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Hot Water Music's Chris Wollard on Exister, The Band's First Record Without "Any Hang-Ups"

Hot Water Music
Hot Water Music
Marco Krenn

When you're a hard touring band, it takes some adjusting to actually get off the road.

Gritty Florida-based punk rockers Hot Water Music have nearly gotten the hang of this, taking a hiatus before releasing its eighth full-length record, Exister. Eight years after its last album, The New What Next, the record is exciting and powerful, the work of a band refreshed.

The melodic punk godfathers are currently in the thick of a tour with Rise Against and The Gaslight Anthem, which makes a stop at Mesa Amphitheatre on Friday, September 28.

We recently caught up with singer/guitarist Chris Wollard to discuss how taking breaks from the band can save friendships, his relief that fans enjoy Exister, and his enthusiasm to be back on the road.

See also: The Gaslight Anthem's Benny Horowitz on Handwritten and SB 1070

Up on the Sun: How have audiences been reacting to your new material? Chris Wollard: Ah, it's such a relief [laughs]. A relief? Sometimes you put out a record and it takes a while for people to really grab a hold of it. But this record, I don't know what it's been, but as soon as it came out, people started singing along to the songs. We've just been getting great, great responses during the shows and a lot of really great feedback. I don't know, it's been kind of surprising. We've been playing probably five songs a night off that new record. We get to mix in the new stuff and the old stuff, so we're really happy, too. It keeps us pumped up to do new songs.

How did this tour with Rise Against, and Gaslight Anthem happen? Kind of the same as every other tour, really. We've been friends with both bands for years-- just years and years. It kind of seemed like it was just a matter of time, but getting all three of us on one tour, I give Rise Against props for that, it's their tour. I guess they just wanted to bring out friends. That's kind of what it is, it seems like a regular punk tour to me [laughs], because that's how you usually do it. You just go out with your friends and play clubs, except for this is going to be gigantic, [with shows] at huge, huge places [laughs].

You guys got back together a few years ago, and you've had two hiatuses now. What happened? [Laughs] Both times? I don't know, I guess it's pretty simple. We just worked, and worked, and worked ourselves to the bone and toured. We never thought about the end, you just kind of kept going. At a certain point, you get sort of burnt out and you need to go home and recharge the batteries. You need to go home and reconnect with your wife and...I don't know, sometimes you don't notice it until it gets to that point where you really need an extended break, [and say to yourself] "I've got to go home."

It's really as simple as that, just giving each other the room to be people and after you're home for awhile, you become friends and, "Maybe we should do some shows, I'm kind of getting bored around here." We've all been friends our whole lives, so they never really felt like break ups to me, just oh, we're going to split up for a little bit and do our own thing and we'll get back together when it feels right. It's always been, both times, it's been the smartest decision in the world. When we come back together, we just feel a lot better.

You go on a nine month tour and at the end of that, you're not doing anybody any favors. You're burnt out, your voice is blown out and your body's just beat down. You take a break, go home and hang out with your family and you come back out. You're there because you want to be, not because you have to be, that's where we're back out now. We're more in control of our schedules and more in control of how much we're touring and when we're recording, when we're writing and I don't know, it just feels like a...that's how you keep it positive, that's how you stay friends [laughs]. You give each other room.

 

It's remarkable that in spite of side projects, you've had the same line up this whole time.

We grew up together, so we're all brothers, we're family. We all grew up together, we became men together. Everybody has to be on the same page, everybody's got to be into it at that moment, or else it just doesn't feel right. Standing on stage when everybody's burned out or people have problems at home and you just don't have time to deal with them, sometimes you've got to put the band off to the side. Our friendship's more important, this family's more important, we'll get back to the band when there's time. You can't let it take over. It just doesn't feel right. I don't know, we're kind of a weird band sometimes, but I really think that's what has enabled us to stay together for 18 years.

Exister is your first album in eight years. What were some of your biggest songwriting challenges with it? I don't know if it was songwriting challenges, the writing actually went pretty smooth. It was more just timing, logistics and timing. George [Rebelo] was out with Against Me!, Jason [Black] was out with Senses Fail, me and Chuck [Ragan] were both doing our own bands. Everybody's got a different touring schedule, everybody's got a different thing going on, so just because you're ready to go write and go practice doesn't mean that everybody else has that time right there.

It took awhile, just the more we talked about it and the more serious we got, the more ideas, songwriting that we had coming together, that's when we started setting the time aside. That's when we got serious about it. Once we got serious about it, we didn't really have any hang-ups. This is probably the first record ever where we didn't argue our way through a studio session, you know? But this was, everybody was on the same page and everybody was backing each other up. I don't remember any arguments, it was a lot of fun. If anything, our only hang up was that we had way too much material for one record [laughs].

Are you going to do anything with the leftover songs? Yeah, I'm sure we will. We're still writing, so we'll probably do another seven inch or two. We did one a couple years ago and that was a lot of fun, so probably just do more of that and I don't know, I'm kind of itching to do another full-length [laughs]. I had a lot of fun on that last one, I don't want to wait another eight years to do that again.

Really, the ideas haven't stopped. Once we begin writing, it just turns into a snowball and everybody is so excited right now and having so much fun. The ideas, it seems like there's no end to them. It's super fun, we go out on tour and our sound checks are, "Hey check out this idea, hey check out this idea."

It sounds like you're in a very good place right now. Are you taking any measures to make sure you don't overdo it like you've done in the past? We're just trying to be realistic. We're all in our late 30s and you've just got to be realistic about where you're at. I've got a 16-year-old kid, a couple of the guys are married. You've got to be realistic about your obligations at home. You have to feel like you're doing the right thing or else the road can be brutal. It's just live and learn, you figure out how to do it better all the time, like everything else.

Over the course of your 18 year career, what are some songs that never get old for you guys? It'll be different for everybody [laughs]. For you, personally. I guess "Turnstile" is a good example, that's on the first record and we still play that most of the time. There's something about it, it's got a good vibe to it. It's other songs, especially with this band because we try to experiment a lot within our songs and sometimes you try something new and it doesn't work, and sometimes you try something new and it's awesome. That's the most fun I've had playing that in 15 years; it's constantly changing.


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