Hot Milk’s explosive debut album ‘A Call To The Void’ embodies their all-or-nothing attitude, channeling vulnerability and defiance into a genre-defying journey of emotion and self-reliance.
Words: Steven Loftin.
Photo: Frank Fieber.
The burning supernova Hot Milk are pulling in whatever genre they see fit with their exploding gravitational pull.
Bolstering their bellowing jams of depression and darkness, the Manchester band have been threatening to explode throughout their three EPs, including last year’s ‘The King and Queen of Gasoline’. Now, with their debut album, ‘A Call To The Void’, locked and loaded, the flare is well and truly lit. The choruses are louder, the sentiments run deeper, and it feels like an impenetrable fortress of their design. That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns that plague the pair: “Sometimes I’m like, have we like left it too late?” vocalist Han Mee starts.
Passionately earnest, Han, along with guitarist Jim Shaw have built themselves a fine standing that speaks as much to their give-a-fuck attitude as it does their sincerity. Confirming this, Han readily admits that “Hot Milk isn’t really a rock band or whatever. I just say it’s an emotion. Hot Milk is an emotion. It’s just what we feel.” Likening it to a “conduit to express drama and emotion has drama and tragedy,” they unpack everything, lopping it on the table, in the hopes of being able to sort through it all: “It’s just our thing to go, ‘Well, we’ve got these feelings, we’ll release it under Hot Milk’.”
Their journey from ambitious upstarts to newcomer heavyweights is down to their all-or-nothing attitude. Since forming in 2018 in Manchester, Han explains that to get to this major career milestone, they’ve had to make sacrifices. “You know, the normal things that people do: buy houses, get married,” she recites. “Our friends are starting to have holidays, and we can’t do any of those things because we have Hot Milk, and that’s what we’ve chosen for our life.”
While this may feel like a heavy load to unpack, this cross of theirs to bear is precisely what they want. No situation proves this more than when playing live. Their shows are an explosive romp through the visceral reality they channel. “It’s real; I’m there giving my heart on a plate,” Han implores. “Ready for them to either throw up or send it back to the kitchen, it’s up to them how they absorb it, and most of the time, they feel it, and they give it back. That’s what the beauty of being in this band is, being so open and vulnerable and then people being open and vulnerable back.”
This idea is a point of contention. While it’s servicing a key purpose for the pair, especially Han, the vulnerability is inescapable. Likening it to “giving a diary to someone else to listen to and judge… we needed to write [these songs] for us,” Han affirms, “it’s exciting but also scary”. Jim adds, “[You] put your heart out on your sleeve for people to judge, decimate.” It’s here, Han sparks up. “That’s where I get upset because they’re not just songs to me; they’re little bits of my soul. So it’s kind of mad that people can just fucking rip them apart without absolutely no come up. That’s why I’m always like, ‘Would you say that to my face?’ Probably not, because you’re not a cunt in real life; you’re just a cunt on the internet, dickheads!”
“They’re not just songs to me; they’re little bits of my soul”Hannah Mee
Hot Milk are certainly a ferocious team. Their band is a blend of Han and Jim’s attitude and like-minded tastes, even when things might not be as straightforward as they may seem. “We’re so indecisive. But I feel like that is kind of the beauty of Hot Milk,” Jim reckons. “It’s just Han and mine’s vision, and whatever we’re feeling, we’re not pigeonholed.” This is why their album feels so focused. Driving like a ten-tonne truck towards the future, Hot Milk simply aren’t a band that glances back to the road they’ve chewed up already. They’re focused on the mission ahead, and in the case of ‘A Call To The Void’, that meant they wanted to hit the target first time: “We didn’t write a single song on that album that didn’t make the record,” he beams.
It’s littered with archetypal Hot Milk journalistic unloading, including Jim dealing with the loss of his grandfather on album closer ‘Forget Me Not’. But sparking up around these are moments of joy (including Han’s laughter and in-studio sounds throughout) along with, erm, shroom-indebted fantasies.
‘Alice Cooper’s Pool House’ is a vivid depiction of a night gone awry, concluding with the titular event. The man himself even makes an appearance in the closing skit. “I would say it’s the mushroom trip that never ended,” Han laughs. “Because that happened as well. It was like, ‘Okay, am I still on mushrooms?’ Because it’s so weird how this song flew out, and then suddenly now Alice Cooper is on it.” He decided to jump on the track after someone close to the band managed to sneak the track out to him. Han and Jim had no idea what was coming back. “We were blown away by it,” Jim adds, “because it really ties the whole idea of the song together.”
As a result of their handwork and dedication, ‘A Call To The Void’ is a monument to Hot Milk. Not just that, but it’s also a testament to the self-reliance of a pair who have had a vision since 2018 and have followed that unrelentingly through thick and thin. Jim, who also helms production duties, proudly admits, “I’m a massive perfectionist, and I don’t have an ego, but I am super proud of what we’ve achieved against all the odds for this album to come out, and it has no right to be as good as it is.”
For Han, the sentiment also rings true. But as well as being defiantly confident in their opening major gambit, she also acknowledges the basis for their vision. “At the end of the day, what it always comes back to is [we’re] a good rock band, and its core is flirtations in different directions.” But it wouldn’t be a closing Hot Milk sentiment without that snarling smirk. “And that feeling of ‘Fuck it, here we are, and we’re being ourselves’. The ethos of it all has just been, ‘Let’s fuckin’ have it. Let’s go and grab the world!’” ■
Taken from the September 2023 edition of Upset. Hot Milk’s debut album ‘A Call To The Void’ is out 25th August.