In the short time that they have been together, Hotel Lux have become one of the most talked about bands on the scene. Emerging from the same South London circuit that has birthed faves like Shame and Goat Girl, the Portsmouth-raised quintet – made up of singer Lewis Duffin, bassist Cam Sims, guitarist Jake Sewell, keyboardist/guitarist Sam Coburn, and drummer Craig Macvicar – have been championed for their “pub rock” sound, gritty realness and deliciously dark lyrics.
Penning songs that take on matters most wouldn’t touch – executioners and pedophiles, for example – Hotel Lux’s tracks can’t help but pull you in and make you want even more. Taking inspiration from British directors and their unapologetic take on life’s hardships, their latest track “Daddy” is the perfect example of how the group turn the macabre into the magical. Releasing the accompanying video today, directed by Jonathan Waller, we caught up with the group for a beer on the beach at Great Escape to find out all about it.
How did you all meet?
Lewis: Before the South London scene there was the Southhampton scene. We played together quite frequently around Southhampton because we lived in that area. Then me, Sam, Craig and Jake started a London band when we were moving to London. Then we asked Cam to play bass at Truck Festival in 2016.
How have you grown in those two years?
Lewis: Both vertically and horizontally.
Cam: Naturally I think we have grown.
Lewis: The early live shows were very play it by ear, we just kind of made it up and made changes when we felt like it.
Craig: Naturally you do just grow as a band, the songs grow and you get better and you play better together.
Lewis: It all came very quickly. We started playing the London circuit before we’d even got a proper set together so we’ve had time to take a step back now.
Cam: Exactly. Because of the whole thing that was happening in South London we kind of jumped into that pretty quickly, which I guess worked in our favour more than anything but it did mean that we had to get good quite quickly. Our first ever show at the Windmill was our third ever show.
Sam: First gig in London.
Cam: If we watched it back now, we’d probably think it was terrible!
You’ve got quite a bit of buzz surrounding you right now, do you guys feel that?
Sam: There seems to be more and more positive response for what we’re doing.
Lewis: It’s all started building this year and we’ve started playing more and more shows outside of London and some festivals, and to bigger audiences.
Craig: We’re no longer playing to two or three people in a bar.
Cam: We’ve been very lucky that our friends who were in more established bands have helped us by sharing our music and getting us out there. We’ve reached people that we probably wouldn’t have reached before because of our mates that are in bands who are doing bigger bits and bigger things.
You’re dropping the video for “Daddy” today! Can you tell me a bit about your vision for it?
Lewis: We did it with a guy called Jonathan Wellar who’s fucking really good at what he does. I went to his office and we sat down together and I said I wanted it to be in the same vein as British directors like Alan Clarke and Shane Meadows etc, so he influenced it quite heavily on a film called Scum by Alan Clarke and Clockwork Orange. There’s some scenes which reference those films. It makes the song make it a bit more sense.
It’s quite a dark song, what was the idea behind it?
Lewis: It’s influenced by a lot of things. Initially, going back to Shane Meadows, it was influenced by the way they take pretty gruesome issues and confront them quite directly. I’ve always tried writing my lyrics in the same vein as they would direct a film. More closer to home, there were these riots in the early 2000s near where we lived in a place called Paulsgrove. It’s the sort of place that you would avoid when you were younger because it’s known to be rough. I don’t think I’ve never actually been there… But there were riots there in the early 2000 because it was alleged that there were halfway houses for when pedophiles came out of prison to get rehabilitated. So there were riots because of it.
So what made you want to write about that?
Lewis: I like the idea of confronting those quite dark issues in a certain way and quite directly. Also Paulsgrove is like 15 minutes away from where I live and I always found it quite an interesting thing. With “The Last Hangman”, the reason I wrote that is because I found the Albert Pierrepoint story so interesting. It’s an interesting narrative for a song.
And what are you guys working on now? Is there a big body of work that you’re pulling together?
Jake: We’ve got quite a lot of new tracks in the works but we haven’t got round to recording anything yet.
Lewis: Hopefully there’ll be something slightly bigger than a single. Maybe an EP, we’re always very much against the idea, but it may have to be done.
Cam: We want to come out with a bigger body of work and spend more time on it. I think we’d rather have the correct support and the correct time to make a bigger body of work instead of little small things.
Lewis: Because we’ve released three singles already, we have a bit more time to do that and create a sort of sound that progresses from what we’ve released. When we release our first big thing I’d like it to make sense. I don’t think we even know what our vision is in terms of a bigger body of work, but it’ll happen when we go into the studio with these new songs that are coming about now I guess.
Cam: I think we’ve settled for a sound now that we’re happy with.
Lewis: Now we’ve got the “Hotel Lux sound”. When you first start as a band it takes you a little while to find your own feet and I feel like we’ve got that now and we can move forward with that.
Cam: When we first started we had ska sounds next to waltzing sounds and now it’s become a bit more consistent. We’re all on a more similar page now than when we started, because we all came from different bands and different influences and there was a bit of an identity crisis.
Lewis: But not even crisis, I think it’s so important as a band that you all listen to different things and have different visions for your band and then eventually you all come to a mutual agreement which I think is what happened and it’s worked quite nicely. Our songs will keep progressing and progressing.
And what else is the plan this year?
Cam: Fuck knows!
Lewis: It’s all kind of up in the air but I quite like that. We can kind of do anything…