In pictures: Hot Milk’s biggest-ever headline show in London
Relive Hot Milk’s sensational headline show in London with our exclusive gallery and video...
In more ways than one, Jim Shaw and Hannah Mee are The King And Queen Of Gasoline.
Joining us, bleary-eyed, from just having woken up on their tour bus, Hot Milk’s dynamic duo of guitarist/vocalists are burning bright right now. Having already completed their first ever U.S. run – dropping straight in as headliners – and smashed the European festival circuit already this year, the Manchester crew are back Stateside. Alongside the likes of Waterparks, Neck Deep and Mayday Parade, kudos has been earned as one of the brightest lights of the massive, touring Sad Summer festival. Chicago’s enormous Lollapalooza showcase has been duly smashed. Hell, they’ve even scored a coveted slot on legendary late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
Not bad for a band from the north of England yet to record their debut LP.
“It’s a long way from Preston,” Han grins. “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of, really. Our label don’t want us to be here! But we don’t want to make the mistake that a lot of UK bands do: waiting too long to come out just for the sake of having an album. We worked a lot on our live show over the pandemic and, having really had to rely on social media over that period, we knew that there were people in the U.S. to play to. Actually doing it was unbelievable at first, but then you remember that this is what what we’ve been working towards. It’s why you do it. It’s the whole point. This [music] isn’t us you, really. It’s for other people. It’s about being able to spread some connectivity while we’re on planet earth, before we pop our clogs.”
Recording three EPs before moving onto an album was always the plan. Having made waves with 2019’s four-track Are You Feeling Alive?, then properly breaking through on the back of the five bangers of 2021’s I JUST WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I’M DEAD, their third offering would continue the build with six songs custom-tooled to see their authors step into arenas. With release day looming, Jim explains that the finished article is the sound of Hot Milk “grown up”. Han expands that that growing up means becoming a better storyteller. And therein come the other, titular, King And Queen Of Gasoline who inhabit this latest set of songs…
“Towards the end of the pandemic, we were living in a way that was a bit too close to the fire,” Han smiles, half ruefully. “We were dousing ourselves in gasoline and getting too near to the flame: staying out through the night until midday the next day, having people who were doing God-knows-what in my house. It seemed like we were getting sucked into an underworld from which there’s not much coming back. So this is our dark side. Those became our alter-egos. These are the people within us that could have kept just kept saying yes, never knowing when to say no…”
Jim: “When we went to Los Angeles to write in December last year, we needed a guitar because we literally couldn’t afford to check an extra bag to fly over. We asked management to source one for us to use. They were like, ‘What kind of guitar, specifically?’ We just went for something easy and asked for a Les Paul. When we arrived to pick it up, we were like, ‘Why is Dave written on the side of this?’ It turned out they’d borrowed Dave Grohl’s guitar! We were literally driving around LA with Dave Grohl’s guitar in the back of a Prius, going to restaurants wondering whether we should take it in with us, sharing a bed with it at night!”
Han: “We actually came up with the this song in the hotel room. We were on what was supposed to be a day off, but inspiration hit me in the shower and I shouted for James to come and record a melody I’d [stumbled onto]. I still had a towel on my head when we started to write the song!”
Jim: “Normally we write in the little studio that I’ve built in my spare bedroom. This was the first time really that we’ve taken away all of the extra equipment and processing that comes with that, just writing with that guitar and our vocals. It kind of gave a different flavour to the song.”
Han: “We say that there’s a power in that song that was channelled from Dave Grohl’s axe! Music can make you feel a certain way. Minor chords make you feel sad, major chords make you feel happy. We tried to choose the chords that made you feel hopeful and united. This was a real reflection of those darker alter-egos, the song that kicks off the story of these two delinquents living a little too dangerously. It almost feels like part of a musical. I guess it’s a call to arms!”
Han: “I’ve been running since I was a teenager, essentially, chasing this one dream, like the black sheep of the family. I’ve not done what my mum and dad wanted me to do. Even this morning I’ve had my dad asking, ‘When are you going to pack this in to earn some money.’ It’s constant, like you’re a disappointment. But a lot of people do the same. If you’re from a small town, chances are that you leave for uni when you’re 18 and never really go back to join back to that small town mindset. You leave your friends and family behind to follow your dream.”
Jim: “This song is saying ‘Fuck you!’ to that stereotypical idea of adulthood where you need to grow up, find a job, get married and have a kid. Sure, that’s fine, but we don’t want to do that. We want to chase this crazy thing that we started in our bedroom and chase it as far as it’ll go. We wrote it with John Feldmann, too, [who’s pretty much an expert on songs of teenage rebellion]. That was a crazy experience, like a whirlwind. We write quick, but John writes quicker!”
Han: “We do almost all of our own writing and production, so I like to throw in a curveball and work with someone different, sometimes. You can learn things and pick up tricks. It’s about trying to keep our [work] as good as theirs!”
Han: “I’ve had the idea for I Fell In Love… floating around in my head since I was like 16. Everything that happens to you as a teenager haunts you. Those are your formative years and they echo through your adulthood whether you like it or not. The ex that we’re talking about here consistently made me feel like shit for wanting to do something with my life. The song started with the anger and the angst of knowing that ‘I’m better off without you!’ Then it grew into an understanding that there are certain people that I don’t need any more. Sometimes, that can be negative, like, ‘Fuck off, I don’t need anybody!’ but this was meant to be an empowering moment of strength: I’m out here on my own, doing this shit with very little support. I hope that message resonates with anyone out there who’s been through the same.”
