“We're all at the bar drinking Stella Artois, referencing Sartre and Danny Dyer”, sings Hotel Lux frontman Lewis Duffin on latest single Tabloid Newspaper.
It’s this whimsical nod to a favourite British pastime that makes the rising London five-piece a band such a relatable proposition.
Their lyrics touch upon history, politics, lad culture and class over an infectious, quintessentially British garage rock sound influenced by The Libertines, The Clash and The Specials.
And like those before them, this bunch of twentysomethings could be the next great British hope.
They’ve already supported the likes of Fontaines DC and Shame while their debut EP Barstool Preaching is set for release this year.
It's set to be a huge 2020 for Hotel Lux.
Daily Star Online caught up with Lewis Duffin to talk about their career so far, their influences, their forthcoming EP and hopes for 2020 and beyond.
Hi Lewis. Hotel Lux are from the south coast in Portsmouth but now based in London. How did the band get together?
“We met at college initially. We had been in bands before, mostly playing around Southampton in venues like the Joiners. Pompey wasn’t very good for it, it didn’t have many venues.
“Once we realised we were moving to London, those of us from that sort of scene just thought we'd give it a go. I had never done any singing before so it was a weird one initially but we got into a recording studio and went from there.
“We did our first gig as Hotel Lux in a Portsmouth venue that I can’t even remember the name of. It was with HMLTD – I don’t even know if it still exists! Everything in Portsmouth seems to close down after a year of trying.
“I enjoyed it as a first gig – it was nice to play in Pompey. The second was in a place in Southampton called Lennons with HMLTD.
“I’m surprised the scene in the south isn’t stronger – both are university cities. That’s where scenes tend to thrive. If you look at Bristol, that’s one of the strongest at the minute, partly because it’s such a big uni city.”
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What’s Portsmouth like growing up and for a band first starting out?
“We are from Fareham, so it’s a bit different. It’s a weird one. It’s a small town so moving to London after that was crazy. When I go back now it’s hilarious. Everyone knows each other. Going to the pub on New Year’s Eve was like a school reunion. Moving to London after that it’s massive.
“It’s not daunting but there is such a difference between London and small town mentality. Fareham does have that – they think it’s the best place in the world. I’ve got friends from home who I don’t think will ever leave. Some have 'Up the Fareham' tattooed on them.”
With songs like the English Disease, Tabloid Newspaper and The Last Hangman, would it be fair to say Hotel Lux music has a quintessentially British feel? Did you set out to be like that when you started out?
“The sound comes from my influences musically and outside of music. It’s not like in a patriotic sense but more social commentary. It’s the most comfortable lyrics I write.
“The bands I loved growing up were The Specials, The Clash, The Libertines, all had that same sort of quintessentially British feel. So did the films I watched and the books I read.
“History is something I’ve always been interested in. My dad was a skinhead growing up and I was fascinated about that. After being a skinhead he was a casual – both are very British subcultures I was interested in because of my dad. Then I went on finding out more and more about it.”
In your songs you tackle subjects like UK history, politics and class structure but with a light-hearted twist to it. Is it important for bands to touch upon similar subjects?
“It is important but it’s not for every band. Every band that I really loved had done things like that. I felt it was important and something I wanted to do – tackle certain subjects.
"With certain subjects it’s tongue-and-cheek, not to make it humorous or anything because there’s a certain way to approach things that can be quite awkward I guess."
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What is your usual writing process? Do you come up with the songs or is it a more collaborative effort?
“It changes a lot. I’m constantly writing little lines in my phone notes.
“Most of the time I’ll sit down with Sam (Coburn) – the guitarist and keyboardist – and he’ll have an idea. We’ll sit down and take it where we want it. For the English Disease we made up a Spotify playlist of songs we liked.”
Would you say each writing session is different?
“It definitely varies but in terms of coming up with the lyrics first, the only time we ever did that was for Envoi. Ever since then I’ve written over a riff and music.”
Were there any bands that influenced the Hotel Lux sound?
“As with the bands that influenced me, we loved Dr Feelgood, Ian Drury, that pub rock stuff, there’s elements of all of that in there, but then there’s also Gang of Four. They’re strong British bands.”
Your debut EP Barstool Preaching is coming out this year on Nice Swan Records (Sports Team, Pip Blom). Did you enjoy writing and recording it?
