Hotline TNT Cartwheel Into Their Sickest Album Yet
Hotline TNT’s Cartwheel was one of this fall’s most anticipated guitar rock releases, a continuation of the massive wall of sound bandleader/guitarist Will Anderson burst forth on 2021 breakthrough Nineteen in Love. This time around, Hotline’s signature, shoegaze-style tone warping merges with a mix of Goo Goo Dolls-adjacent hook-making (“I Thought You’d Change”), nostalgically heart-thumping electronica (“Spot Me 100”), and a return to the act’s pop-punkiest tendencies (“Out of Town”). Put simply, it’s sick as hell. As Anderson tells Northern Transmissions, the band’s early November UK tour was likewise super sick, but not in the way they’d hoped — turns out a brutal bout of Norovirus circulated within the Brooklyn, NY-based combo, nearly knocking them out for some of their biggest shows yet.
“It was bad,” he explains. “Our third to last show, the bass player [Augie Beetschen] went down before the set was over; couldn’t finish the set. We had only played like 4-5 songs, and the crowd was sort of pissed off. I was like, ‘Let me finish this out on bass.’ He wasn’t well enough to play the next day either, [which] was a sold out show in London. We sounded horrible. I was on bass trying to struggle through it. It was kind of a letdown!”
While Beetschen rebounded for a tour-closing appearance at the London Pitchfork Festival, by set’s end Anderson was feeling woozy, himself. What followed was a night of painkillers and puking for various Hotline members, as well as their UK host.
Speaking from his New York apartment, a mercifully fully recovered Anderson walked Northern Transmissions through his band’s first album for Jack White’s Third Man Records; superfan tattoos; and the hardcore aerobics his Cartwheel should inspire.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
NORTHERN TRANSMISSIONS: Let’s start off with a super literal question. You’re a tall guy, how well can you perform a cartwheel?
WA: It’s probably been a few years since I’ve done a proper one. I’m kind of waiting for the first hardcore show we play where people are doing cartwheels into the audience. There’s going to be a test pressing for whomever does that first.
NT: Not quite hardcore, but the cover art to Cartwheel kind of brings to a mind a scribbly death metal logo. Is the band name buried in that spiral somewhere?
WA: Nothing like that, no. That is from a graphic design book. I repurposed it, twisted it around, and mirrored it. There were a bunch of different demonstrations in the book of the way those lines move. I just thought it looked cool, and it fit the album title.
NT: You think anyone’ll tat that up as a tribute to Hotline TNT?
WA: Someone already has.
NT: Back in the day, Rocket From the Crypt said anyone that got a tattoo of their logo would get free lifetime entry to their shows. How would you feel about a similar proposition?
WA: About this guy getting into the shows for free? I guarantee you he’s already bought a ticket to our show. I haven’t met him in person, but he’s been in my DMs for a few years. He’s a superfan. He’s not going to accept free entry. I could put him on the guest list, but he’s going to buy tickets, and all the variants of our vinyl.
NT: If Nineteen In Love had been a meditation on teenage feelings, or an attempt at recalling young love, how do you sit with those concepts on Cartwheel? Is this about Will in love at this very moment?
WA: I guess this is more so about adult relationships than the first album. Nothing too radically different album-to-album. More successes; more failures.
NT: Most people wouldn’t have picked up on this through the lyrics, but you recently explained in another interview that “Maxine” is a love song that’s rooted in video game culture. What can you tell us about the implicit intimacy of sharing video games with someone?
WA: It’s hard to write about that kind of stuff. If I was hearing somebody talk about that [within a song], I would think it sounded cringe and lame. I don’t want direct lyrics like that — “Oh, we’re in the Among Us lobby”. It’s over the top; on-the-nose.
I don’t think people would assume this song is about playing video games, but that is a contemporaneous thing that couples do. They share it like anything else: playing cards together; going on vacation; going to a movie; reading aloud to each other. Its just another activity that two people — in this case lovers — can share together. That became the basis of that song.
NT: What’s the best game to play with a partner?
WA: There’s a game called It Takes Two that I actually have played with a platonic friend. If I was courting someone now, though, and she was a gamer, that would be the game that I would try to involve her with. It’s about a married couple going through some problems, and they’re learning to reconnect throughout the game.
NT: Like a relationship Sim…
WA: Yeah, but it’s [more] like a platformer. It’s an adventure game.
NT: Looking at the relationships within Hotline TNT, did you record everything by yourself for Cartwheel like you had on Nineteen In Love?
WA: Performance-wise I played everything, but I didn’t record any of it.
NT: Could that change in the future?
WA: Definitely. It’s really just a matter of circumstance. I recorded most of this album about a year ago, right after a European tour. I had to go to Kansas City to work with this guy Ian [Teeple, Cartwheel co-producer], and the other band members were like, “I can’t go to Kansas City right now!”
I wrote all the songs. No one is offended by this. And on the next record I’m planning on having our [live] drummer Mike [Ralston] play on it. Hotline TNT is just me and whoever is around at the time. I’ve had people play on the records before, and I will again. For this one, it just happened to be all me.
