The Hotelles are a 3-piece indie band from Kent: Tom, 20, is the lead guitarist; Ben, 18, plays bass, and Sam, 14, is on drums. Both Tom and Ben study at Goldsmiths. Their single, Aviators, is out now on Spotify and itunes, and the band will be releasing their EP in the New Year. I met up with the band shortly after their Halloween gig at the Amersham Arms to find out more about them and their music…
To start from the beginning, how old were you when you started playing music individually? Was it love at first sight or was it not til later you discovered an enthusiasm for music?
TOM: “It was love at first sight, definitely, but I don’t know if the music was that loveable. One of the first records we listened to – Franz Ferdinand – I think made us really want to get into music. I started learning the guitar when I was thirteen, and Ben would’ve been eleven, and Sam would’ve been eight.”
SAM: “The only reason I started the drums was that you two had already taken the good parts in a band. I was a bit envious of the guitar.”
How did the idea of a family band come about?
TOM: “I think me and Ben started together, because we were listening to music and wanted to have a go at it.”
BEN: “It wasn’t all three of us at first but it would be a bit awkward if we didn’t let Sam in the band, seeing as he lives in the next room…”
SAM: “It probably would’ve broken up the family.”
BEN: “Yeah, it would’ve been awkward at dinner.”
Do you find that the dynamics of your family roles affect your roles in the band, or do you relate to each other differently as band members to how you do as brothers?
BEN: “Yeah, Sam’s the dictator – the alpha male.” (laughs)
SAM: “I’m quite quiet but I use telepathy.”
BEN: “No, there’s no real hierarchy.”
TOM: “We’re all on the same sort of level I think – no-one has the final word. I couldn’t just come in and say ‘Sam, this is what you’re playing’ or ‘Ben, this is what you’re playing’ because I don’t play the drums or bass.
SAM: “Ben’s often the ideas man.”
BEN: “Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that. But it’s not like some bands where they have a frontman, or a couple of frontmen, writing the songs and then saying ‘Okay, you do this.’
How and when did you start performing live?
BEN: “I think we started performing live before we were good enough to start performing live…”
SAM: “Or before we were good enough to start performing live to people we didn’t know.”
BEN: “When we first started, we were too young to play in pubs, so we started doing house parties. We started seriously gigging in about 2010. We changed our name to the Hotelles and got a lot more serious about writing, gigging, performing. We’ve always enjoyed gigging – it’s the best part.”
How do you find the experience now? Do you still get stage fright?
SAM: “We’re a lot less nervous now – personally, the first few gigs that we played, I was shuddering.”
TOM: “Despite the fact that there were about two people in the room!”
BEN: “I think now we’ve got better attendance, the gigs get much better – we get a buzz out of it.”
SAM: “We definitely play better when there are more people, because we feed off the energy of the crowd.”
TOM: “The Halloween show at the Amersham was quite well attended – we managed to fill out the room by the end of it.”
SAM: “We had a small mosh pit!”
In what way do your live performances affect your songwriting? Do you write for the stage/ a particular audience?
TOM: “We’ve recorded a song recently that’s got four guitar parts on it – it’s a big, epic, end-of-set festival tune, but it doesn’t cross over live at all. We really like it, but it’s the one song we’ve written without thinking about playing it live. When we write, we always think about what it’ll sound like live – you’ve got to think about that. We’re definitely a live band.”
BEN: “Definitely – quite heavy and loud and fast. We’ll find a way around it and play it one day.”
Are you looking to get signed? Do you feel that a contract with a label can help or hinder a band?
TOM: I think it’s dependent on the company. Our producer, Cam Blackwood, worked with a band who he says were just like us – young, ready to get signed, energetic. They signed to a major label pretty much straight away, from being unknown with no fan base, and now they’re not a band anymore. He said he regretted it – it was too soon. They went from being absolutely nothing to absolutely everything without much material or sense of identity. Obviously every band wants to get signed, but you can put your music out yourself – we’ve grown up with bands who are signed to independent labels.
It seems like the music industry is in an interesting phase at the moment because a lot of labels don’t have the money to promote small bands, and it’s becoming a lot easier to promote yourself through the internet, so it’s interesting to see what other musicians think about the situation.
Anyway, you’re all at different points in your lives with other stuff going on – University and school work. How do you fit music around that?
BEN: Slightly badly… I haven’t actually gone to any lectures in the last week. But we do fit it in pretty well considering Sam’s an hour away on the train.
SAM: It’s quite fun to be sitting in the middle of a double English lesson and think, ‘Oh hang on, I’ve got a gig after this.’
TOM: We rehearse whenever we have a gig coming up – Sam finishes school at 4, gets here at 6, we finish at 10 and have a Nandos’. Done!
BEN: It was easier when we all lived at home and could just get in from school and write a tune.
What advice do you have for other young people looking to make a career out of music?
BEN: It’s hard to get gigs when you’re underage! We’ve actually been turned away from venues we’re playing at because Sam’s underage. Then again, at the Amersham arms, it was about two in the morning and he just strolled right in. So our advice is… be older.
Or get a fake ID. Finally, where can Smiths readers find your music and do you have any upcoming shows that you want to let people know about?
TOM: Our website: www.thehotelles.com. Or www.facebook.com/thehotelles. We’re on Soundcloud and Youtube as well. You can find our single, Aviators, on Spotify and itunes. And we’ve got a gig at Camden Rock on the 23rd November.