Photography: Dan Kendall
Has someone got it in for Hotel Lux? On the first night of their seven-date UK tour supporting Dilly Dally, they crashed their van en-route to Leeds, forcing themselves to regrettably cancel that evening’s show. “We were halfway there, and half of us were asleep,” keyboardist and guitarist Sam Coburn explains, as I speak the band ahead of their show at the Bullingdon, Oxford. “Then, we all got woken up to the sudden breaking of our van, skidding along the M1 and into the back of a BMW, which attached and couldn’t be pulled apart.”
“That was the worst thing,” vocalist Lewis Duffin adds – “Because it meant we were on the side of the motorway during rush-hour. Everyone coming past was abusing us. It was a weird first day of tour. Hopefully the weirdest first day of tour we’ll have.”
The financial pressures faced by unsigned bands are common knowledge. So, needless to say, the crash posed a troubling hit to the Hotel Lux wallet. Bassist Cam Sims: “Writing off the van cost us a lot of money. We had to get an emergency Travelodge. We had to pay the guy from the hire company in Brighton to drive the van up, and then pay for his train back again.”
“On support tours like this in the UK,” Duffin points out, “Straight away, we’re losing money. So, when there’re all these costs on top of it, it fucks up pretty quickly. There were just so many different payments that we had to make. I guess it’s what you deserve for going up the arse of a BMW.”
Hotel Lux – The Last Hangman
Emergency measures were called. Within a day, a fundraising t-shirt had been designed – a tongue-in-cheek image of a Hotel Lux branded camper van steaming from its engine. Pleas were published on social media, and the orders came flying in: “Luckily, the t-shirts did way better than we were thinking they were going to do,” says Duffin. “People were more sympathetic than we imagined. It’s kind of getting to a stage where it will hopefully be okay.”
“It was really nice to see who came out,” says Sims. “Looking at the emails coming through at who’s bought them, recognising names… There’re people from bands, people from labels… People like that are really chipping in.”
“It made quite a shit situation a lot better,” observes Duffin.
This support is testament to the committed following the five-piece have built since they relocated to South London from their Portsmouth/Southampton origins, having added drummer Craig Macvicar and guitarist Jake Sewell to the line-up.
The band’s first single Envoi was the catalyst for this steady buzz that’s been following the group since its 2017 release. It even inspired bassist Cam Sims to cancel his offer at Manchester and apply for Brighton University so that he could play in the group.
That single set the benchmark for Hotel Lux’s sound: doomy beats and curdling guitars, grimly wrapped up in Duffin’s pained lyrical dystopias of miserable and impoverished Brexit Britain. These have since embraced such taboo topics as capital punishment (The Last Hangman) and child abuse (Daddy,) uncomfortably spoken from the viewpoint of executioner or victim.
“We’ve been quite quiet for a long time,” Coburn admits, as I broach the subject of their scanty musical output in recent months (their previous release, Berlin Wall, came out last June.) It’s understandable, given that Lewis, Cam and Jake have degrees to finish, while Jake and Craig are busy “Surviving in London.”
But as we head into 2019, there are new songs with a fresh new sound. In the autumn of ‘18, the band pooled the resources of Dave McCracken, whose recent credits include the debut EPs of fellow guitar-slinging buzz bands Sports Team and Pip Blom, to record a clutch of tracks. And by the sounds of it, when I hear them performing at The Bullingdon tonight, Hotel Lux have taken the cue from those radio-play orientated groups. There’s a newfound pluckiness to their sound, inspired by beery, distinctively British pub-rock narratives of Ian Dury and The Stranglers. It occasionally threatens a swing time. “The new stuff is definitely a progression. I feel like it will surprise people,” admits Duffin.
“There’re big choruses in the new songs, which I don’t think anyone would really expect from us. I think I was very ignorant towards the notion. I didn’t think choruses were cool. But choruses are so cool.”
“We’ve stopped taking ourselves too seriously now,” Sims sums up.
Hotel Lux are clearly optimistic for their future. They are determined to tackle any adversity head-on, at all costs. As if committed to this point, they are busily getting through their Bullingdon rider of Budweiser bottles, despite them being over a year out-of-date. The consensus is that they taste like Christmas pudding. With a new van hired, they have also worked out how to operate the on-board television. All they need are some DVDs.
But the bottom line is, we can all be excited for what Hotel Lux have in store for us next. Lewis Duffin: “I don’t know what I’m allowed to say, but we’re releasing new songs soon. I’m sure I can say that.”
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