Hotel Wrecking City Traders

Hotel Wrecking City Traders are brothers Ben and Toby Matthews, hailing from Melbourne, Australia. Eager to explore beneath the vast surface(s) of different subgenres, their music is unpredictable and good. For their latest 12″ release, the duo hooked up with Gary Arce of Yawning Man and Ten East, researching the soundwaves furthermore. And on the other side, we hooked up with Ben for a little bit of chat and here is what he said…

Nick: Hello there, Ben! To open this interview, would you mind going back to the beginning of Hotel Wrecking City Traders and tell me about you and Toby (your brother) started the band?

Ben: The band started playing shows in 2007 shortly after self releasing our first EP. We had been jamming for many years before this on and off for short periods but started playing shows regularly from 2007.

Nick: Somehow it seems natural that you and Toby would form a band around improvisation and jamming, considering that you two played together since you were kids. What do you think about this?

Ben: Yeah probably. It’s a very comfortable arrangement and is the basis for our live shows. We also enjoy constructing pieces of music and ‘writing’ parts and give credence to the concept of songwriting, we hope to release some of that stuff next year.

Nick: Speaking of improvisation and jamming, especially jamming here – I always thought that to have a good (final) product out of a jam, you have to know your bandmates very well. I guess it’s a mitigating circumstance for you and Toby, no? I mean, everyone of us (who knows  how to play an istrument) can hook up with some other musicians and noodle something, but that’s doesn’t mean you’ll have something good as a result.

Ben: Yeah it all depends on the connection that stems between players and Toby and I read each other very easily and enjoy communicating via our instruments in this band together.

Nick: A lot of thought is put in the name of the band. When I say Hotel Wrecking City Traders, there are many things that pop into my mind. I’d like for you to tell us more about it.

Ben: It’s a pretty dumb name. Toby made it up. Originally I think it was split into two parts, the ‘Hotel Wrecking’ being a sarcastic nod to the actions of drugged out rock starts of the past and City Traders’ part was because we had moved around a lot and had met up to jam in so many countries growing up. I always laugh when we get asked if it’s because we are Wall St bankers. It’s really just a sort of sarcastic and silly name. Probably way too long! We get that a lot. Maybe we’ll just shorten it to HWCT.

Nick: This year you guys released a 12“ on Bro Fidelity as a collaboration with Yawning Man’s Gary Arce. How did you hook up with Gary? What’s his take on this release?

Ben: We met Gary through playing a show together in December 2009. We opened up for Ten East on their Aussie tour. It was a coming together of like minds in terms of the ways we approach making music and he suggested that we should collaborate on something which of course we said we would love to do. Last time I spoke to him he was digging the release. I think he felt like he wanted to play more stuff on there perhaps or maybe wished he had some more time but I know he wants to record another one, this time with all of us in the same country/room/time though.

Nick: Do you guys often rehearse prior to the recording process for a release or do you go strictly improvisational, without knowing how it’s going to sound? Describe the process of making a “song“ in HWCT.

Ben: The EP was all written mostly, but we improvised a few parts out on the day we recorded it which we did in around 4 hours (we were poor at the time.) “Black Yolk’ was recorded in one day also, with the exception of one track we did  when we were recording another project Daggers Mid Flight with our friends from Spider Goat Canyon. We recorded that when they were having a break drinking some beers and we just plugged in and recorded that piece, which became ‘Eavesdropper’  I have always been a fan of Sonic Youth’s approach to making music and how they do their studio records as well as their own improvised  releases on their own label. I think that’s what we are likely to do with the next record is probably go back to what we did on the EP and try spend time honing ideas, and constructing the riffs more methodically. I think change is good for any band. No rules is a good rule for us I guess. Follow them, break them, make them up, whatever seems interesting at the time we’ll go with that gut instinct.

Nick: What do you think of improvisational music? Somehow there is an omnipresent feeling that many bands today decide to go without a singer, which leaves a vast field for exploring within these subgenres.

