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HotWax are a band on the run

05 March 2024, 10:00

Thriving in the madness that being young and on the road involves, HotWax tells Steven Loftin about life as one of the UK's hottest new bands.

The last twelve months have been a whirlwind for Hastings trio HotWax. Barely out of high school, they've undertaken multiple support tours and headline shows, including their first jaunt to America supporting meaty-duo Royal Blood. After releasing two EPs of frantic and jaunty rock, the next year of shows – including an eagerly awaited headline stint – looks set to be just as blurry.

Catching up with founders Tallulah Sim-Savage (vocals and guitar) and Lola Sam (bass) a week before they jet off to Las Vegas – and onto SXSW where they'll be playing a prime slot on Best Fit's showcase – they're in the throes of adjusting to reality after a leg with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. "We have a week of stillness, of not being super busy, before we go away again. It's quite strange," Sim-Savage opens.

Messy orange hair she ruffles throughout our chat, Sam looms into the camera while similarly bushy-haired Sim-Savage sits beside her shuffling in her spot, the pair give bubbling energy ready to burst. For these two friends, the past year being surrounded by established and road-worn acts has given them fuel for their eager fire. "Hanging out with bands we've been away with who have been doing this for years, the way they go into doing their shows or the way they talk about writing or anything like that, everything they do is inspirational and you see what people are like once they've been doing this for so long," she continues.


Life has taken them by surprise, not even their wildest dreams manifested the journey they've been on, following a well-worn path. As they tell me today, "We had no idea what anything was gonna be like, we didn't know what to expect, we've just gone along with everything that's happened and tried our best. At the beginning of last year, we were like, 'What the hell', it was kind of terrifying [but] we got used to it," Sim-Savage explains, as Sam adds: "It's been amazing. It's been the best year of our lives, with everything that's happened."

First meeting at school after being paired up in a music class, they became firm friends due to their band-life ambitions, eventually coming to form HotWax in 2019 as a duo. However, that yearning to be in a band came at a time when band stock was at a low. The airwaves were littered with solo artists clambering on top of each other for the next number one. "Even when we were at secondary school, being in a band was weird," Sim-Savage reckons. "And everyone thought we were really weird, so now that it's come back around is exciting." "You can turn on Radio One and actually hear a band," Sam laughs.

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Keeping steady as they go, they cut their teeth playing shows as and when while writing a handful of singles, until in 2021 they recruited drummer Alfie Sayers to complete the outfit. Meeting at a music college in Brighton, after playing any stage they could they eventually released a pair of EPs last year (A Thousand Times and Invite Me, Kindly) whilst in the throes of getting to grips with being a fully-fledged band. "We'd had all those songs for like, two years or three years or something," says Sam. "So we just recorded them, and the second EP just came together weirdly quickly, but I still really love both of them," she says on their previous offerings.

Blending a mix of fiery punk and swaggering indie, from the likes of Hole, and Blondie, to The White Stripes, the Strokes, and Yeah Yeah Yeah's, HotWax righteously tote their influences. Having been lucky enough to support many named – along with the aforementioned Frank Carter, and Royal Blood – they're soaking in the unique moment that their wide-eyed, bushy-tail fervent preparation is meeting opportunity. Their first jaunt to the US involved a debut gig at LA's Wilton: "That was quite daunting because I knew 'this is really cool'. We were really nervous, but that first gig we did was actually really good. It's one of the funnest gigs we did on that run." Sam explains.


"How do you look so perfect? We're like, disgusting," Sim-Savage laughs. Getting to grips with being a touring band is much more than just stage presence and weathering dodgy food in motorway services. HotWax are learning to live on the move. "We're kind of gross on the road," Sam laughs. "And if that makes you a rock band...I don't know what that really means," she says when I ask what their most rock-star-embodying moments have been. "Because a lot of bands we've talked with have been sober as well which is really amazing because we definitely don't do that when we're on the road," Sam laughs.

Life as a rock 'n' roll band has changed since the days of those acts they looked up to. Where before it was all debauched antics and trashed hotel rooms their idols left in their wake, these days it's a different story: "Everyone's so lovely and respectful," Sim-Savage says. "Which is obviously a really good thing, but it's just crazy how much it's changed." It certainly helps to quell any fears, including from their parents, who understood rock 'n' roll to be a travelling circus of depravity: "She's like, 'be careful!'," laughs Sam of her mother's concern.