Jim: “It’s about toxic people: those people who are so insecure with their lives that they pull other people down and hold them back from their dreams just to make themselves feel better.”
Han: “I didn’t know how it was going to tie in with the overall narrative of the record to begin with, but I came to realise that it has the same feelings of wanting to do this, not to spite someone, but despite them. The chorus of this song where James is singing feels like him backing me up. It’s him saying, ‘She’s got a temper, so watch out!’ Hot Milk has always had a lot of ‘Fuck you!’”
Jim: “This was actually a hard one to write. We re-wrote it five or six times.”
Han: “It song isn’t about other people being bad influences on us. We are the bad influences. It’s about those alter-egos again. Over the past few years, we were getting to the point where people would be like, ‘Do you want to stop being that person? Do you want to stop going out?’ I guess it was about getting into the wrong group of people and needing to take a moment to step away and ask whether you’re becoming that bad influence. But it’s also about those friends who think that because they’ve got a nice nine-to-five job and all they see is you going out all the time.”
Jim: “It’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And this is Hyde making his appearance. It’s literally the sound of bad influence bleeding through. I guess everyone has that person saying, ‘Why don’t you just stay out all night getting pissed?’”
Han: “It just happens that ours are inside our heads!”
Jim: “The last two songs on the EP, we’ve had for a long while. We’ve been playing those live since the beginning of Hot Milk and a lot of fans have latched onto them like, ‘We love them, can you please give them the light of day?’ They didn’t fit in before, but they fit in here really well and we wanted them to have their own moment before we get to the album.”
Han: “James and I had been together in a relationship for about four-and-a-half-years and this song came about right at the end. It helped us reaffirm that we could still write together without being together.”
Jim: “The Secret To Saying Goodbye is understanding that it’s about one relationship changing into another. It’s a change of pace, a change in mentality. It’s about us trying to understand what we were feeling and where we were going to go next. It was our therapy session, basically.”
Han: “I like to think of the saxophone solo on there as the transcendent, transformative experience. After that, we can let go. It’s also about trying to find out if we were ever going to be the people that we thought we would be, though. It’s like there’s a stranger awake in your reflection: you’re out of sync with yourself. I guess it was more about learning to say goodbye to your old self rather than any other person. It’s a song with something in it that makes me feel very emotionally attached. It feels weird to be releasing it now because for so long it has just been ours and now we’re releasing it to everyone. But I’m excited, too, and I always enjoy playing it live. It gets me really riled up.”
Jim: “We’re better people now, as well. We’re best mates, and we feel happy in where we are!”
Han: “In that sense, it’s a great time for The Secret To Saying Goodbye to finally come out!”
Jim: “This song actually started as two separate tracks that we combined into one. I wrote Chloroform when I was not in a good place. I didn’t really understand my path or know what I was doing. I remember writing that at like 5am, feeling confused and upset. That combines with the sense of running from my nightmares: suffering silently, burying my head, not pushing forward…”
Han: “We wrote Nightmares when we moved to London for 12 months or so. We did a lot of our early writing there when we were feeling pretty unhappy, before we moved back to Manchester. It was one of the saddest points we’ve ever had, feeling very bleak and distant being away from our family and friends, just honestly in a place of loneliness and despair. It’s full of raw emotion for me, and it’s really hard to sing. I loved the harmonies in Chloroform and thought it would be really cool if we could make that grow into Nightmares. I’ve always thought that that could be one of the big arena-ready moments when we finally get to play these songs live.”
Jim: “We want things to flow and to have space for emotion. You need the downs to have the ups. That’s something that we’ll definitely carry on into the album: letting the songs breathe.”
Han: “And, as we were moving on from that [darkness] we wanted the song to have an open-endedness. That’s how we wanted people to feel at the end of this record. Like, ‘Is there more?’”
Jim: “Exactly. We want them to be asking, ‘What’s next?!’”
The King And Queen Of Gasoline is out on August 5 via Music For Nations.
Relive Hot Milk’s sensational headline show in London with our exclusive gallery and video...
In the new issue of Kerrang!, we explore the past, present and future of the mighty Sleep Token, with a brand-new photoshoot and long-lost communications with the faceless entities themselves…
Hot Milk celebrated all things A CALL TO THE VOID at Walthamstow’s Signature Brew with the ultimate album-release party: bringing together their fans for a special acoustic set, tattoos, graffiti and plenty of their own (rather strong) Vimto-flavoured seltzer…
Rising Brit stars Hot Milk punch harder than ever on triumphant, long-awaited debut…
The Cover Story
Five years in the making, Hot Milk are finally releasing their debut album. Even with a string of global tours and headline shows under their studded belts, we find a band coming to terms with their status as the UK’s fastest rising stars, who are still just doing it for the love of music and their newfound family…
Watch Hot Milk’s new video for BREATHING UNDERWATER, taken from upcoming album A CALL TO THE VOID.
If you haven’t caught Hot Milk yet, it’s because the Manchester outfit are already zooming upward faster than most can keep up with. Ahead of the release of their debut album, they tell us the story so far: touring with Foo Fighters, writing with blink-182, appearing on America’s biggest talk show, and how they’re preparing to clean up the music industry…