Boulder Theater Presents Hot Mulligan with Free Throw, Just Friends, Charmer
When HOT MULLIGAN took to social media to declare themselves #1 Hot New Band, it would have been easy to write off the terminally online emo quartet’s proclamation as yet
When HOT MULLIGAN took to social media to declare themselves #1 Hot New Band, it would have been easy to write off the terminally online emo quartet’s proclamation as yet another irreverent entry into their bag of tricks.
But it turns out Hot Mulligan have a way of manifesting things into existence, whether it’s name-dropping Michelle Branch and Mark Hoppus in song titles and netting responses from both (only one got the joke) or, true to their word, becoming synonymous with the newest waves of pop-punk and emo – err, post-emo, the genre Hot Mully have claimed responsibility for inventing. (Go ahead and fact-check it; they’ll wait.)
Since forming in Lansing, Michigan, in 2014, the college friends – vocalist Tades Sanville, guitarists Chris Freeman and Ryan Malicsi and drummer Brandon Blakeley – have ascended from basements to buzz band on the back of two beloved albums, 2018’s Pilot and 2020’s you’ll be fine. Now, bolstered by 140 million Spotify streams, a sold-out nationwide headlining tour, support slots for the likes of The Wonder Years and New Found Glory and headlines in Alternative Press and Rock Sound, the band’s third LP, WHY WOULD I WATCH (Wax Bodega), cements their evolution as one the most versatile and profoundly moving bands in the underground.
Produced by longtime collaborator Brett Romnes, Why Would I Watch is Hot Mulligan at their loudest, their poppiest, and, ultimately, their most poignant: twinkly Midwestern emo guitars and mathy, synthy-heavy rhythms, Sanville’s sandpaper vocals and indelible melodies, the lightning-in-a-bottle kinetic energy of Long Island ca. 2001 updated for newer generations.
“And I Smoke” channels the ghost of Warped Tours past with frenetic pit-starting energy and unrelenting momentum – close your eyes, and you can almost taste the sweat and sunscreen – while “No Shoes in the Coffee Shop (Or Socks)” is the most well-honed slice of pop the band have ever laid down and the ambient slink of “This Song Is Called It’s Called What’s It Called” unfolds and builds, builds, builds into a dynamic eruption of emotion poised to become a highlight of live sets.
“We didn’t really have grand ambitions when we went in to make this album,” explains Freeman. “I liked you’ll be fine, and I just wanted us to make another good one.” Adds Sanville wryly: “If we had made a bad record, I’d have gotten into a plane and fallen out of it.”
Therein lies the true magic of Hot Mulligan, the push and pull of puns and pathos that might seem diametrically opposed at first but actually intersect to perfectly encapsulate life in a heavy, ADD-addled world.
Taken at face value, closed-eyes dartboard song titles like “Cock Party 2 (Better Than The First),” “Christ Alive My Toe Dammit Hurts” and “John ‘The Rock’ Cena, Can You Smell What the Undertaker” portray the band as perpetual court jesters, but make no mistake, the songs on Why Would I Watch are deeply personal: loss of connection with old friends (“Cock Party 2 (Better Than The First)”), generational trauma (“It’s a Family Movie She Hates Her Dad”), body dysmorphia (“John ‘The Rock’ Cena, Can You Smell What the Undertaker”), grief over the passing of pets (“Betty”), the fraught feeling of hopelessness as you’re helpless to stop time (“Smahccked My Head Awf”), the haze of hard touring (“This Song Is Called It’s Called What’s It Called”).
The band don’t consider these groundbreaking topics, opting for more measured and at times resigned realism to deal with the melancholia and malaise of life’s ups and downs. “No one who’s depressed is crying all the time,” Sanville says. “The media likes to portray deep depression as sadness, but most of the time it’s indifference. That works its way into alternative comedy and shitposting. The two cultures collide perfectly. The titles are the shitposts and the songs are what everyone in this position actually feels.”
“We’ve always written serious songs and then created titles out of autocorrect on our phones,” Freeman explains. “We didn’t think it mattered because we thought no one would listen when we first started.”
But it’s clear from the band’s fervent online fanbase and cathartic live show that people do listen. They make their own Hot Mulligan memes, flood discussion forums and pack venues around the world to scream along with Sanville and his bandmates, finding comfort in their songs and comic relief in their public personas all the same. It pays off in an album that’s set to catapult Hot Mulligan to even higher highs – but you can rest assured they won’t be taking it too seriously as they make their way there (nor will Sanville be exiting any aircraft in the process).
“We’ve done more than we ever thought we could at the beginning,” Freeman says. “We’re vibing now. It doesn’t feel like there’s a next level up, almost like we’re just replaying the levels. We beat the game, and now it’s time to go collect all the stars.”
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