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Hot Water Music on bending punk rules till they break and leaving space for the “long f**kin’ guitar solo” just ‘cos they can

Hot Water Music
[L-R] Hot Water Music’s Chris Wollard, Chuck Ragan and Chris Cresswell (Image credit: Elena Vilain / Josh Casuccio)

“Hot Water Music is a very liberated band in the punk world,” says Chris Cresswell, one of the long-running punk band’s three guitarists and vocalists. 

“With punk being a genre, there’s still a lot of rules, which is ironic. But Hot Water breaks them all the time.”

Cresswell is speaking in the third person, but since 2017 he’s been a full-fledged member of the Gainesville, Florida-based crew, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with co-guitarists and vocalists Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard in addition to fronting his own band, The Flatliners. 

Hot Water Music’s new ninth studio album, Feel the Void [Equal Vision], marks the first album they have written and recorded music as a quintet.

Over the course of their original six-album run before going on hiatus in 2004, Hot Water Music nearly became a genre unto itself. Their blend of wooly riffs, syncopated rhythms and growling vocals propelled long-players No Division [Some; 1999], A Flight and a Crash [Epitaph; 2001] and Caution [Epitaph; 2003] into the canon of post-hardcore essentials.

After reconvening in 2008, the band released a pair of solid albums, but something was missing. That ingredient, Wollard says, is the collaboration that defined their earlier work. 

In an about-face, the 12 songs on Feel the Void gestated for nearly a year as the band built, deconstructed and rebuilt them, then recorded them in Gainesville where it all started in the mid Nineties.

There’s been times when on the record there’s no guitar solo, [but] from now on, there’s a long f***in’ guitar solo here

Chris Wollard

The album was tracked with an enviable cast of workhorse guitars and amps; Les Paul Customs and Juniors, Melody Makers and Telecasters cranked through a Marshall JCM800 (the “problem solver,” notes Wollard), a Mesa Dual Rectifier, an Orange Rockerverb and a pair of custom Gosh-Sound heads.

Standout tracks Killing Time, Newtown Scraper and Lock Up prove there’s always room for more guitar, even in punk rock. And in the band’s live sets, they cast aside even their own rules.

“We spend a lot of time writing and being really particular and careful with our note placement, but then you get on the road and you’re like, ‘Yeah, fuck all that,’” laughs Wollard. 

“There’s been times when on the record there’s no guitar solo, [but] from now on, there’s a long fuckin’ guitar solo here. And the band supports that. The band is built for that.”

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Jim Beaugez
Jim Beaugez

Jim Beaugez has written about music for Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, Guitar World, Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and many other publications. He created My Life in Five Riffs (opens in new tab), a multimedia documentary series for Guitar Player that traces contemporary artists back to their sources of inspiration, and previously spent a decade in the musical instruments industry.