Those who think they're sick of hardcore need to wake up. A new crop of bands is out there slumming away, and they're actually pretty damn good. At the top of this heap is Hot Cross, a four-piece that came together via New York City and Philadelphia. Made up of ex-members of Saetia, Interpol, Neil Perry and You and I, among others, Hot Cross's 2003 debut on Level Plane, Cryonics, was an intense mix of screaming, punk, and experimentation -- it perfectly straddled a line between cacophony and melody. And the band pushed that balance further with 2004's Fair Trades and Farewells EP. Hot Cross lead singer Billy Werner sat down with Prefix to talk about the band's beginnings, the Internet and fickle fans.
[more:]Prefix Magazine: How did you guys get together?
Hot Cross: The other guys were writing songs as early as September 2000. At the time, I was living in London, but was still in close contact with (drummer and Level Plane owner) Greg Drudy, who asked me to join the band once I returned from the U.K. At the time, it was presented as more of a hobby. Three years later, I am on the phone with a bank eighty times per week trying to get the title to a van we need to tour in; we're quitting our jobs and booking forty-day tours. Who would have guessed? PM: The underground is crowded with too many bands doing essentially the same thing, or even not that much at all. As a band, does Hot Cross set any goals for itself? How do you set yourself apart?
Hot Cross: When we write music or perform, we don't really set out to do more than challenge ourselves and push our music to a new level. There really isn't a conscious effort to present a specific idea to our audience or set ourselves apart from anything else out there. In some ways, that in and of itself might be what separates us from the milieu of bands out there that feel like they have to aspire to a certain "sound." PM: Do you feel that it is important for more kids involved in independent music to become just as active in the politics and the process of the scene as they are in listening to it?
Hot Cross: I am always happy when someone is inspired to do more than just listen, even if it means helping to distribute records at local shows or starting their own band. I have always agreed with the idea that the personal is the political, and just because a person isn't out on the pavement throwing rocks at "the man," it doesn't mean they aren't doing anything. I often feel that the more attention one draws to their own actions, they are often more eager to be validated than they are to get things done. PM: Has the Internet destroyed or helped independent music?
Hot Cross: Anyone in a band who complains about the Internet is bullshitting themselves and whoever is listening to them. Aside from rampant file-sharing, bands and labels almost exclusively benefit from the Internet boom. In the past, you would order a demo from a band and hope that you got it three months later. Now everything is so much more immediate. A band's music is immediately available to millions of people worldwide rather than the twenty people at the show. How is this not beneficial? You can book an entire tour in four days, whereas in the past it was about a week's worth of phone calls and run-arounds. At the same time, I think the internet has destroyed a lot of the work ethic that goes into DIY culture. It is sad to me that a lot of people who were not around before the Internet will never get to experience the satisfaction that goes along with five weeks of making phone calls to get a tour booked and actually go out and play the shows. PM: Would you change anything that has happened over Hot Cross's existence?
Hot Cross: Not at all. I couldn't ask for better experiences with a band. PM: How was the European tour?
Hot Cross: We toured Europe from September 17th until late October. We played in the UK and Scandinavia for the very first time. What an amazing opportunity to see some really exciting places. PM: Who do you guys enjoy playing with? Do you tend to take your friends on the road rather than anyone else?
Hot Cross: We love playing with Philly's Lickgoldensky. They are just really responsible, supportive and amazing friends to us. They also rip live and are fun to see every night. PM: Who handles the lyrics in the band? Why do you write about the things that you do?
Hot Cross: I write all the lyrics. I tend to take abstract emotional ideas and do my best to present them in a way that other people find it easy to relate to. There really isn't a set theme that I sit and try to approach in my lyrics. PM: I know you're into a lot of different music; have you ever thought about exploring this in Hot Cross?
Hot Cross: [Laughs] I doubt the band would be stoked on house remixes of our songs. PM: Is it too much to be in New York City? Everything is always changing and everyone is always trying to out-hip everyone else. How do you guys decide what is right for the band?
Hot Cross: Luckily, we really are not an "NYC band," so we are more subject to the fickle nature of punk kids. Actually, that might be worse...