Even by the standards of a band that has defined its near quarter-century career by charting its own course and never seeming to duplicate itself, it’s safe to mark Hot Water Music‘s 2017 as one of the band’s most atypical calendar years yet. The pioneering post-hardcore outfit wrote, recorded and released Light It Up, their eighth studio album, back on September 15th. The album is stellar, prompting even old school fans to note that it’s the band’s most inspired and cohesive project in recent memory. They also played a high-profile gig at Riot Fest in Chicago, a place that has shown enough love to the band over the years that its been something of an adopted second home (their live 2012 triple LP was recorded in the Windy City).
That said, the road has been a little bumpier of late. The iconic quartet’s lineup of Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard on vocals and guitars, Jason Black on bass and George Rebelo on drums has remained constant — albeit interrupted by the occasional hiatus — since their beginning. Recently, however, they’ve had to play down a man; beginning at Fest last month in their hometown of Gainesville, Wollard has had to take a step back from performing live in order to take care of some self-reported anxiety and stress-related issues. Given the amount of moving parts (day jobs and spouses and babies and pets and so on) that need to line up for Hot Water Music to play live these days, the other three members — with Wollard’s blessing and encouragement — chose to fulfill their long-scheduled tour obligations, including a recent three-day run through Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia, and an upcoming date in Brazil.
And they are doing it with a little help from a few friends; The Flatliners’ Chris Cresswell filled in for Wollard at Fest on fairly short notice and played the three Northeast US shows, while Less Than Jake’s Chris DeMakes, a fellow Gainesvillian and longtime friend of the band, will cover the Brazil show (with any luck, Wollard will be back in fighting shape by the time the band’s January dates in California come around). Not only was Dying Scene on hand to shoot the band’s recent Boston date, but we were lucky enough to sit down with Jason Black back stage just moments before the show got under way. We talked about the lead up to recording Light It Up, looked back at some of the changes over the band’s two-plus decades in the business, and about adding the decade-and-a-half younger Cresswell to the mix; we also got cut off near the end by Ragan and Cresswell joining the conversation, the latter accompanied by a Les Paul and seeking clarification as to his part on the new Wollard-fronted Hot Water Music track “Vultures.” Head below to read our full interview!