Hot Breath on recording their debut album, why Gothenburg is the epicenter of rock music, and the ABBA influence: Interview

J.N. 01/05/2021

A few years ago National Geographic’s tourist guide to Sweden claimed that Gothenburg is a city built on rock ‘n’ roll. Maybe you’ve heard of acts like In Flames, At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity or Hammerfall – major international metal bands and all from Gothenburg.

Best known for churning out heavy metal, Gothenburg’s rock music scene has thrived on its back and the city act as a natural location for many rock ‘n’ roll bands in Sweden, just like for the band members of new arrivals Hot Breath.

Eight years ago band members Jimmy Karlsson and Anton Frick left Stockholm for Gothenburg to try their luck in the capital of rock ‘n’ roll. After a few years playing in different bands in Gothenburg, Jimmy and his band colleague Jennifer Israelsson left Honeymoon Disease had a few beers too many with Hypnos member Anton and Grand’s Karl Edfeldt, and just like that they were married into Hot Breath.

Two weeks ago Hot Breath released their debut album Rubbery Lips, ten groovy slices of old-school infused garage rock ‘n’ roll, and just a few days after the release party we met up with Jimmy and Anton at Fyrens Ölkafé in Gothenburg.

Continue reading and you will learn why Gothenburg is the capital of heavy rock in Sweden, the hard work of restarting with a new band and being on standby for doing live shows just waiting for the lights to turn green.

A New Rock ’n’ Roll Chapter

Hot Breath is yet another great rock band from Gothenburg and you two have a history with Honeymoon Disease and Hypnos before the band was formed. What’s special about Gothenburg and the rock scene?
Anton: That’s what’s fun, we’re not from Gothenburg but moved here because of the music scene. It can’t be that many rock bands in Gothenburg that come from the city (laugh), most people we’ve met have moved here.

Jimmy: I guess everyone moved here for the same reason: Gothenburg is a great city if you want to play rock music.

I had a job as a journalist at a local newspaper and even if I knew that it would be hard to get the same type of job in Gothenburg I wanted to move here just because it’s a much better music scene, when my former band split up I thought “Let’s go to Gothenburg and start a new band”.

Many of our friends did the same at the same time and we kind of moved to Gothenburg from all across Sweden.

Anton: I was touring with Gothenburg band Horisont as a roadie and they talked a lot about how great it was to live in Gothenburg and how crappy Stockholm is, you know the usual conflict between Stockholm and Gothenburg (laugh).

Later a friend of mine was leaving Stockholm for Gothenburg to start a band and I just thought “What the fuck?! I want to be part of that”. Nothing really happened with my band in Stockholm and I moved to Gothenburg to see if it was any better and started Hypnos – that’s eight years ago. But I also knew people and bands in Gothenburg already and had social context when I arrived here.

Today it feels like I’ll never leave Gothenburg. In the beginning, I was here solely for the music scene, but that has evolved into something else, like having a great social life as well. I never had the same type of life in Stockholm, ever.

Hot Breath met at venues when we played with our other bands, that’s how it started for us just like it does for many bands – beers and music.

Jimmy: Even I, who’s born and raised just outside Stockholm and was a die-hard Stockholm patriot, has changed my view on Gothenburg. I thought I only would stay for a few months, maybe a year, but after three months I was like “Fuck that! I’m not leaving”.

That feeling grew from the fact that your role models in music, bands from Gothenburg, are really great people. There’s no weird attitudes or a hierarchy of bands, just friends who like to drink beer and listen to music together. That’s far from how it is in Stockholm.

Is it a bit more competitive in Stockholm?
Jimmy: For sure! It’s definitely a hierarchy and you better know your place. If you’re not at the same level people won’t talk to you, at least not treat you as an equal.

Anton: I’m quite sure a lot has changed in Stockholm since we left. What I really disliked was the general attitude. You always meet other bands at venues, but in Stockholm it’s always like a cockfight. Even if people would know what band you play in they’ll pretend they don’t know shit about your band just to make a statement, “We don’t care”.

Gothenburg is the opposite of all that shit.

Jimmy: Yeah, that type of difference in how people behave became quite visible after moving here. It’s quite weird that it is like that and something I don’t understand at all.

Anton: As I said, it’s probably different today. But I guess it has a lot to do with that both of us grew up in smaller places outside Stockholm, and that Stockholm is such a big city that it’s difficult to build a music community where people stick together. When you just meet people occasionally, it gets competitive.

Gothenburg is tiny and everything happens at ground level; just take the tram and you learn the city in a week [Stockholm has an underground system, Gothenburg has trams]. Everything is within 30 minutes’ reach; that’s very different from Stockholm.

