Location: Swansea, UK
Album: Happy, Smiling, and Living the Dream, out October 14 via The Black Numbers
RIYL: Wit. Puzzles. Colors.
Synesthesia is a fascinating phenomenon, the idea that you can see/feel colors in music would probably have gotten you burned at the stake in Salem years ago, but I think we’ve come a long way to recognize that, like everything in life, it’s a spectrum. I don’t hear or taste colors when I’m taking an album in, or a dinner, but I can perceive general tones and figure out what’s working or missing based on how the various colors come together.
Most punk and hardcore is notably for its lack of warm colors (pop punk notwithstanding), but Hot Mass are quite the unique beast. Their brand of melodic hardcore punk not only feels distinct, I can see it as a bit distinct. There’s a wealth of fiery shades, natch, but the hooks from vocalist and guitarist Rhys Jenkins are often a nice contrast, with pleasing pantones aplenty. Musically, it’s clear that the band like drawing from a wealth of amplified subgenres (grunge, hardcore, noise, punk, etc.), but the way that everything comes together smoothly is effortless and impressive.
Jenkins acknowledges that wide range of vibes is intentional:
“I think that battle between fury and melancholy plays out a lot throughout the record whilst also keeping things somewhat playful. It seemed like a good reflection of common life that we wanted to express musically and lyrically within the songs. A big thing we wanted to do with the album is for it to be/sound colorful. I know that’s a pretty abstract way of looking at it, but it was a big point when writing the new album such that we wanted the songs to conjure up/make you feel a certain color.
“I like to think about songs through color, and Scott has synesthesia, too, which was a consideration when writing the songs. For instance, to me ‘Hell, Now’ is a fiery red; ‘Lung Capacity’ is bright yellow; ‘Astroturf’ is a passive green; ‘Ungakhali’ is a deep blue. We’ve probably taken too much acid, but I think it’s a fun way to think about music (laughs). The colorful artwork for the new album was also part of this thought process. The new album experiments with textures and tempos a lot more than our previous songs and has subtle moments of organ, acoustic guitar, percussion, and slide guitar, which was very fun to experiment with.”
On whether the album title is meant to be sarcastic or not:
“Happy, Smiling and Living the Dream has been a long time in the making! We actually finished recording it in early 2020. Since then, quite a lot has changed. The world got very unwell; I had an early-30’s freak out and ran away to spend a year in Australia. Ken had a baby. Chris drank a billion beers and fell down lots, and Scott had a life-threatening disease called necrotizing fasciitis that threatened amputation of his leg (but luckily not) with many skin grafts as a result. So after everything, I think Happy, Smiling and Living the Dream is fitting as the title. People can make of it what they will, whether people take it satirically and that the world is screwed, or if it’s genuine happiness and people are grateful for what they have.”
Photo courtesy of Hot Mass