hot milk hysteria

HOT MILK // From Manchester, With Emotion

It was just over a year ago that Hot Milk made their first trip to Australia.

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Since then, the band has gone from strength to strength, releasing their gargantuan debut LP, A Call To The Void and nabbing a stadium-sized, Oz support slot with the legendary Foo Fighters.

We caught up with co-front people Han Mee and Jim Shaw, just hours before their first-ever Sydney headline show, for a chat about the record, touring and more.

neck deep hysteria

Hysteria: We’re so excited to have you visiting Australia! How was the flight in?

Both: Bumpy! [laughs]

Han: Jim slept the whole time with my hoodie on his head. I hate when you’re not sleeping on a long-haul flight, and you look around, and everyone else is, and you feel like you’re on a voyage of the damned. 

You’ll have your first headliners here; how are you feeling?

Both: Last night in Melbourne was great. With it being Friday night for Sydney’s one, we’re hoping it’s loose.

You’re also here with Foo Fighters; how did you approach crafting your setlist for the stadium shows and then the more intimate headline shows?

Jim: This is interesting, because we f*cked up the first time. We got off the stage, fuming about it.

Han: We were questioning why we played the songs we did, but it was because we had just got off a headline tour in the UK and Europe, and we had one day to turn everything around and fly. We had no time to think about it. 

Jim: It was almost like our pre-production into Australia. Just with 35,000 people.

Han: Yeah, with Melbourne, we were like that was a practice. People enjoyed it, but it wasn’t our best one. But we feel like we’ve perfected it now and changed things up for Sydney’s Foo Fighters show.

Jim: The hard thing with stadium supports is trying to capture the audience. They’re not there for you. A strong majority might be indifferent to or dislike you, so it’s hard. 

Han:  It’s a hard set to do, but you have to knock it out and have fun. If you take it personally, you’re in the wrong game. We just do our best.  

The danger is, if you have so many different songs and so many different feelings and vibes, it’s hard to tie them together. When we started this record, we wanted to ensure it felt like a cohesive body of music. That was our main aim.
[Jim Shaw, Hot Milk]

How do the feelings compare, playing to a stadium-sized crowd versus those more intimate ones?

Han: It’s like playing a festival.

Jim: And we love playing those.

Han: It’s just a different type of gig.

Jim: Practically, it’s different too. You walk in, and what you hear is completely different. You take out your earpiece, and all you can hear is AHHHH ’cause it’s so cavernous. We relish the challenge of any show though.

We’d love to chat about the debut album, A Call To The Void. In past interviews, you’ve said you didn’t write one song that didn’t end up on the album. That really struck us. Tell us about it.

Han: We’re quite impulsive people. We write what we write, and then it’s done.

Jim: The danger is, if you have so many different songs and so many different feelings and vibes, it’s hard to tie them together. When we started this record, we wanted to ensure it felt like a cohesive body of music. That was our main aim.

We love Green Day’s American Idiot and My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade. I love listening to records front-to-back, the way they were supposed to be listened to.

Han: We’ve discovered we accidentally write conceptually. We’re not a band that just writes random songs.

Jim: I think not writing songs that didn’t end up on the album was also a practical thing. We didn’t have enough time to write loads and loads of songs, so we thought we’d just make the ones we did write really good.

off hysteria

Tacking on to the point you both made about influential albums like The Black Parade and American Idiot, and writing conceptually. Would you view A Call To The Void as a concept record, and is that something you see the band exploring very overtly in the future?

Han: The King and Queen of Gasoline EP is conceptual. And in hindsight, I do think this was a loosely conceptual record. Not in terms of a narrative, but just a theme. With what we were writing about at the time, that’s how it came across. I do think it’ll happen again; I like storytelling and visuals and the concept of being able to make art that’s not just music. 

We feel the album took what you built on your earlier releases and just turned it to 100. From your point of view, how did those past releases shape this one?

Jim: We figured out who we want to be and what we like. 

Han: The record’s quite maximalist in a sense. 

Jim: We found out quite quickly, doing those records, that we write for live. Some of the earlier songs didn’t translate well live. It’s always in the back of our minds how a song will translate live and how we’ll work it into our set. It’s quite a practical way of looking at it. As well as a creative one.

Han: When we were trying to figure out the tempo of a song, I’d jump up and down and see how the tempo was with that. It was a different monocle of looking at things.

Jim: Also, we only started five years ago. If we went straight into an album, we wouldn’t have known who we are or what Hot Milk is.

Han: You only get one debut album.

Jim: Exactly. We just gave ourselves time.

Han: I don’t think we’d be here if we pulled the trigger and rushed into things. 

Yeah exactly. And you built up your following through those years.

Han: Exactly. And nobody we wanted to be signed by was signing us. We wanted to wait for the right time and the right people. Everything had to make sense. It was patience. And I don’t have that. 

Jim: We had all the EPs out too. There was enough out for people to understand who we are.

Working on the album in both LA and Manchester, how’d that help the record flow and did those two different environments bring anything different to the record’s creation?

Han: Two very different places! For me, LA is a very fast-paced, pressure-cooker environment. It made us get started really quick. We wrote four singles in three days. That took the pressure off in a way.

Jim: It put us in work mode. We were away from home and there to do a job. We were consumed by it, and we knew we had to go home, so we only had a limited time, and we had to make the best of it.

Manchester was our refinement place. Our headquarters. We brought back everything we’d foraged and built on it. 

Han: The bones were in LA and the icing was Manchester.

Jim: The filling was in Manchester, and the icing was in Stockholm. We like cake.

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