They've also begun to understand the joys of touring life. Being able to leave their lives behind and enter that magical realm of stopped time and anonymity suits them well. Sim-Savage explains, "No one knows who you are, which is comforting. And you don't have to deal with the reality of your normal life. Coming home is horrible, but being away and just doing what we do is," Sim-Savage pauses, as Sam interjects: "We've been gigging for ages before this year anyway, only we haven't gone further than London, but we've been gigging since we were like thirteen."

They've also experienced the inevitable motions of being a touring band, where the real world continues spinning on its axis of reality while you're away plunged deep into a life you've dreamed of that stalls you in a moment: "When we started longer tours, when we were away for a month, it did feel like that," Sim-Savage explains. "It felt like we came back and it's just resumed, even though obviously everyone's changed…people moved away from where you live…I always find when we go away, it goes really, really quickly. And then when we come home, it goes really slowly," Sam emphasises.

Expanding further, they liken their touring experience to going into "survival mode", one where you strip yourself down to the bare minimum. "All of your thoughts and whatever, you just have to push away, and you do the task you need to be doing right now," Sim-Savage explains. "But it's really nice. Me and Lola have been best friends now for nearly 10 years so it feels like we're at home when we're with each other, which is nice thing. We haven't gotten each other's nerves too much yet," she laughs, glancing at her bandmate. "Everything is super exciting and new for us. So we're really enjoying every minute." This carries on into meeting as many people as they can after their sets. It’s something from the pairs earlier years as gig-punters, “I remember being younger and seeing bands that I really liked and then when they’d come to the merch, I felt so special,” Sim-Savage recalls, “so I thought it's an important thing to do.”

The trio have never been fuelled by ambitions, not the ego-driven ones anyway. "When we made this band, we just wanted to play gigs," explains Sim-Savage. "Now what we want to do is write an album that we're super happy with.” On their awaited debut, Sim-Savage mentions that they're entering new independent territory: "We've started doing our own demos, which we've never done before,” she explains. “Recording the drums live at a studio, but then doing everything else at home. It's given us loads of freedom because we can spend way longer and try out loads of different things, just me and Lola."

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Their confidence is growing, but not at an exponential rate. This is a band still deep in the misty-eyed state of wonder, something the pair are keen to hang on to. "I always wish I could get my brain back from when I was like 15," Sim-Savage laughs. "I feel like we'd write songs without even thinking into anything and it would just come out." Overthinking is another easy trope to succumb to as a young band, especially as success begins to build. While keenly aware of the power of – and desire for – singles, the pair can't rinse and repeat anything previous because, well, they simply don't know where they're heading next, as Sam explains, "We don't actually know what we want either. It's quite fun because we don't have a clear vision, we just know what we don't like and what we do like when we play it, then we just hope that other people like it." One thing is for certain, however: "I want it to be different from the EPs though," Sam confirms.

Writing is a facet that's fallen by the wayside since they've been swept away in the fray. "Being a band that's very focused on live performances is good, but now we've just got to do that plus, write," Sam says laughing. "That's the bit we were like, 'Oh, it's gonna be really easy. We'll probably be able to write loads of songs while we're touring' – and it's just really impossible. I think 'Oh, yeah, I have this moment of time', but then it's suddenly soundcheck and then we're getting ready and whatever. So that's definitely been been a bit of a struggle, but I guess we'll learn little ways to try harder to write," Sim-Savage adds, with the pair planning to use their Texas sojourn to cram some writing in.

Put simply, they're thriving in the madness that being a young touring band brings. "We live off that. I think it's when we don't have that to do I think is when we start to shut down," Sam explains. "It's nice to feel that weird, deranged, chaoticness," Sim-Savage adds. "And then you just live off it. And then when it's not, it's not that nice...we end up looking like this," the pair giggle as only school friends who have been through the wringer can.

HotWax play Best Fit's SXSW party at the Swan Dive patio on Friday, 15 March.

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