What is strange about Hotstop’s uber catchy tune “What Is Strange” is that the Nashville based band manages to straddle the contemporary and the retro so seamlessly. At one point Hotstop mines what was cool about ‘80s pop-rock during the chorus of “What Is Strange” and then connect with what’s happening in alt-rock ala Silversun Pickups during the song’s verses.
“We love so many different styles of music,” drummer Dru Marshall says. “We look back at how cool ‘80s hair-metal was and how amazing Michael Jackson was. We also love Led Zeppelin and what’s happening now.”
But the big drums, monster guitar riffs and funkiness of the Reagan era recur throughout their self-titled album, which features Marshall, vocalist Bryn William and guitarist Waldemar Wlodyka.
“Calling My Name” is a potent rocker that wouldn’t have been out of place a generation ago at LA’s iconic Rainbow Room.
“Calling l My Name is the first song that Bryn and I wrote together,” Marshall said. “I had all these riffs and chords in my head and he wrote some vocal melodies. I had this line in my head, ‘she was calling my name.’ We used that as a foundation and fleshed out the lyrics from there. We weren’t that familiar with each other but it was obvious that we had a connection.”
“Escape the Dawn” is a mid-tempo changeup. It’s a well-crafted love song. “I reconnected with an ex-girlfriend and it was a big mistake,” Marshall says. “But we have this song to show for it. I was feeling all lovey dovey and I showed these chords to Bryn and we wrote the bridge together. I told Bryn that I wanted it to be a shameless love song and it happened.”
“Elevated” is a breezy, playful tune that screams summer and has a sonic punch that is reminiscent of Aerosmith.
“Whenever I describe the band, I drop the names of recording artists from the ‘80s like Guns N’ Roses, Prince, Michael Jackson and Aerosmith,” Marshall said.
Not a bad bunch of bands to draw inspiration from but Hotstop builds on the sonic templates created by the aforementioned iconoclasts.
“We’re doing our own thing,” Marshall says. “And we’re having fun with it.”
The clever “Write A Way” possesses an irresistible hook. Halfway through the song, Hotstop takes a left turn and soars, thanks to Waldemar aka Waldo, who penned much of the song's bridge. Waldo’s sonic contribution during “Write A Way” hits not long before the charismatic vocalist-guitarist William slips into his falsetto.
“Waldo nailed it,” William says. “It’s his favorite song on the album and we can see why. But there is also a big message with that song as well. That song is about going your own way. It’s about not listening to anybody else.”
Hotstop has no problem with that. It’s obvious that the group isn’t chasing trends. “We’re moving in the direction we want to go in,” William said.
That’s so in a literal manner as well. Such songs as “Superficial” and “Hipster Chick” indicate why the band recently left the jaded environment for their creative hotspot, which is Nashville.
“Those songs do touch on why we left,” Marshall reveals. “Los Angeles is just full of hipsters and that’s one of the reasons we moved out. We’re not into that too cool, not enthusiastic kind of scene. Go to a show in Los Angeles and people are just there standing still. People are desperate to be famous in LA. We would like to do well but we’re about earning it with our music. Nashville suits our band.”
It’ll be fascinating to see what William, an accomplished vocalist with enviable range, Marshall, a dynamic drummer and Wlodyka, a melodic guitar player will accomplish over the forthcoming years. Each are cerebral songwriters, who can not only crank out a memorable hook but know the history of their chosen craft.
“We’ve only been at this since 2013 and I think we’ve come a long way,” Marshall says. “We’re going to take this as far as we can go.”
Don’t bet against Hotstop, which has the perseverance to do whatever it takes to succeed. “Bryn lived in his van in Los Angeles for a year and I lived with him in that van for a month and a half,” Marshall says. “It was as crazy as you think it was. We’re the kind of guys to do what we have to do and part of that is making exactly the kind of music we want to make.”