“Everyone in that space has one common desire, which is that they want to see a band play. There are a few people that want to jump on other people and then there’s everybody else that doesn’t want to be jumped on. Just don’t. You are causing other people’s experiences and voices, especially smaller bodies, to be oppressed”
Sat backstage at London’s Borderline, taking a break from using duct tape to fix the strap on his guitar, Christian Holden is explaining his desire to create a safe space. It’s a desire that later on, during The Hotelier’s first ever shows in the capital, he has to police.
“Have you ever seen the video of Cedric from At The Drive In?,” he asks. “He says ‘It’s a sad day when the only way people know how to express themselves is through slam dancing.’ and then one person’s crowdsurfing and screams ‘Woo.’ He looks at them and says, “You didn’t learn that from your best friend, you learnt that from TV. You’re a robot, a sheep,’ and he starts baa-ing on stage like a sheep. While it’s totally over the top, it’s real.”
Punk rock has always been about creating equality and safety and, as Christian says, it’s something that needs active nurturing. “Smaller bodies are often overlooked, ignored and not listened to. My belief is, if we’re going to have a space where everyone has a similar volume voice then you have to boost up the people who are quieter or who aren’t going to say anything. You need to suppress the people who are going to treat the space like it’s their own, no matter where they are.”
Those rules for a safe space can be taken out of The Borderline and applied to the world at large. From festivals and their lineups to the music bands make.
“I purposely set forth to write in a way that hits people on a deeper level,” explains Christian. If ‘It Never Goes Out’ (the band’s 2011 debut) was the angsty youth album, then ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’ was a response to that. ‘Ok, we can take control of our own lives, we can be our own people, we can be self-determined’. This is everything that happens as the dust settles from youth in revolt.” The album is about growing up and discovering a life outside of your home. “When you start dealing with your own problems, when you start building meaningful relationships with people, you learn some stuff that is scary and incredibly difficult to figure out.”
Riffing on the Wizard of Oz adage and not Yoda-speak, ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’ is a sideswipe at the idea of being a product of your upbringing.
“If we were to think of it in relation to revolutionary politics,” he offers without a hint of irony or uncomfortable reach, “’It Never Goes Out’ is about breaking our chains and throwing them off while ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’ is about sitting down and realising we have to completely deconstruct everything that we were built up with while we were in those chains. We have to break it down to the bare bones of what we are as people and learn how to grow.”
This outspoken view on an established way of running things is one of the reasons why The Hotelier have managed to pack out tonight’s venue, and countless others on the run, without ever having ventured to Europe before. “It’s been fucking wild,” he starts. “Can I say fucking wild? Every show has been blowing my mind. It’s just been constantly exciting. We haven’t got to a point where it’s dipped at all. It’s been consistently getting better and I’m really just excited on that.”
The snowballing success of 2014’s ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’ isn’t all international adventures and representing the change you want to see in the world. “At a certain point you transition from ‘human that makes music’ to ‘public figure’ and having people interested in my life was really strange,” Christian reveals. “People have really intense reactions to the music sometimes and then they feel like they know me. I’ve got a headspace for it now though. I’ve figured out a way to differentiate the two things and how to navigate those things responsibly. It’s weird but I’m ok with that, because life is weird.”
“I’ll write lyrics to songs at 4am when I feel like a completely different person. I don’t feel like I wrote them which means I can appreciate them. You know when you feel really introspective and you feel at peace with everything? That’s the only time I’ll write. Our songs are really wordy. If you’re going to want to singalong, you’re going to get into all the words. You’re going commit a lot of time to liking The Hotelier. The ratio of people passively caring about our band compared to the people who very very much care about it is a lot different than what I’ve seen with other bands. It’s awesome and very weird at the same time.”
It’s those words, that deep, twisting poetry, which drives The Hotelier deep into hearts and minds. Yes, the songs are wordy but they reflect the struggles of a twenty-something crowd with powerfully simple accuracy.
“I want to put myself through my words. What I want people to do is think about how every person has a complex struggle that they’re dealing with. Everyone has a deeper self that they don’t share. When you’re taking time to share that part of yourself with other people, and then learn what that is for the people you care deeply for, that’s when you start building strong meaningful relationships.”
There’s a handful of dates remaining to support both ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’ and the reissue of ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ before The Hotelier retreat to work on new material.
“The voice that’s going to be used on the next album isn’t the voice that was used on ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’,” says Christian “I’m a constantly changing person, constantly trying to think of how I can write like I talk. I’m actively working on building myself up at all times. Every time I think ‘this is who I am’, I don’t like it anymore so I try something else.”
“I want the next album to be good,” he ventures. “If I released a bad album, I’d feel bad. At the same time, if people didn’t react well to this thing that I’ve put six years of my life into – didn’t go to college because of – it would be the end of it growing, and I’ve been really excited to see things grow,” he continues with a sudden sense of vulnerability. “I don’t want this to become a thing where I feel like I’m not super passionate about putting my whole self into.”
“We got a bunch of songs written. I’ve got a whole – not concept – but a flavor laid out. We’re going to record in a couple of months and hopefully it’ll be done soon,” he teases. And the flavour for The Hotelier’s third album? “It’s brighter.”
“The point of being a human on earth is affirming your existence by not passively living,” explains Christian. “I’m outspoken because I would feel like nothing if I was in this space that didn’t represent me and I wasn’t vocal about it. I’m very much about building space for people. Allowing environments where all voices can be heard and all voices can shape the space around them. Part of that is by affirming your own voice. Not speaking over others but saying ‘I am present and I’m not going away.”