For much of its 20-year existence, Hot Water Music of Gainesville, Fla., enjoyed a large, devoted following thanks to its blend of working-class songwriting, relatable emo honesty and post-punk anthems. But until last year, its albums had never graced a Billboard chart.
Exister debuted at No. 34 on the Billboard 200 in 2012, following a four-year hiatus and an eight-year span in which they hadnt released a new CD.
I cant explain it, and I dont really want to, says guitarist/co-vocalist Chris Wollard.
Drummer George Rebelo lives nearby, while singer/guitarist Chuck Ragan is based in Northern California and the transient bassist Jason Black in New Jersey.
In all those years, I never looked at Billboard. We were always a touring band. Album sales were an afterthought. We never had success in that way.
Maybe Hot Water Musics rough-around-the-edges, blue-collar sound is finally resonating with a larger audience. Its gruff version of punk has more in common with Bruce Springsteen, Bad Religion, grunge and the Replacements than Green Day.
Well go out on tour, and there are a lot of people our age and older, and there are a lot of younger people. Its fairly obvious that they were too young to see us when (2002s) Caution came out, he says.
The reception to the new songs has been positive, too.
You dont know if anybody wants you to put out a new record. With some bands, (the audience) only wants to hear the stuff you did 10 years ago. When we play (new) songs live, it can be a little nerve-racking. But as soon as the album was out, people were singing along. There was no dip in the energy in the room (during new tracks).
Hes waiting for the other shoe to drop.
If theres a real answer, Id be telling all my friends, he says of why he thinks HWM is suddenly a hot ticket again.
Blame Exister a solid, fast-paced record that never loses momentum. Wollard credits the break (which he never considered a break-up) and time spent working with other artists.
You want each other to get out and explore different ideas because everything youre learning makes you better at communicating. We need each other to fill in these blanks, he says. Im in a couple others bands, and Hot Water is this whole different thing because of all those years, hours in the studio, shows.
The hiatus gave HWM a chance to push reset.
I think we had to figure out who we were again as people. We took a long break and started doing shows together because we wanted to. When we started writing again, it wasnt because we were under contract and there was a label hounding us, he says of the results.
It sounds exactly like us in our late 30s. There are a lot of things about it that are different than what we used to do. At the same time, it was the closest wed ever been to those very first years because it was like, I dont care what anybody thinks except those three dudes.