Hype List 2024: HotWax: “All we want to do is make music”

The South Coast’s new rock heroes, HotWax mix effortless cool with a razor-sharp edge. 

Words: Ali Shutler.
Photos: Derek Bremner.


Between a pair of incredible EPs, tours on both sides of the Atlantic with Royal Blood and their urgent, energetic and often chaotic shows, HotWax have earned themselves a reputation for being one of the most exciting new guitar bands around. But what do they make of the buzz?

“I hope it’s true,” grins bassist Lola. “I think we’re exciting.” Drummer Alfie agrees. Vocalist and guitarist Tallulah takes a slightly more diplomatic approach, though. “I mean, there are a lot of good bands around at the moment, but… yeah,” she adds with a smirk. That exhilaration and self-belief can be felt across snarling tracks like ‘Rip It Out’ and ‘Treasure’, but it’s been a journey.

Lola and Tallulah were introduced at school because they were the only two people who played guitars. Things didn’t click straight away, but the pair quickly became inseparable after Tallulah gave Lola a bottle of Matey bubble bath (“I’d said how much I enjoyed baths, and I was touched by how she’d paid attention”). “We’d write songs together and gig at every opportunity we could,” says Tallulah. “We basically grew up together.” Their love of guitar music saw them labelled as odd by their classmates in secondary school. “We literally just had each other,” says Tallulah.

“Having that friendship and discovering music together spurred us on to keep doing it,” says Lola. HotWax want to create that same sense of belonging with their listeners. “The best thing about the Royal Blood tour is playing to kids who wouldn’t usually be able to see us, ‘cos most of our shows have been 18+. Hearing them say they’ve been inspired by us, it feels amazing.”

HotWax officially formed in 2019 after their previous band drifted apart. Their first gig at local pub Crowleys in Hastings followed the same year before a sporadic string of singles were released across 2020 and 2021. “We never had a plan,” admits Tallulah, with the band releasing music whenever they saved enough to afford a session in the recording studio. “They’re all quite different from what we do now,” says Lola, with those early tracks confidently working through psychedelic rock, dreamy indie, funk and thrashing rock’n’roll. “We were just figuring out who we wanted to be,” she adds. Even back then, you could hear the excitement.

“We were doing it because we enjoyed it,” Tallulah says. “It definitely felt like a hobby, but at the same time, we weren’t doing anything else.”

“Yeah, we never thought we would still be doing it now, but I don’t think we ever thought we wouldn’t be either,” continues Lola.

The band were eventually drawn to big, chunky rock bands like Foo Fighters, Muse, Rage Against The Machine and Blondie, with their music scuzzy but ambitious. “They just made me feel something,” says Lola. “They were the bands that made me want to pick up my guitar and play in front of the mirror.”

“I used to be really shy, and I’d only ever play acoustic guitar,” explains Tallulah, but that shifted when her mum gave her a copy of Hole’s ‘Live Through This’. “I had to listen to it in my room because that’s where I felt safe, but there was something about Courtney Love’s vocals that felt so powerful and intense, and that really interested me.” It led Tallulah down a rabbit hole of heavier bands. “There was something about the energy and the anger of it. I never felt like I had that within myself, so listening to it was therapeutic.”

“For the longest time, no one even heard me hum,” says Tallulah, but HotWax gave her space to come into her own. “We didn’t really start sounding like we do now until I became more confident singing and shouting,” she continues. One of the first songs they wrote was ‘Stay Cool’, a riff-driven hunk of basement rock. “I didn’t feel comfortable singing a heavier song, so I had to lock myself in the toilet by myself to figure it out. I just had to find my voice.” That attitude of trial and error in the pursuit of want is something that’s become a throughline of HotWax.

“Now we have songs that have loads of actual screaming,” grins Lola. “I mean, if we play ‘Barbie’, ‘Drop’ and ‘Rip It Out’ back-to-back, Talulah will die though.”

 “There was something about Courtney Love’s vocals that felt so powerful and intense, and that really interested me”

tallulah

Alfie rounded out the lineup for HotWax in 2021 after meeting Tallulah and Lola either at music college or on the side of the road, depending on who you ask. “His style just fit perfectly with what we were trying to do,” explains Lola. “He’s the first drummer I’ve felt connected to. Plus, we get on really well and haven’t had any terrible dramas.”

“Yet,” grins Alfie. He’d been involved in various Brighton bands, but something about HotWax felt different. “People were just always going crazy at their gigs.” There’s a shared drive as well. “All we want to do is make music. We’ve never been interested in anything else,” explains Tallulah.

With Alfie in the fold, the band threw themselves into playing as many shows as possible and this year, HotWax released two EPs. The first, ‘A Thousand Times’, drew inspiration from Pond and Wolf Alice, bringing together unreleased songs from across HotWax’s career. “We didn’t have a plan or a schedule, so it felt like we had all the time in the world to write that,” says Lola. By comparison, ‘Invite me, kindly’ was created over two months and sees the band trading in happier, light melodies for something more ferocious. “We were listening to a lot of Queens Of The Stone Age, Jack White, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes,” says Lola. “We wanted it to feel raw and not too overproduced.”

Both EPs explore “the intensity of your emotions when you’re a teenager,” says Tallulah. “‘Mother’ is about being a woman, knowing you’re capable of having children but feeling guilty about wanting them because of global warming and the general state of the world right now, while ‘Rip It Out’ is about contraception. Things like the pill can really mess with your mental health,” she adds. 

There’s never an overarching theme, just things the band needs to get off their chest. “I always feel like I could go even more honest,” Tallulah continues. “I definitely prefer performing songs that are about really personal things because you can really tap into that emotion. It’s like therapy for me, writing down such honest thoughts and turning them into art. Even if it starts negative, it always feels like a good thing to do.”

There’s escapism to HotWax’s music, but there’s confrontation too, with the music giving both band and listener permission to be larger than life. “With songs like ‘High Tea’, I really want people to feel empowered,” says Tallulah.

The band had planned to write music for their debut album while on the UK leg of their run with Royal Blood, but things didn’t work out. “It was our first proper tour, and it just felt a lot, but in a good way,” says Tallulah. “I was expecting it to be emotionally draining, which it was, but it was also just so much fun.” Playing those shows “never felt daunting,” she continues. “It was always just exciting. Performing to thousands of people who are all watching you – it just feels powerful.”

“I didn’t feel comfortable singing a heavier song, so I had to lock myself in the toilet by myself to figure it out”

tallulah

There’s no vision for the album yet, says Lola. “Every song we’ve written so far is different, but they’re all more developed than what’s come before. We want the new stuff to be richer and really lean into the emotion, whatever the emotion is.” There’s even talk of a stripped-back number.

“One day I’d love to write a record that has an overarching theme but right now, I’m just trying to write words that I like,” says Tallulah, still trying to come to terms with just how busy the band have been this year. “I’m trying not to think about it because otherwise, it’s too overwhelming.”

“Everything has happened so quickly, but it does spur you on,” adds Lola. “There is that fear of losing what you’ve got or being left behind, though.” Still, HotWax aren’t the type of band to be ruled by anxiety. “It does feel like a lot of people have put their faith in us, and I hope we can live up to their expectations.”

“Those expectations can feel like a lot sometimes,” admits Tallulah before that exhilaration and self-belief come creeping back in. “I guess we’ll just do what we do.”

Taken from the December 2023 / January 2024 issue of Dork.

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