“It’s been great. We’ve only released singles so far but doing something a bit longer was really enjoyable.
“We did it in two recording sessions. The first three songs we recorded was in a studio in Ramsgate. That’s a nice area. I think it’s got the biggest Wetherspoons in the country, therefore it’s got the biggest Wetherspoons that exists. We didn’t actually visit it!
“The other session we did was at a studio in Eastcote. That’s a lovely studio. We felt very comfortable in there. It’s always nice going over that way as west London is very alien to me living in east. It’s probably the nicest area of London.”
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Tell me more about your latest single, Tabloid Newspaper. What’s the reaction been like?
“It’s a dig at myself more than anything. It’s comparing my songwriting to the classic tabloid journalist cut paste and twist. No offence!
“It was taking the p*** out myself more than anything. There’s that line in it “We're all at the bar drinking Stella Artois, referencing Sartre and Danny Dyer”. We’d written a lot of song around that point.
“Tabloid Newspaper is a very introspective look at my songwriting process. If you listen to what we’ve done recently Envoi, Hangman and Daddy, this one is more of a pop song. It’s got a good chorus. It’s faster. It’s more fun.”
Can we expect more of that sound from Hotel Lux?
“Definitely. We’ve experimented with it a lot now and on the EP we’ve found what’s our sound at the minute. We’ve found a Hotel Lux sound.”
British culture is regularly referenced in your music but what do you think of the state of play is at the moment in UK politics?
“We’re at the ages where it’s going to affect us more and more as we’re leaving university and becoming adults. The last election was so sad. I feel very apathetic post that election because I got so involved as it was the first time I felt, as a 21 year old, that I could get active with it. But it went the way it did.”
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Looking ahead, do you think it’s going to play a role in what you write about, i.e. the political landscape of the country?
“It will affect us a lot as a band when we leave the EU in terms of movement within Europe. It will affect touring a lot.
“I’ve heard plenty of theories but the reality is you don’t know until you know the deal. I genuinely think we’re the best exporter of music in the world.”
How would you describe the London music scene right now?
“It’s a weird one. When we moved here it was when bands like Shame, Goat Girl, HMLTD, and Sorry were first playing at the Windmill (Brixton), and now they’re playing massive venues. It’s weird seeing the rise of the London scene. There are plenty of others now, like Squid etc.
“It’s weird where we fit in in that because we were there at the beginning. Shame were the first wave now Squid are new wave with Black Country New Road, Black Midi, and the Speedy Wunderground stuff… PVA now too, which is really interesting. I never really know where we sit on that spectrum.
“It’s quite nice to be an outsider in a sense. We’ve never been properly thrown into it. You know when bands get put into one category or into one scene.
“It’s nice to be our own entity. We spent a long time feeling sorry for ourselves on that we hadn’t got a big deal but we’ve got to the stage now where I like it.”
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Looking at the bands you’ve had support slots with, like Slaves and Fontaines DC, what did you learn from those shows and bands?
“Slaves was good fun. We learned a lot about what goes into it. You think their songs are very basic but they’re really not. A lot of hard work goes into it. The soundbites they do.
“They tell little stories and they really engage the crowd. They do it every night.
“I always remember a long time ago The Orwells abusing the Arctic Monkeys for doing that. You need that at the end of the day. People enjoy those little stories.
“I can’t remember the song specifically but they do the same introduction. The best live bands you see are the best at engaging their audience. I think Sports Team are the best example of that recently.”
You’ve got live shows lined up in the early part of 2020 – are you looking forward to them?
“Yes we are. In February we have our first headline shows, which will be interesting. I’m really excited. It’s the longest time we would have been on the road too.”
You’re part of the Nice Swan label, what’s it like to be signed to them?
“They’re great. It’s what we want to do but with their guidance, which is perfect. It’s a nice label to be part of. If you look at what they’ve released from the likes of Sports Team, Pip Blom, everything they’ve done has been a success. That instils us with a lot of confidence.”
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Are there plans for an album over the next 12 months or further down the line?
“Not yet but it’s on our minds. It’s something we’d love to do. At the moment it’s all about touring and pushing the EP. At the next stage we will have a discussion about that.”
Is there an ultimate goal for Hotel Lux?
“It’s been a case of ticking off one dream at a time. Starting off playing a show, touring Europe and you tick it off as it goes along.”
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