Hailing from New York and freshly signed to Jack White’s Third Man Records for the release of sophomore album Cartwheel, Hotline TNT are a shoegaze-inspired outfit with a big difference.
The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Will Anderson (formerly of Vancouver DIY duo Weed), they create densely layered noise-pop, with a heavy My Bloody Valentine, Teenage Fanclub and Dinosaur Jr. influence, using next to nothing in the way of pedals and effects.
“I think there’s a lot of shoegaze bands right now that just sound like a wash or a blur,” says Will, who doesn’t believe in reverb, doesn’t own a delay, and who only breaks out the distortion pedal when one of his preferred amps – a solid-state Randall half-stack, a Roland Jazz Chorus or a Peavey Bandit – aren’t available.
“I firmly believe that the band should sound good no matter what gear is around,” he stresses. “Obviously we need distortion, so if there’s none on the amp, I’ll relent and use a [Pro Co] RAT pedal. But, if possible, it’s a tuner and that’s it.”
Instead, the wall of tones that towers high and stretches wide on Cartwheel was built from an array of guitars with distinct sonics and a belief that it’s always better to have “double of everything”. Pressed into just about every track, you’ll hear twin acoustic guitars, doubled-up clean and distorted electrics, layers of 12-string and “a track or two of bendy My Bloody Valentine-style guitars” for good measure.
“I could always do more,” smiles Will, who tracks everything in the studio himself, but relies on two additional guitarists to bring his music to life on stage.
“Most people think three guitarists is a lot, but to me, it’s the minimum. A lot of the time we’re playing the exact same chords and riffs, but it sounds way thicker and heavier that way.”
Anyone with a nervous disposition or a precious attitude towards the treatment of guitars might want to look away when Will busts out his trademark whammy-less whammy technique, which involves applying pressure to the body of his Japanese-made Yamaha SG-3 while pushing the neck forward to achieve a DIY pitch-drop effect.
“I don’t know if we invented that technique,” he ponders, having been at it since his tenure in Weed. “We didn’t have whammy bars, but we loved the warping sound and it was not lost on me that it looked pretty cool to do it.”
While the Yamaha has withstood being manhandled for over a decade, others haven’t been so lucky. “I’ve tried it on an Epiphone SG,” he confesses, “but that’s completely demolished now as a result!”
- Cartwheel is out now via Third Man Records.