HotWax on All Points East, touring with Royal Blood and their new EP 'Invite me, kindly'

Interview Class of 2024: HotWax

Having honed a reputation as a must-see live band, HotWax are pushing forward as one of guitar music’s brightest new sparks.

It was my favourite day ever,” says vocalist and guitarist Tallulah Sim-Savage, earnestly grinning as she recalls the moment when, a few months back, Karen O gave her band HotWax an onstage shout out at All Points East. Not just any old shout out either - the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman dedicated their seminal song ‘Maps’ to the trio (completed by bassist Lola Sam and drummer Alfie Sayers). “Well, she dedicated it to a lot of people…” Tallulah concedes. “But we were one of them!” Lola jumps in: “It was us alongside The Strokes, Sinéad O’Connor… and Yeah Yeah Yeahs are Tallulah’s favourite band.”

HotWax themselves had opened the very same stage just hours earlier, making Karen O’s acknowledgement something of a full-circle moment for the band - who, only a couple of years ago, were still juggling gigs and self-released singles with school work. It’s just one of several pinch-me stories they share as they speak to DIY via Zoom from a hotel room in LA, on the morning of their first outing supporting Royal Blood across the US. “Every day when we look out of the window, we just think, ‘What the hell?!’” Tallulah says of swapping their home town of Hastings for Hollywood. “I just can’t believe that everything looks like a photo!” At the same time, however, Alfie notes that years of watching American TV shows and films have made their surroundings “strangely familiar”; as a result, the young trio seem wide-eyed and anticipatory, but relatively unfazed.

“We never thought it would happen, but it also feels like the right time in a way,” Tallulah affirms. “It hasn’t felt like this weird thing that we’ve suddenly been dropped into, because we’ve been working on HotWax for years. Obviously we haven’t really had the money behind it before and we wouldn’t really be in the studio, so the releases were really sparse.” She pauses, giving a sheepish smile. “And, you know, we were in school.”

HotWax on All Points East, touring with Royal Blood and their new EP 'Invite me, kindly'

Everyone at school was like, ‘That’s really lame that you’re in a band’, but we wanted to do it so badly.” - Lola Sam

Having met in Year Seven when a discerning music teacher put them in a band together, Tallulah and Lola gravitated towards each other from the off, as apparently the only pupils interested in guitar music. “Everyone was like, ‘That’s really lame that you’re in a band’,” explains Lola. “But we wanted to do it so badly. We didn’t really have any goals, other than just, ‘We wanna do this forever’. And now we actually do get to do it all the time!”

As they grew up together, swapping band recommendations and instruments, the pair’s early chemistry evolved into a tight-knit bond. From initially having what Tallulah describes as “quite different playing styles” to jointly discovering the likes of Pond, Ty Segall and Tame Impala, the two have “learned to compliment each other” in striking fashion. “We’ve just been playing together for ages; I wouldn’t want to be in a band with someone else,” Lola says simply.

Even via a webcam and a transtlantic internet connection, this inherent comradeship is palpable; there are frequent good-natured interruptions as one cottons on to the particular anecdote the other is telling, and it’s entirely unsurprising that this dynamic extends to their tour bus, too. “Me and Tallulah can be chatting the whole time and then sometimes the boys [Alfie and their tour manager Steve] can be silent for five hours,” Lola confirms. “Like, what the hell?”

As well as being an endearing testament to the significance of those who see you through your teenage years, the trust and closeness shared by Tallulah, Lola and Alfie (who tempers the girls’ more fiery energy with a steadying presence) is key to the ease with which they’re dealing with HotWax’s current exponential trajectory. “I’m just glad that we have each other, and that we’re all going through this at the same time,” says Tallulah as Lola nods, her orange hair bright against the beige hotel wallpaper. “We talk about this all the time, saying, ‘Imagine doing this by yourself’ or ‘Imagine being the only girl in the band’; I’d find that scary.”

Though Lola points out that HotWax do work with lots of women on their various teams, she agrees that “if you were the only girl, you might be treated differently by people, for sure”. That, and the fact “you’d always have to be in a room by yourself - either that, or share with boys”. She scrunches her brow as Tallulah laughs and Alfie interjects indignantly: “Hey, you guys are more messy than us!”

With the speed at which the music industry moves, it’s perhaps easy to forget the not-so bygone days of socially-distanced gigs, or indeed no gigs at all. Yet this was the landscape into which HotWax first started releasing music. Their debut single ‘Stay Cool’ arrived in 2020, and was followed by a steady string of standalones over the next two years. They began to build a cult fan base around their raw, DIY sound - a raucous concoction landing somewhere between The Slits, PJ Harvey and, more recently, Dream Wife - such that, when venues opened their doors once more (and the band had finished their schooling), appetites for a longer project had been well and truly whetted.