Ben: We have always been a fan of it. We played with Russian Circles last week and they have that whole precise/constructed thing going on in such an amazing way. They translate those songs live in a very potent way and were really a fun band to watch. I equally admire bands like Earthless and Om who will diverge from the recorded versions of their songs and allow each live setting to determine a songs length and levels of exploration into it’s final sonic destination. I think instrumental music is very powerful and we have never really entertained the notion of singing ourselves, but anythings possible.

Nick: You employ different subgenres ranging from psychedelic, stoner, noise to post-rock. Where do these elements come from? Which bands / artists influenced your work in HWCT?

Ben: That list is endless. There are so many influences that have shaped the way we play our instruments and play. Many of them are really nothing like what we sound like at all.  But Yawning Man are a big influence for sure, The Melvins are awesome and always are changing which we really enjoy and respect, but I think our sound is born out of reactions to music rather than trying to mimmick a certain style, genre or sound. The hallmarks will be evident sometimes but we try not to make that a conscious thing.

Toby Matthews (left) & Ben Matthews (right)

Nick: Comparing this project you did with Gary with your previous works, there is an evident shift in your music from release to release. Would you call it an evolutionary process? I have to admit that I dig Black Yolk because of its rawness and somehow straight-in-the-face vibe.

Ben: Thanks. Yeah I think each record is a product of it’s time and environment in which it was made. I guess it is evolutionary so long as each progression shows some element of growth to the listener. I’m sure our next release will have some new approaches and characteristics in it too as well some familiar aspects. The more times a band plays the more it grows and the players musical vocabularies grow with it. For us, we enjoy that exploration and that’s what you hopefully hear in the recordings.

Nick: Besides working with HWCT, you started an independent label, Bro Fidelity Records. As you are both concerned in running this kind of business and playing in a band, do you think that the future for young up-and-coming bands is to work this way? Also, are you open to release some other bands through Bro Fi?

Ben: Yeah I would love to put more releases out on Bro Fi and get asked to all the time. I have limited resources financially so I can only put out one or two releases a year. The Fire Witch release was the first non HWCT release I did. Absolutely love that record. The next release is going to be a 3 way split which I am really excited about, HWCT are on there as well as one of Mario & Gary’s projects and an awesome band from the UK called Sons of Alpha Centauri. I think the days of the ‘traditional’ record company setup are soon to be doomed. That ideology no longer works for the bands or for the labels. DIY is the way forward and having bands able to put out one release on one label and their next release on another to me is the best way. To me the ethos of Frank Kozik’s Man’s Ruin label, was for me the major inspiration. I can only dream that one day I have put out a tenth of as many killer releases as he did! That label was an absolute goldmine for killer bands and quality small run presses. The label doesn’t make money it simply is an outlet for HWCT’s music and others in Australia. We would love to find somebody to release and distribute our records in Europe though as the price of mail order from Australia makes it very difficult for me to cover costs. I like to keep the releases affordable for the buyer but in doing so lose money, simply due to the huge cost of postage to Europe.

Nick: We talked about HWCT and Bro Fidelity, but are you involved in any other projects / bands at the moment? I know that you filled in on drums for Mondo Generator’s tour. How was it?

Ben: Sadly the Mondo tour never fully got off the ground. There were some problems with band members getting sick and it was over before it began unfortunately. Good while it lasted though. Got to spend some time in Los Angeles last summer, and see some sights.  Toby and I also have a band called Daggers mid Flight which is releasing a double album soon on Chairfish Recordings in Australia. We’re working on some shows with Gary as a three piece as soon as we can which we are all looking fwd to and also some offers from Japan have arisen which we are excited about.

Nick: What are your upcoming plans? Are you working on some new material for HWCT?

Ben: We have some shows in and around Melbourne for the rest of the year and then want to get to recording something new just the two of us I think. There’s also the 3 way split 12″ that’s gonna be the next Bro Fidelity release, then we will get the new record done and do some more touring.

Nick: Is there anything you would love to add that I didn’t cover with my questions?

Ben: Thanks for the chat, man. We appreciate it.

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Read Hotel Wrecking City Traders & Gary Arce review here, listen to it here or buy it from here.

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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