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Released 27th January 2023
Hotel Lux today announce their debut album Hands Across The Creek, out January 27th on The state51 Conspiracy. The Portsmouth/London band released a critically acclaimed debut EP in 2020 and have spent the subsequent period writing and honing this debut LP, which is produced by Bill Ryder-Jones. There has been press support from the likes of So Young, NME and DIY along with radio plays from Steve Lamacq and Iggy Pop. 'Common Sense' takes songwriting influence from The Beautiful South and lyrical inspiration from RMT strikers and trade union leader Mick Lynch. The use of direct and plain-English reveals an incisiveness and a considered contemplation of modern Britain in 2022.
Once contenders for the mantle of Britain’s most self-conscious band — guilty, by their own admission, of pandering to audiences’ tastes following their move from Pompey to London — Hotel Lux have crafted a bold and bright identity that is truly their own on their brilliant debut album Hands Across The Creek. All it took was for their wildest dreams to be dashed.
“We always cared too much about how we were going to be perceived,” bass player Cam Sims recalls of those early days, as Hotel Lux became entwined in South London music scene folklore. It seems silly, now: the band’s early, clattering pub-rock singles received widespread acclaim from the offset – their acute social commentary and raw passion greater assets, perhaps, than they gave themselves credit for. But a sense of vulnerability endured.
Anxieties aside, Hotel Lux — completed by acerbic lead vocalist Lewis Duffin, guitarist Sam Coburn, drummer Craig MacVicar, and new members Max Oliver (guitar) and Dillon Home (organ; violin) — found themselves on the path to major success in 2020 around the release of the Barstool Preaching EP. Iggy Pop was singing their praises on the radio, and the band themselves were preparing for their big break in America via SXSW Festival. Then, the world shut down and their Stateside debut was cancelled. “We were gutted,” Lewis remembers. “Everything had been pretty exciting for us up until that point.”
Hotel Lux were left stumped, says Cam: “it was the most fragile we’ve been”. Original guitarist Jake Sewell even jumped ship, leaving the band to move to Amsterdam. But the surviving members remained focused – opting to put the meagre funds that remained from their America budget towards creating an album of their own. But first, they had to write some songs.
“It took a long, long time,” Lewis says of the writing process for what would eventually be their debut. Making songs about wearing gloves and going to Sainsbury’s at 6am was hardly proving worthwhile, and there were “a lot of arguments” as the band struggled to settle on a sound to call their own. “Craig and Sam got really hooked on ESG,” Lewis explains — referring to the ‘80s New York post-punk band known for their funky rhythms and simplistic refrains. “I hated that. It was doing my head in.”
But with new guitarist Max (of fellow South London band LEGSS) bringing a “scratchy and harsher, more tone-y Telecaster sound” with him in 2020, the roots of Hotel Lux’s transformation were soon in place. The band’s classic influences — Dr Feelgood, The Stranglers and Ian Dury — would mesh with the sounds of artists like Neil Young, Brian Eno and The Waterboys as Hotel Lux spread their wings while remaining faithful to their roots. (It’s a truth reflected in the album title — a phrase Lewis picked up from his Dad’s mates, which he believed to refer to the Portsmouth-Fareham connection.) “We ended up doing the whole ‘haha, that’s what the fourth album will sound like’ thing — but ended up actually doing it on the first album’, says Cam.
Vulnerability seems to creep in throughout the album. The songs were predominantly written in a rehearsal space in Bermondsey over a period of lockdown when ‘work meetings’ were allowed. Over the course of a few months, as tensions grew and friendships trod carefully along a tight rope. Through many, many ‘work meetings’ - Hands Across the Creek was birthed.
The band then decamped to The Wirral, near Liverpool, where they found further inspiration in the marina, the local Morrisons and a producer and kindred spirit in Bill Ryder-Jones (The Coral; Arctic Monkeys; Yard Act) — who also contributed piano to the record. It was here that the band’s multi-faceted influences, £20 Casio keyboards and experimentation with omnichords, violins and marauding song structures finally fell into place. With rich emotional peaks matching the band’s signature self-effacing wit, and as many jangling guitars as there are squiggling organ hooks, the results have proven emphatic.
Hotel Lux look set to become something their early critics might have not foreseen: a band full of confidence, with the ability to transcend their peers and carve out their own corner of the British music tapestry to confirm a legacy that is their own. “It feels really important,” Lewis concludes of the whole ordeal. “We spent a lot of time worrying.”
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