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HOT MILK on their chaos-fuelled sophomore EP

Hot Milk band photo - Underground blog

Photo by Ema Crompton

The pop-punk inspired ‘Hot Milk’, who describe themselves as ’emo powerpop’, are ones who are always known for having fun. The Manchester fourpiece, led by co-vocal and guitarists Jim Shaw and Han Mee, are known for making pop-rock anthems that comment on social issues and causes. Joined by bassist Tom Paton and drummer Harry Deller, the band have touched on topics spanning mental health, LGBTQ rights, gun violence and the climate crisis.

The dynamic band are known for their enthralling energy whether on or off stage, as said by Han, “If you’re not using music to say something, what’s the point?” with their music being highly relatable with the means of empowering their listeners.

Recently, the band announced their second EP ‘I JUST WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I’M DEAD’ which was written from a place of an existential epiphany the band had which grew into the realisation that you should live your life as unapologetically as you wish. We chatted to the band about musical inspirations, their upcoming EP, and best tour moments…

It is clear from stage performances that you both have a bubbly energy and bounce off each other, with you both even dating at one point in time – having good chemistry is something that makes a band – how has you bond affected the creative process of Hot Milk?

“We’ve been through some horrendous and brilliant things together and I think that means we are completely untouchable and unshakable by anything or anyone. We can be absolutely awful to each other and still be ok. I think we are just family now and when you get to this kind of point between two people, when all barriers are removed you can just exist in a free space where creativity can flow freely and unhinged…. So yeh basically it’s like writing songs with a mirror a lot of the time.” – Jim

In previous interviews you have mentioned your parents a lot, were they supportive of your musical journey from a young age, or did they hold a scepticism towards you both entering the world of performing as a band?

“Hahaha, nah my Mum and Dad were very sceptical… and still are to a degree. I don’t come from a musical family at all, so the idea of a future playing music was something that was so far beyond what was achievable… me Dad’s a traditional guy who’s a builder by trade and didn’t even want me to go to Uni, never mind do this… I think they’re coming on board slowly, but I defo think that having to go against their wishes in pretty much everything I do has made me quite hard in some ways… I do often think it would have been quite nice to feel the support, but it probably wouldn’t have made me who I am now.” – Han

Hot Milk band photo - Underground blog

After having worked behind the scenes in the music industry, has this helped your transition from behind the stage to being the ones performing onstage?

“I mean being in the scene working with bands and friends you love is always gonna help, we were putting on shows for our friends’ bands and having them stay at our houses since we were able to, so we have been around live shows for years before we played them… I think being involved in that grassroots live scene makes an impact no matter what. For us we always knew we wanted to go back to being in bands, but we just hadn’t met each other yet and the chemistry hadn’t aligned with anyone else. When we did meet though I feel like everything just kinda fell into place.” – Jim

With your first gig being the support act for You Me at Six, and supporting Papa Roach, Foo fighters and others within the first year of the band being together, how has it felt that you have grown and had such great opportunities at what must be a breakneck speed?

“I mean yeh as Hot Milk those were our first shows, but we have been playing pubs n empty rooms for years before, we feel like we have finally got a bit of a break now but for us it doesn’t feel like breakneck speed. This is like the 4th incarnation of bands for all of us but also the first time we feel 100% confident in what we’re doing… all the other stuff was practice in hindsight…never stop moving forward ever!!!! Hot Milk came from a lot of pain for me and Jim so really this is the project that didn’t really mean to go anywhere… it came from the necessity of havin’ something painful to distract from and therefore an energy to make music from.” – Han

With it being a clear impression that you have a clear confidence in the music that you create, who inspires you musically and why?

“Awwwww mannn, so so many. Everyone from The Prodigy to Oasis, to The Descendents… Queen! Metallica… Madonna!! All music for us is beautiful… Han grew up on a lot of punk like The Replacements, Operation Ivy and Green Day so that’s really informed her world view ya know… for me I love everything from new pop to old dirty house. We are so eclectic we have no idea where we will go next, it’s kinda exciting.” – Jim

Hot Milk band photo - Underground blog
Photo: Jessie Rose

The songs that you have written for the most part feel dark yet deeply personal – are the themes that inform your music drawn from your personal life?

“Yeah always… some of it a bit more metaphorical but honestly, I am such an over feeler and super sentimental that I don’t think I could write lyrics that have nothing raw at the core… I’m also very depressed hahaha so this is essentially my journaling.” – Han

It is clear to see that the mantra behind Hot Milk is one that is clearly authentic, how important do you think authenticity is in the world of music?

