HotWax 2023

HotWax: 'I've never had the feeling I get when I'm playing live from anything else'

The Sussex trio discuss their breakout year so far, sharing festival bills with their heroes and their Reading & Leeds debut.

Sam Moore
  • By Sam Harteam Moore
  • 15 Aug 2023
  • min read

When you’ve enjoyed the kind of breakthrough year that Hastings-via-Brighton trio HotWax have in 2023, chances are you’re going to realise some long-held ambitions along the way.

For vocalist/guitarist Tallulah Sim-Savage in particular, that amounts to sharing a festival bill with the likes of The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs (the latter’s 2003 debut Fever To Tell is Tallulah’s favourite album). HotWax will do just that at next week's All Points East festival in London: so what will the band do if they bump into Julian Casablancas or Karen O backstage in Victoria Park?

'I really don't know!' Tallulah says in reply to M amid giggles, before bassist Lola Sam self-deprecatingly concedes: 'I'll probably just say something stupid.’

'[All Points East] was one of the first big things we heard about when we started getting bigger gigs,’ Tallulah continues. ‘It's kind of the dream line-up for us: it just feels unreal! I won't believe it until we're actually there - it's just so weird. But we're so excited.'

Excitement is certainly the overriding emotion in the HotWax camp at the moment. Over the past eight months, the hotly-tipped teenage three-piece – who trace their origins back to Tallulah and Lola’s high school friendship (they later met drummer Alfie Sayers at music college in Brighton) – have been on the receiving end of widespread acclaim from the music press while significantly growing their fan base, thanks in large part to their riotous live shows and their hugely promising grunge-meets-post-punk debut EP A Thousand Times, which arrived in May.

HotWax’s next move is being made today (15 August) with their latest single Drop, which has been part of the band’s setlist for some time. ‘We wrote it over two years ago now,’ Tallulah explains to M. ‘It's one of those songs that always goes down really well live, but we've never really thought about recording it: I don't really know why!

'We needed a song that was really immediate, fast and in-your-face for our second [as-yet-unreleased] EP, so it worked out really well because we were like, "Oh, Drop!" We never really thought about recording it before, it was just a really fun thing to do live. It’s an old song that now feels more refreshed.'

'All Points East is the dream line-up for us: it just feels unreal!'

Drop was mixed by seasoned producer and engineer Alan Moulder, whose previous credits include Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys and Wet Leg. Tallulah says that working with Alan was particularly ‘amazing’, given his previous work mixing Fever To Tell.

‘We didn't know what it was going to be like because Alan's done such amazing stuff before, but we were talking to him on the phone a lot and he let us have quite a few revisions,’ she explains. ‘He was really good to work with. We've found that when we've recorded stuff before we're on like mix 11 [by the time it's finished], which is not how we want it. But with Alan, he just got it straight away. It sounds so clear there's not too many layers and it's not too over-the-top. It's the first time that we've been really, really happy with a mix.'

A second HotWax EP, which will feature Drop, is set to arrive in the coming months, but the band are already fronting up to their biggest challenge yet: writing and recording their debut album. Lola acknowledges that there’s now ‘more pressure’ on their songwriting given the nature of HotWax’s breakthrough this year.

‘I feel like before [this year] we didn't really have to think about [the songwriting], because we only cared what we thought about it,’ she says. ‘While we're definitely still true to ourselves, I think it's different now because we have less time, but more to write. The EP we released in May was [the product of] four years of writing, so we were able to take our time with it… we're very much aware that we have an album to write [now], we know that.'

With their debut album very much on their minds, the band are planning to write on the road in the UK and the US when they support Royal Blood throughout October and November.

‘We haven't really been on the road before: it’s been more like going up the road, then back down the road!’ Tallulah says with a laugh. ‘[This tour] will be our first time being away for a properly long time… I mean, we do need to be writing, so we're going to have to figure that out. We've already got a little keyboard and we're going to invest in an acoustic guitar, so we have easily portable writing instruments. We'll have to try our best!'

Lola adds of the Royal Blood support slot: 'The UK tour is nearly sold out, which we've never experienced before. Some of the venues are really legendary, such as in the US with the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. We feel so lucky that we're able to do that. We've liked Royal Blood for years as well, so it's nice to be on a line-up of heavier music that you feel like you fit on.'

Before that UK and US run, though, is the small matter of HotWax's Reading & Leeds debut later this month, where they’ll top the bill on the BBC Introducing Stage. Just don’t use the ‘H’ word when talking about these landmark sets, mind.

'I wouldn't say that we're headliners!’ Lola scoffs. ‘But it is crazy, and really scary. I've been to Reading three times before [as a punter], and I never, ever imagined that I'd play there, let alone headline the BBC Introducing Stage. It's just a lot of pressure. Nowadays in the music industry, people are like, "Who are they? I've never heard of them". So I'm like, "Well, maybe you'll like it!" I think there's a lot of that that we've got to [contend with].'

Tallulah adds: 'It's kind of weird as well, because while Lola has been to Reading before, I'd never been to any UK festivals before this year. Well, I went to Wide Awake once, but that was one day. Otherwise, I've either been too young or it was lockdown, so I've never done any of this. I can't imagine what it's going to be like.'

'Some of the venues on the Royal Blood tour are legendary: we feel so lucky that we're able to do that.'

While it may be daunting, HotWax are evidently relishing the challenge of stepping up to these bigger stages as a live band, which, as they’re keen to acknowledge, is their favoured method of operating.

'I think it's the adrenaline, and the way you just feel like another person [on stage],’ Tallulah offers when asked why HotWax prize performing above all else. ‘It's just so fun. I've never had that feeling I get when I'm playing live from anything else. It gives you all this extra confidence that you would never have in real life.'

Drummer Alfie adds: 'It's very familiar every time, but there's also things about performing live that make it different every time. It ensures that it never gets boring. It's just so much fun.'

One of the biggest lessons that HotWax have learned this year, Lola says, is that ‘rehearsing is really important'.

'If we do a gig and you haven't rehearsed, obviously that's fine [to an extent],' she says. 'But if you don't have to worry about what you're playing, you can get more involved with the audience and things like that - rather than being stood there like, "Oh God, how does this next bit go?"

'Having everything really tight performance-wise is important: it's easier to have fun on stage if you know what you're playing.'

HotWax’s new single Drop is out now via Marathon Artists.