Bands I Used To Love is a segment where we talk about old flames: the music we used to love as younger people. Our middle school favs, our first albums, our angsty high school heroes. For whatever reason, these bands fell out of our rotation. Sometimes they’re embarrassing, sometimes they make us feel like we were pretty cool back then. Either way, old heroes reveal a lot about a person, and the reason they’re gone tells us even more.
The Band: Hot Water Music
From Gainesville, Florida, Hot Water Music was one of the grittier bands around the periphery of the early 00s/late 90s emo scene. They equally belonged to post-hardcore and punk scenes, but for some reason, my in-road to finding them was emo. Specifically, Emo Game, a flash game relic that time has swallowed. It is crude in a lot of ways — the physics are bad, and the controls are similar to trying to herd cats on ice from the inside of a giant hamster ball. Still, it had some great music, including the opening riff to “I Was On A Mountain” from Hot Water Music’s 2002 album Caution.
Why I Liked Them
First of all, it helps that that logo is a 10/10 on the iconography scale. It is simple, easy to doodle on the inside of your composition notebook, and looks good on t-shirts and tattoos. Hot Water Music could be around for decades if they just keep selling cool t-shirts.
Secondly, vocalists Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard just had these gutteral, hoarse voices that went so well with their blistering guitar riffs. The emo I was listening to at the time all had the same flavor of bright power chords, basically Blink 182 with angst. Hot Water Music wasn’t about angst at all. There was righteousness, fury, hope, and all types of anger, but never angst.
There’s was a music that braced you for things, as opposed to wallowing in them. It is hard to listen to “Remedy” and not be ready to roll with whatever life throws at you. It will definitely throw something at you, and it will pack a devastating punch, but you’ll stagger to your feet right after. That was the message I got with every buzzsaw guitar solo and gravel-throat anthem.
In 2005, lead singer Chuck Ragan left and the band went on hiatus. The remaining members formed a new band, The Draft, which I did not follow because I thought Chuck Ragan was at least half the reason I was listening to them. In retrospect, I had no idea that Chris Wollard sang on just as many HWM tracks I loved, so I probably would’ve been into it.
Sometime in 2008, the band reunited but by then I was too interested in exploring indie to go back. I gave it a peep — it seemed alright. I just didn’t have the patience or overwhelming desire to burn it to CD and work it into my car mixes.
Hot Water Music still rules. This is the first time in this feature that I can say it without qualification or disclaimer, but a lot of the songs I loved back then still resonate with me today. Not only that, but they have the added enjoyment of nostalgia. I listen to something like “Free Radio Gainesville” and I’m taken back to the hours spent practicing that ridiculous, finger-blister bass intro in my room. I hear “God Deciding” and it brings back the dread that was hanging over the Bush years more than anything.
If they put out Caution or A Flight and a Crash today, I’m positive it’d be as well received as anything Japandroids or Cloud Nothings or Against Me! put out today. The band’s not around anymore, maybe for good, and it just seems like they keep resurfacing around these windows.