Sunday, February 7, 2010

:PensEyeView.com Hotspur Interview

Trust me – I know we make “kind of” a big deal when we feature bands and artists from the PEV backyard of Baltimore-Washington. We’re not playing favorites – we just really like it here! And while we’ve had our fair share of home-grown talent, our latest installment of XXQ’s comes from a band that’s REALLY native to the PEV home base; DC-minded rock outfit Hotspur. I mean, you don’t get much more MD-DC: Half the band went to the University of Maryland, they’ve been nominated for Best New Artist and Best Songwriter by The Washington Area Music Association and they all listen to C-SPAN Radio on the road. I mean, I totally know these guys! And I even once played the Shakespearean villain Hotspur in high school!
 
I’ve seen these guys more than once in concert, and they are well worth the hype they’ve been receiving. Just last October, they won the nationwide fan vote on MTV’s mtvU program, “The Freshmen”, for the video, “Chandelier”, and MTV.com even deemed the band, “buzzworthy”! The guys (Joe, Dave, Scott, Coop and Evan) were also selected for Taco Bell's “Feed the Beat” marketing program, along with All-American Rejects, Boys Like Girls, and Owl City. And now the follow-up to the debut record, “Beta” is here, a collection titled “You Should Know Better By Now”.


Hotspur says “I think it’s a more mature album, both lyrically and musically. Almost two years passed between album cycles for us, and in that time we went through quite a bit as a band and as individuals and those experiences all show through on the record.” They also got into their signature sound; “Lately we've been using the term ‘fancy rock.’  Fun + Dancy = Fancy.  I think the music stands out because of the songwriting. On the one hand, it's very pop--designed to catch the listener’s ear and get them singing along on first listen, but unlike much of the Top 40 genre, the songs have a realness and vulnerability to them that only exists when the songs are written from the personal experiences of a struggling band.”

After shooting a video for “Heads/Tails”, Hotspur will be stopping by SXSW as well as headlining the 9:30 Club down the street (now on February 19th) as well Baltimore’s own Rams Head Live on April 10th. Check their schedule, listen to “You Should Know Better By Now” and read on for all the answers to the XXQ’s.
XXQs: Hotspur - Joe Mach (Lead singer)

PEV: How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?  

Joe Mach (JM):  Lately we've been using the term "fancy rock."  Fun + Dancy = Fancy.  I think the music stands out because of the songwriting.  On the one hand, it's very pop--designed to catch the listeners ear and get them singing along on first listen, but unlike much of the Top 40 genre, the songs have a realness and vulnerability to them that only exists when the songs are written from the personal experiences of a struggling band. 
 
PEV: What kind of music where the members of the band into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?

JM: We have a pretty broad range of musical tastes-but as mentioned before, I think our passion lies in pop music. It's what we love writing, and it's what we love listening to.  My dad played bass in a polka band called "The Czech Mates," so my first concert was at some dive bar in West Virginia watching them.  Wish I was making that up.

PEV: Calling Washington, D.C. your home tell us your take on the music scene there and what was it like trying to break into it?  

JM: I think the DC music scene is traditionally more aligned with punk or indie music, so I think it was tough for us to find a niche initially.  However, DC is also such a melting pot and has such a big college population that it was just a matter of getting our name and music out into the right hands.

PEV: With that, what can fans expect from a live Hotspur show?

JM: For anyone who has ever seen us live--the first thing they comment on is the sheer ENERGY we put out on stage.  It's funny because we're all pretty laid-back as individuals, but the minute we hit that stage, we go all out.  I think it just comes with doing what you love--there's no place else the five of us would rather be than onstage performing for our fans, and that comes across.
 
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage? 

JM: I think I always try to remember that our fans gave their time and money to come watch us--so even if there's only a handful of them in the audience, we need to give them 100%. 

PEV: Having all been in other bands before how is playing with Hotspur different then those other works?

JM: A big difference with this group is that every one of us is integrally involved with what we do--which can be frustrating when decisions must be made.   Other bands there's one or two people in charge and the rest of them are just along for the ride, but we all have a hand in everything. 

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

JM: Our songs all come from personal experience--but I think we get ideas and inspiration from everywhere.  While writing for our latest release "You Should Know Better By Now" (keyboard player) Dave Trichter and I had both broken up with our long time girlfriends and were pretty much living out of the van; so themes of love and frustration are prevalent--but I think it also tapped into a very real place for us and that comes across in the music.

PEV: Nominated “Best New Artist” and “Best Songwriter” by the Washington Area Music Assoc.- DC, when you think back to when you first started out, do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are?

JM: It's definitely an honor--and seeing all our hard work starting to pay off is really encouraging, but I think for us, seeing a packed room full of fans singing along to every word means much more to us than any award.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Hotspur?

JM: We all listen to C-SPAN Radio while driving.  Must be something about being from DC...

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

JM: I took a course freshmen year of college that was basically "Happiness 101."  We studied various historical figures and the different components of what leads to fulfillment and happiness.  I think I'd always known that music was going to be a big part of my life, but I think that was when I resolved to make it my career--because I knew I'd be happy if that’s what I was pursuing.

PEV: Tell us about your second full-length album titled, “You Should Know Better By Now”. What can fans expect from this?

JM: I think it’s a more mature album, both lyrically and musically.  Almost two years passed between album cycles for us, and in that time we went through quite a bit as a band and as individuals, and those experiences all show through on the record. 

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

JM: We love being on the road--but it definitely has its ups and downs.  I love being able to travel to all sorts of new places and perform every night and make new fans and friends all over the country.  BUT sleeping on the floor or sharing a hotel room every night and spending 8 hours a day in the van takes its toll. 
 
PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

JM: I'd love to go out to the West Coast again.  We've only made the trek once, and it was only for a few dates, and we didn't get to see any of the northwest.  And of course we'd love to tour abroad--Japan, Australia, Europe would be amazing!

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

JM: They've all been really supportive--my parents still do the obligatory "so, have you thought about what you'd do if this doesn't work out" routine, but that seems to have died down since our video hit MTV-U...  Hometown shows are always crazy and a little stressful--but the energy and love in the room when we hit the stage makes it totally worth it. 

PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

JM: Spare time? What's that?  Ha I do a lot of cooking (especially when we get back from a fast-food fueled tour) and I like to go running and I’m a bit of a crossword puzzle nerd.  I also do a lot of graphic design and video editing.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?

JM: Present: I think Kelly Clarkson and I could do a mean duet together.  Or maybe Lady Gaga, cuz I could wear some crazy outfits.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

JM: We've played a handful of shows with a band from PA called Find Vienna - they've got a really cool As Tall As Lions/MuteMath vibe, good stuff.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think each of you would be your career?

JM: I think I'd still be doing something in the entertainment industry--marketing, PR, video, etc.  And we've all come to love the entrepreneurship side of being in a band, so I could also see myself involved in an upstart business.
PEV: So, what is next for Hotspur?

JM: We're shooting a video for the second single "Heads/Tails" and gearing up for tours around SXSW in March.  And we're all really excited to work on new material--Evan (guitarist) joined the band after the last album was recorded, so we're really anxious to see how he affects the writing process.
For more on Hotspur, check out: www.hotspurmusic.com
As well, their Headline Debut at 9:30 Club DC has been changed due to snow. The new date is Friday, Feb.19th. Make sure to get your tickets! All tickets purchased for the 5th will be honored on the 19th.
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