“I mean in a world of fake someone’s gotta be authentic haven’t they… balance it out. I think in the end you were either real or you weren’t… we have both gone through enough in life now that we just can’t be arsed… it’s so much effort to lie about who you are and really shows how insecure you are. Just be yourself and if they don’t like it, they can go fuck themselves.” – Jim

Han, you have a background in politics, how has this influenced your mindset within the band and the themes that are explored within the music you create?

“Yeah went and got a degree I don’t use innit haha, but to be honest it informed my world view and I am still super engaged with the state of the world… I think it’s important to address issues when they need to be spoken about but I’m also of the thinking that the world is also really fuckin’ heavy man… and I kind of wanted to be in the business of helping people enjoy the time they have here… ‘cause this ain’t a dress rehearsal man, this is the only face we fuckin get. One time round and I wanna have FUN and make it count.” – Han

Hot Milk band photo - Underground blog
Photo: Jessie Rose

With your most recent festival performance at Download Pilot in which you opened the main stage, was this one of the highlights of your career? What have been the most memorable moments while being in Hot Milk?

“For sure! I think it was such a pivotal point in the reintroduction of live music, we were super stoked to be a part of it. Not to mention the thousands of music lovers that were just as up to party as we were! I think one of the most memorable moments was taking an in ear monitor out during IJWKWHWID at Download, a song Han and I had created in my bedroom and hearing SO MANY people singing it back was pretty mind blowing.” – Jim

With the new EP’s title ‘I JUST WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I’M DEAD’ – can you explain the themes that you wanted to explore when writing and choosing the songs that form the EP?

“I think IJWK EP sums up the way our brains work and what we’ve been feeling recently. Forever questioning everything and wanting to know the answers to the unknown. We always say, writing these songs is our therapy. IJWK is fairly obvious from the title, what is the point of us living our lives, does it really mean anything but at the same time we’re here so let’s just have some fun and not take everything so seriously. ‘I Think I Hate Myself’, ‘Split Personality’ and ‘Woozy’ are pretty self-deprecating. We were in a pretty shitty place when we wrote these, not feeling we were reaching our full potential, frustrated at ourselves and just generally overthinking everything to the point of making ourselves anxious and miserable. It’s kind of a reminder that you can be your own worst enemy when you live inside your head for too long. ‘The Good Life’, is basically about the materialistic world we live in and the idea that money is everything is a lie. We’re sold an image that to be successful means you have to have physical assets and how money warps your perception on life.” – Jim

Can you give us an insight in what it was like writing and creating the new EP?

“For me personally, it was one of the most exciting, stressful and terrifying things I’ve ever done. I recorded (apart from drums) and produced everything myself in my lil home studio throughout the pandemic, which gave us an insane amount of time to really experiment with sounds and ideas. Han and I would spend hours and hours focusing in on every tiny aspect of each song until we thought it was the best thing we could create. That was also a curse though, as I must have rerecorded and edited guitars about 15 times. It was also probably the one thing that kept our focus and sanity whilst we couldn’t play shows. – Jim

Hot Milk band photo - Underground blog
Photo: Jessie Rose

With your full U.K. headline tour happening this September, how does it feel to step out of the support slot and play as the main act?

We’ve been wanting to play a U.K. headline now for so long! We’re beyond excited to host our very own Hot Milk party, these shows are going to be insane. We’ve been concentrating sculpting the set for the last month and can’t wait to get sweaty and have right fuckin sing along weeeeeeee. – Han

The way that you write and release your music follows the pattern of EPs rather than committing to a full LP, is this something that you are going to pursue – what is next for Hot Milk?

EPs aren’t something we’re gonna pursue forever, we just haven’t felt that we’re ready to commit to a full LP. We’re still exploring what Hot Milk is and enjoying the flexibility we have in smaller bodies of work. They’re also a combination of older and newer songs that we feel need to have their own moment, that might get lost in a full length. Essentially, we just want our first LP to be the best thing we’ve ever done and truly encompass everything that Hot Milk represents. It has to be our best work. – Jim

‘I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I’M DEAD’ Releases on the 10th of September, you can pre-save the EP HERE 

Underground Soundwave presents an ongoing series of reports on emerging and established bands with close-up Q&As, new release reviews and gig reports with a special emphasis on supporting diversity in music, women in music, independent labels and venues and the local music scene.

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