Q&A: August Hotel

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A year after August Hotel dropped their single “12 am”, which has been listened to nearly 100,000 times across streaming services, the indie pop group has finally put the finishing touches on their 4-song EP Charms. Although the band has a number of tunes available online, Charms will be the first official collection of music released by the current Chicago lineup which includes guitarist Ryan Lammers, bassist Cale Singleton, keyboard player Craig Schwartz, vocalist Joe Padilla and drummer Dean Sinclair.

In preparation for their release, including the single “Michigan Again” available Wednesday, August 9, August Hotel will be closing out the summer with two Chicago shows. The first will be on Tuesday, August 8th at Schubas and the second on Wednesday, August 16th at Reggies.

Lammers, Singleton and Schwartz gather in a studio on Northwestern’s campus in Evanston while Padilla and Sinclair join in on Skype to discuss their new music and semi-concerning band dynamic.

Listen Live and Local: What’s the status on the EP?

Ryan Lammers: We’ve finally, like literally over the weekend, finalized some rough details for [the EP]. We’ve been saying for like a year, ‘Oh it’s going to be out at this point” and then it didn’t happen. But finally, it’s totally done. We have it. We wanted to figure out the official release better, but we also just wanted people to have the music, [so] we’ve been selling bootlegged copies at our shows for the past month.  “12 am” has been out for a year and we’ve wanted to have something else out by now, so I think we’re just itching to have everything out there. Aside from “12 am”, the only music we have out [is] just not a good representation of our sound; just how they’re recorded and the lineup is completely different. It’ll be nice to have something that is actually us, right now, out there. We’re going to be putting out the next single, [“Michigan Again” on August 9] and then the EP probably in late September.

LLL: How does this new release compare to prior materials?

Dean Sinclair: I think each song is pretty distinct from one another. We’re coming into our own [and] I’m very proud of it. We put a lot of work into it, Ryan especially with recording it all. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it goes over with the general public.

Cale Singleton: The new single, which is called “Michigan Again” is very upbeat and shimmery. It’s very dancey, very fun, very different than “12 am”.

Lammers: I feel like the EP is definitely [more dancey] than “12 am”. I think that song ended up being a bit of an outliner, which I guess made it sort of a weird choice to put out first, but we really liked it and really wanted to get it out. I think it makes sense in the context of everything else.

LLL: What’s the writing process like when putting together a new album?

Joe Padilla: The whole process is pretty democratic. There are ideas for songs and parts that come from all the different band members. Maybe a band member will write one song entirely, or they’ll come up with a melody or some sort of instrumental, and then we’ll work from there. But overall, I’d say it’s a thoroughly democratic process.

Lammers: We had a practice [the other day] and Joe came in with lyrics and a melody and didn’t have the rest of the music for a song. The rest of us were just working to figure out what that would be. I think that’s kind of a good representation of how a lot of our song writing goes.

Singleton: We start very minimal and like Joe said, we’ve had practices where Ryan just starts improvising a guitar line and I’ll play a bass line to kind of go with it and then Dean starts playing drums and then Craig will start playing and then it’ll kind of just build from there. Another nice thing about us is that whenever we bring in a song and a suggestion is brought up to change a certain part or change things around, it’s never met with, “No, it’s my song!” There’s no alpha thing with any of us.

LLL: Your first single “12 am” has gotten quite a few plays on Spotify. How does it feel knowing your music has reached so many people?

Sinclair: I love seeing the geography of where people are listening to us. I get excited even if it’s just one person in like Lithuania or whatever. Before “12 am” blew up, there were two people in Latvia giving us love. I just like the idea of people being able to listen to us anywhere. Like, someone has shown a buddy our music at some point, the way I would show Ryan or Cale a song. Someone has listened to us in a car ride. I probably wasn’t in that car ride, although I have listened to us in my own car. We just know that’s happened and that’s kind of the crazy thing, even though we haven’t seen it for ourselves.  I hope with the EP that will continue to happen. Hopefully at a much larger scale.

Lammers: I hope when the single comes out, there’s someone in California driving along the beach with it playing because personally if I lived in California, I’d get in my car and play that song. London was one of our top cities for a while, and I just wondered looking at that, if we showed up in London to play a show, would people be there? It’s kind of crazy to think about that. There are so many bands that we’ve discovered, just tiny bands from other countries that we’ve some how stumbled across and gotten really into and then watched them grow and it’s just wild thinking there might be people doing that with us. I think we’re very closed in our Chicago bubble right now and I can look at that stuff written on Spotify or whatever and understand that it’s a thing, but I can’t really comprehend that there’s somebody in Finland listening to our song right now.

LLL: Do you have anything to say, Craig? You’ve been quiet.

Lammers: Craig does that sometimes. Craig’s the silent observer. So a story about Craig, this is my favorite story, to be honest. It was our first photo shoot with this lineup and we were all in our button downs, plain t-shirts and skinny jeans, and Craig shows up in cargo shorts and flip-flops. We’re just like, “How do we take these pictures so you can’t see that Craig is wearing shorts?” It just wasn’t possible. We started calling him Craig Shorts after that and we have continued to replace his name with various articles of clothing.

LLL: How do you feel about these nicknames, Craig?

Craig Schwartz: I don’t have any feelings. It just became a thing because my last name is Schwartz.

Singleton: [Craig’s] dead inside.

LLL: Have you since then been able to coordinate your fashion with the rest of the band?

Schwartz: Yes.

Singleton: The next practice, he showed up in brand new black skinny jeans.

LLL: I hope Craig isn’t the only one in the band to be picked on.

Sinclair: I like to tease Cale all the time. He takes it so well. He can handle it. Plus, he’s the bassist, I’m the drummer.

Singleton: So we’re used to just being shit on by everybody.

Sinclair: And I don’t want to be below the bassist. It’s kind of a bullying tactic. I learned it on the play ground when all the other kids were playing sports. I’m not saying it’s a good thing that I do. This is a cry for help.

August Hotel’s next performance will be on Tuesday, August 8th at Schubas. The night will also include performances by Bonelang and Vesperteen.

Photo Credit: Katie Kuropas 

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