“Both hometown gigs we’ve done have been sold out,” smiles Lola, referring to the launches of their debut EP ‘A Thousand Times’ in Hastings, and this autumn’s follow-up ‘Invite me, kindly’ at Brighton’s Dust. “I was really nervous,” Tallulah picks up, “especially for the Hastings one, but it felt so nice. All our friends were there, as well as people who we recognise in the crowd who’ve been watching us for years. So yeah,” she grins. “It made us feel really supported.”

Pre-game nerves or not, once HotWax are onstage, all bets are off - and that’s part of the thrill. “When I was a child, I was really shy; one of those kids that just would not talk,” shares Tallulah. “Getting a job and gigging gave me more confidence, so going on stage is always a time where I can just be who I want to be. Especially as a support band at the moment: going out to a crowd that probably doesn't even know you, and trying to win them over and make a connection - it’s just so much fun.”

“And there’s so many different types of live show!” Lola enthuses, reeling off the various gig scenarios they’ve experienced this year: “Arenas, festivals, packed nightclubs… we’ve played small pubs to about ten people and we’ve supported Louis Tomlinson from One Direction.” At the mention of this latter point they all laugh, shaking their heads at what their childhood selves would think of that sentence. Did they find that the Directioner crowd lived up to their famously intense reputation? Alfie grins as Lola widens her eyes and nods.

“It was like we were famous for a day,” she laughs. “People had been queuing for weeks outside - they were SO dedicated. Really nice though, and I think they appreciated that Louis had picked a heavy female band, because everyone else on the lineup was guys.” “It was definitely weird playing to a more pop crowd,” Tallulah rejoins, “but at the same time some people really liked it and that meant a lot to us, because it’s not necessarily the music that they choose to listen to.”

HotWax on All Points East, touring with Royal Blood and their new EP 'Invite me, kindly'

[The last EP was] us spitting out our doubt and moving on to the next chapter.” - Tallulah Sim-Savage

HotWax themselves tend to attract a varied audience, from the 6 Music dads of Brighton to the “kids” who told Tallulah “I’ve just started to play guitar and that really inspired me” after one of the trio’s UK support shows. It’s no wonder that young people are engaged; because they’re not long out of school themselves, HotWax occupy a particular niche of aspirational, yet truly accessible role models. What’s more, in a genre typically dominated by older, male-heavy bands, they prove that the future of guitar music is alive and kicking, filtering grunge rock sensibilities through a thoroughly contemporary lens.

Themes of climate change and future uncertainty - both markedly Gen Z anxieties, compounded by the pandemic and current world affairs - bubble throughout both ‘A Thousand Times’ and ‘Invite me, kindly’; Tallulah uses the example of the track ‘Mother' to comment that “when you’re growing up and you’re given baby dolls as toys, it’s [with the expectation that] you’re going to be a mother. Now, you feel like this is probably not gonna happen.” Lola agrees, observing that “even if you are feeling fine about things, you feel a bit guilty. But the news is just constantly in your face and there’s very little you can do about it - you just feel powerless.”

Balancing a consideration of these broader social issues with lyrical introspection, their recent project has more of a narrative throughline than its predecessor, the tracks on which Tallulah explains were written between the ages of 15 and 17. In contrast, the lyrics for ‘Invite me, kindly’ were completed in “one burst of inspiration and creativity” over just a couple of months. “They’re all stories of relationships I’ve observed or gone through,” she continues. “We’re turning 20 next year, so [the EP] is sort of looking back on everything that’s happened as a teenager. It’s us spitting out our doubt and moving on to the next chapter.”

And as next chapters go, this one’s primed to be page-turner: once they’ve ticked off this Royal Blood tour and two American headlines of their own, HotWax are getting their heads down to write new music, helm DIY’s own Now and Next Tour in April and take festival season 2024 by storm. In the meantime, though, Tallulah, Lola and Alfie are just enjoying the ride - both metaphorically, and in those endless, chatty tour van hours together.

HotWax headline DIY’s Now and Next Tour in April 2024.

Touring: What’s hot and what’s not?

Hot!

Views

Lola: The views [in the USA] will be so good - where we’d normally be looking out at, I don’t know, Southampton, instead we’ve got the Nevada desert.
Crowd commitment

Lola: When we were playing our set at Reading, The 1975 started playing halfway through… But it was fun; we still had a bit of an audience when they were on!

Not!

London crowds

Lola: The crowds in England are sometimes a bit tough. English people are kind of miserable, aren’t they? If we do Scotland and Manchester and stuff it’s always really nice, but in London they just play really hard to get.
American pricing

Tallulah: Everything [in LA] is so expensive! This is crazy - it’s six dollars for a bag of Cheetos!

Tags: HotWax, Class of 2024, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

As featured in the December 2023 / January 2024 issue of DIY, out now.

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