to Google for a band. Does the name directly relate to the bi-coastal nature of your band?

BM: Tell me about it. "Travel" is one of the themes of the band and the music, the others being "Romance", "Solitude", and "Rest". But the name actually comes from my own personal thing for Hotels, which had me at the time of this band's inception working the night shift in a crappy chain of hotels in NY. My old band had just broken up. I didn't sleep well in the day time. I was sick all the time. I was reading Celine's "Journey To The End of The Night", where he talks about how living at night is a different world than living in the day time, and I was seeing it play out in front of me every night. Starting a new band and naming it Hotels almost seemed to make too much sense. Half the songs from the first album I wrote and practiced on my bass in the lobby of the hotel, usually between three and five AM.

FS: Your Myspace page reads that you have two bands, one on each coast. What's the score on your two bands? Who are the players and are they cool with being half a band?

BM: Well friend, here you can break the news that breaks our hearts. As of this writing, original Hotels keyboard player Rich Spitzer aka Rich II is mere months away from a permanent move to Japan, which will pretty much spell the official end of our original NY unit and east coast division.
In it's prime incarnation, Hotels east was me, Guitarist Rich Bennett (Rich 1), Spitzer, and Max Wood on drums. Max and I both moved away actually, but would come back to NY to record and play shows occasionally. I recruited Brendan Malec (guitar) and Michael Wilder (keys) in Seattle to play in Hotels west, and Max eventually moved up. Kyle Frankiewich replaced Michael in the past year.
So now Seattle is the official main branch of Hotels, although Rich Bennett is still in the fold and hopefully will continue to be for a long time. We actually had a time in between Michael leaving and Kyle coming in where we had some shows and no keyboard player and Rich Bennett flew out here, learned the parts and played them without a hitch, all the while keeping an eye on Brendan playing his original guitar parts. Kinda surreal. Kinda awesome.

FS: I read that all band members wear name tags on stage like a real hotel staff. I can respect the commitment to theme. Would you consider taking a page from Brian Eno, and instead of 'Music For Airports', creating 'Music For Hotels'? I bet that could score a sponsorship deal of some sort, perhaps the W Hotel? If Moby can do it, why not Hotels?

BM: "Music for Airports" is actually one of my favorite albums of all time. Do you know he was commissioned to do that for Heathrow airport, he delivered that perfect music, and they rejected it??? Absolutely, we'd love to do some thematic music for a hotel. Our music already has a lot of strong hotel themes; doomed romance, anonymity, secret identities, but I guess I wouldn't necessarily say it SOUNDS like it would be playing in a hotel. We'd slave over it, deliver it, and it'd probably be rejected, too. I was very disappointed to see that Moby album come out in stores. There's not a thing he can't ruin if he applies himself properly.

FS: Listening to Hotels is like a taking a shower with many of your favorite '80's & '90's acts all at once (mine anyway). You hear a range from Joy Division to Devo to The Cars to Luna to Stereolab in 'Where Hearts Go Broke'. Did you have older brothers or how is it you came to these influences?

BM: My friend Jason introduced me to Joy Division when I first started high school. Everything was new and exciting in life at that time, and Joy Division seemed to fit with that theme; they sounded very futuristic, like nothing I'd heard before. They still sound that way to me. The rest of those influences seemed to seep in naturally over time, but Joy Division was the one that just seemed the most immediate and jarring. I knew they were going to change my life from the start.

FS: How did Hidden Shoal Recordings come about? How did Perth, Australia, home to Luc Longley, find out about your band?

BM: You'd have to ask Rich Bennett as he got hooked up with them first with his band Monocle. He liked them as a receptive label passionate about the music they were putting out. We contacted them and have found it all to true in the process of putting out "Hearts".

FS: We're late to the game on Hotels (obviously), as this is your second album. That said, where are you at with the next collection of songs? Will it ride these influences further down the line or have you fallen into a different sound 'hole'?? Will it also come out on Hidden Shoal? Do you produce your recordings?

BM: The next album is more than half-written. It's a thematic piece called "On The Casino Floor"; a James Bond-esque epic about a secret agent trying to stop world destruction from a hotel/casino in outer space. I think (and hope) the sound influences on this one will be a little more nebulous and hard to place, and that's partly natural evolution of the band and partly by design. We've never been shy about our influences, but at the same time, you can only have the same two or three band names thrown back at you so many times before you say to yourself "okay, let's try not to get pigeonholed here." It's a bit of a double-edged sword; as fresh-eyed youths, we sought out the people who liked what we liked so that hopefully they would like us too. We welcomed being associated with our heroes in hopes that their fans could be our fans. Now as we mature, and establish our own foothold, we hope to be associated not with what other bands have done, but with what we have done. Instead of people hearing our music and saying "this sounds like band x and this sounds like band y", they can say "oh this sounds like a Hotels song". Thinking about these new songs- I think we're getting closer to that and we will keep getting closer with each new album.
We'll probably record this one by ourselves with our friend and producer Patrick Jones again (like the last one). We don't know it's ultimate fate, though, as it's still incubating right now.

FS: Coming back around on the initial question, we now understand why it's two cities, but if you had to pick, would it be Emerald City or the Big Apple?

BM: Seattle is my home. I've had much more fun visiting New York since I left than at any time when I lived there. I think there's a tourism ad campaign in there somewhere but it's currently escaping me.

FS: You just played the Capitol Hill Block Party - how was that? Did you catch any other bands that played? Jesus Lizard?

BM: The Block Party was amazingly fun. It was probably the biggest crowd we've ever played for. It was also amazingly hot and we were all ready to pass out by the end of our set. Still fun, though. We caught bits and pieces of bands throughout the day, but I missed most of the bands I would have wanted to see.

FS: What's your favorite thing about Seattle?

BM: Thai Tom, abundance of Pho restaurants

FS: What's your favorite dive bar in New York?

BM: Odessa. Cheap drinks. Good times. Soft serve ice cream next door.

FS: After Bumbershoot, will you be playing anywhere else on the west coast?

BM: We'll be playing a few shows down the coast in early October. We'll be heading as far down as San Francisco, playing the Retox lounge on October 10th.

FS: We're always curious to find out what our favorite new bands are listening to, and give them the opportunity to plug or name drop bands/artists that they admire that are up and coming and that we might not know about? Can you name a few? Perhaps a few in New York and a few in Seattle?

BM: I am currently geeking out over new albums by Grizzly Bear and Junior Boys. Max is rediscovering his inner Pat Metheny. Kyle is digging on Boards of Canada, and Brendan is listening to the Chicago Underground Quartet. And Rich Bennett just built his own plate reverb, so I'm sure he's only listening exclusively to that.

We're going to do our best to bring Hotels down the west coast, and thanks again to Blake for the time spent with us.

Download "Hydra" (mp3)

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