Craving a touch of indie and emo in your pop punk? Straight out of Lansing, Michigan, Hot Mulligan have turning heads and dropping jaws with their new LP, Pilot. We were lucky enough to get an interview with the guitarist of Hot Mulligan, Chris Freeman, and asked him a few questions.
Q: When you started the band, did you ever see it reaching the level of success you have achieved?
A: No, honestly. We really just wanted to put out on EP for fun and kind of planned on calling it a day.
Q: You guys started playing music in 2014 and have been breaking ground ever since. Looking back, what has been your most memorable or treasured experience?
A: I’d say it’s between BLED Fest 2016 or this tour we just wrapped up with Knuckle Puck. Both were really memorable for us.
Q: Your new album, Pilot, was released on March 23rd and has received an overwhelmingly positive reception–we’ve heard some fans call it this generation’s “Take it to Your Grave.” Is the weight of the audience’s expectations something the band is worried about for future releases?
A: At the end of the day, we’re just going to make the albums we want to make. As long as we like it, then that’s all that matters. It is a little overwhelming to think we might not live up to expectations, but it’s something we’re going to try not to think about.
Q: What are your favorite tracks from the new record and why?
A: “How Do You Know It’s Not Armadillo Shells?” and “There Was A Semi Fight On I-69.” Those two are definitely standouts from the rest of the records and were written last, so they just still feel pretty fresh. We like to change it up when we can.
Q: Your band features a compelling dual vocal approach. During the writing process, how do you divide up the vocal parts with the dual vocal approach? Is this specific part of the writing process ever a point of contention?
A: We never try to fit a dual vocal in there just because there isn’t one yet. Usually it happens naturally. We just decide that it would be cool or interesting to throw in a trade-off at that one spot, or we decide one of our voices are better suited for a certain line.
Q: You guys hail from Lansing, Michigan. How has your hometown and its scene affected the band as musicians?
A: It definitely gave us some help in the beginning. We started opening shows for touring bands at Mac’s Bar in Lansing, and eventually we were bringing in enough people to do our own shows there.
Q: How did you get into punk in the first place?
A: I was given a burned Simple Plan CD in kindergarten by one of my dad’s friends, and I just liked how it sounded. I listened to that CD for years after that.
Q: Does Hot Mulligan have a “band dad?” If you had to choose a problem child, which member of the band would that be?
A: None of us could decide that we necessarily have a band dad, though we did decide that I (Chris) would be the problem child.
Q: Your songs often feature out-of-the-ordinary names, such as ‘I Fell In Love with Princess Peach’ or the three-song ‘How I Met Your Mother’ series. There are a few on the new album we would love to have explained. What was behind the naming process for ‘All I Wanted by Michelle Branch’ and ‘How Do You Know It’s Not Armadillo Shells?’
A: We originally wanted to cover “All You Wanted” by Michelle Branch but never got around to it. Later it kind of just came to us that it would be funny to name one of our songs that. “How Do You Know It’s Not Armadillo Shells?” was something a stranger said to us at a party the day we left for a tour with Belmont. He was asking us how we knew paper came from trees. He seemed to think it might come from armadillo shells. It totally doesn’t.
Q: You guys released a split with Everyone Leaves back in 2016. If you guys had the opportunity to do another split EP collaboration with any band, dead or alive, who would it be?
A: That split was really fun for us because we were still pretty fresh. I can’t really say we’d be stoked to do another one though.
Q: In the music video for ‘How Do You Know it’s not Armadillo Shells?’ you use on-screen text to drive the narrative–however, these bits of text don’t seem to be directly related to the lyrics of the song. What was the inspiration for this choice?
A: We thought it just added to the story. That song is about feeling uncomfortable at parties and thinking of all of the things that make it a less than enjoyable experience sometimes, so the text is all of the things you might be thinking on your night out but aren’t saying out loud.
Hot Mulligans new album, Pilot, is explosive, infectious and emotional. The album kicks off with a full band remake of “Deluxe Capacitor”–a fan favourite from their last EP, and a relentless earworm that will make a home of your head. “The Soundtrack To Missing a Slam Dunk” encapsulates the emotions of a breakup and an inability to forget a lover who was never as invested in the relationship. In context with the rest of the album, “How Do You Know It’s Not Armadillo Shells?” marks a refreshing change of pace with its compelling yet sparse instrumental. This track may very well be one of the most relatable on the album due to its well-spoken imagery, evoking the setting of a bumping house party and an uncomfortable narrator. The rise of Hot Mulligan isn’t just inevitable; it’s already happening. Expect to see more of them soon.
The rise of Hot Mulligan isn’t just inevitable; it’s already happening. Expect to see more of them soon.
– Brody Woodford (edited by Riley Witiw)
-Photo credits to Danny DeRusso (@DannyDeRusso)