NT: Cartwheel is a Hotline TNT record, for sure — huge guitar hooks; those note-warping sounds — but there are likewise some additional tones on here. What can you say about something like “Stump”? There’s some bright acoustic string work in there. It almost sounds mandolin-ish…
WA: Unless Ian put a mandolin on without me knowing, it’s just acoustic and clean-driven 12-string guitars. That song in particular is a departure from most of the Hotline TNT material so far, both in song structure and vibe. It’s still the same genre of music, but put through less pedals.
NT: How about something like “Out of Town,” which has a faster, optimistic pop-punk sound that hadn’t really been explored on Nineteen In Love.
WA: You’ll find songs on the earlier 7-inches that sound like this, [like] a song called “Are U Faded” that we used to play all the time. People always ask us to play it, but I’m really sick of it, so we never do. I feel like this is the new “Are U Faded,” a fast, get-the-pit-going song.
NT: “Spot Me 100” almost has a “Firestarter”-style drum break in there…
WA: A breakbeat, yeah. I don’t know what to say besides that’s what the song called for. I’m just letting things go in a natural direction. I believe I recorded that with Ian [during] a three-day session. This could be inaccurate, but I think we had most of the song laid down, but didn’t know what to do for this last section. I got my MacBook out, and went into Garage band’s pre-programmed breakbeats. I think that’s what it is, [ultimately,] but we fucked with it a lot. It worked well, so we kept it going.
Last year your friends in Wednesday put a cover of Hotline TNT’s “Had 2 Try” on their Mowing The Leaves Instead of Piling Them Up compilation. What do you remember about hearing the cover for the first time?
WA: Well, I actually asked them to do it. I also do mixtape cassette releases in-between [albums]; I always cover somebody else, or have someone do one of my songs. Jay Som did one; Matt from the Berries did one. At the time, we had just played some shows with Wednesday. We’re kindred spirits, so we kept in touch. They were recording their album that just came out this year [ed. Rat Saw God] and it was done in the same sessions. I think it’s a cool version. I like the pedal steel in the intro; there’s a nice touch to it.
NT: You think they’ll play it live when you get back on tour together next year?
WA: I doubt they’ll do it, but I was thinking about that today. “Had 2 Try” is usually the last song in our set. I wonder if one of them will come up and do a little team-up. That would be cool! We’ve done that in the past on tours with Snail Mail and Momma, where we’d join each other on-stage.
NT: On top of the band, you’ve also got your Association Update basketball newsletter. This season you’ve once again picked Jayson Tatum for MVP. Maybe the first question is, how many times are you going to do this to yourself?
WA: I didn’t know you were keeping track, man [laughs]. I think he’s a special player, and he’s in the [MVP] conversation every year, like top 5. There’s something about the way Tatum plays. He’s a got a Kobe Bryant mentality, and I think one of these years he’s going to break out and be the number one guy in the league.
NT: I hope so, for Association Update’s sake. You need that legitimacy within NBA media.
WA: My predictions are looking good this year, so far. The Timberwolves are looking better than people expected; that’s on record, now.
NT: Keeping on topic, but also drawing things back to tattoos: you got an old-style Knicks tattoo — the one with their logo inside an apple — when you moved back to New York a few years back. When you were living in Vancouver, did you ever consider getting a Canucks tattoo to commemorate your time on the West Coast?
WA: I never did! I’ve gone back-and-forth on the Canucks’ branding, to be honest. The ‘80s black-red-and-yellow [ed. the flying skate logo] has some charm to it, but nothing that I could get tattooed. It’s too abstract. But obviously Vancouver is my one true home, and I’ll always feel like that’s where I’m supposed to be. It’s kind of contradictory, but I don’t really feel the passion in New York City; I just thought this would be a cool tattoo. My friend Nick, who used to be in the band, is a tattoo artist, and one day he texted me saying, “I’ve got an opening, you want me to tattoo this on you for free right now?” So, I went over there and we did it. That’s all there is to it, but I also love the Knicks. They’re my team in the East.
Hotline TNT are on tour supporting Cartwheel right now.
11/20 Madison, WI @ Dead Prairie
11/21 Davenport, IA @ Racoon Motel
11/22 Omaha, NE @ Reverb
11/24 Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre #
11/25 Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Music Hall #
11/27 Portland, OR @ Revolution Hall #
11/28 Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre #
11/29 Seattle, WA @ Neumos #
12/01 San Francisco, CA @ Bimbo’s 365 Club #
12/02 Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent #
12/19 Raleigh, NC @ Lincoln Theatre @
01/20 Winston-Salem, NC @ SECCA @
01/21 Boone, NC @ Lily’s Snack Bar @
01/22 Richmond, VA @ The Broadberry @
01/23 Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club @
01/27 Pittsburgh, PA @ Thunderbird Music Hall @
01/28 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop @
01/30 Nashville, TN @ Eastside Bowl @
02/01 Oxford, MS @ Proud Larry’s @
02/02 Pensacola, FL @ The Handlebar @^
02/03 Jacksonville, FL @ Jack Rabbits @^
03/04 Orlando, FL @ The Social @^
02/06 Miami, FL @ Gramps @^
02/08 Savannah, GA @ Lodge of Sorrows @
02/09 Athens, GA @ 40 Watt @
02/10 Chattanooga, TN @ Cherry Street Tavern @
# w/ Quicksand
@ w/ Wednesday
^ w/ They Hate Change
Order Cartwheel HERE.
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