Both of you have much experience of playing and touring with bands before you started Hot Breath and when you start a new band you’re very often compared to your former bands. How do you deal with that? Or can Hot Breath benefit from it?
Jimmy: At the moment it’s all fine for us, I guess it’s just how it is for all musicians that have a long resume of bands when they start on something new. Even if we sound a bit different it’s the same audience and in that sense it’s fine for us to get those references in reviews.

Anton: It’s good for the band to be associated with Hypnos and Honeymoon Disease because it means that people know what we did before Hot Breath and that they’re interested in what we’re doing now. With time it will fade away and we will be Hot Breath, not ex-Honeymoon Disease members or ex-Hypnos members.

Jimmy: Maybe I would become bothered about it if we take Hot Breath in a completely different direction music-wise but people expect us to sound like our former bands. But I have faith in that people are smart enough to understand that starting a new band also means playing something different.

Anton: I’m sure that we’ll have the same people in the audience as Honeymoon Disease and Hypnos had when we can start doing shows again. It’s not that we left the genre, we’re just taking another direction.

But how is it to restart again? Hypnos and Honeymoon Disease did their own tours and now you’re back to support slots again. You don’t get tired of building up a new brand again?
Jimmy: That’s actually something we discussed a lot just before Hot Breath started, like “Do we need to start all over again?”. I didn’t want to lose what I built up in terms of networks and reputation in the last years, but it never happened. All contacts are still there, bookers and venues and people in the scene that always helped us out before. The problem is that we can’t play live at the moment.

Anton: When you start a new band you know you will have to go through all those first steps once more before you are established in the scene, it’s all about showing off and build a reputation. But I don’t care if we’re doping support slots or our own tours, I just want to get away from the boring everyday life you have at home and have fun for a few weeks, that’s worth everything to me. In fact, it’s a lot easier to play support slots because you don’t have any responsibilities.

If I remember it right the pandemic canceled a big support slot for you last fall.
Anton: Yeah, we were supposed to have supported Danko Jones on the Scandinavian leg of his tour. For a band like us which probably will play smaller venues in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg that would have been massive.

Jimmy: We got the support slot even before we planned our album, we just had a 22-minute long EP (laugh). But when Hot Breath started our goal was to release an EP basically the next day because we wanted to come out and play as soon as possible to build the band’s reputation. We never intended to write the album until much later.

In that sense the pandemic brought something good: you got time to record your debut album.

Jimmy: The pandemic is of course horrible but we got a break from what we were doing and had time to write an album. Friends of us who released records just before the live scene went into lockdown have ended up in a horrible situation; they had full tours planned and merchandise with tour dates printed all over it, and then they had to return home just after they left.

Anton: We’ve used this last year super efficiently and spent the whole summer writing and recording the album, and we had time to work meticulously on every song on the record. I never had this much time to write and record the album. Usually you return from a tour, tired and fed up of your band members after spending too much time together (laugh), return to your boring day job and then you realize “Fuck! We need to start writing the next album”, and then you do it all in a week (laugh). It’s always like “Ok, it could have been a much better record but we really needed to get it out”. This time I can’t say I’ve been stressed at all.

Not another niche band

At the beginning of April Hot Breath released their debut album Rubbery Lips on The Sign Records and for once there has been lots of time to write and record an album. The pandemic lockdown of the live scene, thus postponing the support gigs to Danko Jones, opened up for writing and recording the album without any stress.

But they’re on standby for the restart of the live scene and to come out and play live again – as soon as possible.

The record has been out for a week and you already received great reviews. But how would you review the record and the whole process you went through writing and recording it?
Anton: We’ve probably listened to it too much during the process and are a bit tired of it (laugh). But I’ll give it five stars (laugh) because of how we worked with the songs in the process.

Every band probably rate their records as the best they’ve ever released, but for us it’s about the process and how much time we had at our hands to write and record it without any stress. When I listen to it today, it brings back these awesome memories of how we pulled it through, I hear it in the songs.

Jimmy: I would review the whole record on the back of just one song, “Bad Feeling”, because of how we came up with the idea for it. Despite its title, it’s a positive song for us and we wrote it a summer day in a dripping-hot rehearsal room and then left for an afternoon at the beach. The lyrics are quite negative but I just get this positive feeling when I hear it because of that whole day of writing the song and all of us going for a swim. That feeling permeates the whole record.

Anton: It’s also one of the last songs we did but it was different because it was written in one rehearsal session. Many of the other songs we worked on and reworked meticulously until you just felt irritated, but “Bad Feeling” is different. When the first version was done we sent it to Karl, our drummer, who was on holiday and he went nuts, got back to us and said “I’ve listened to the song the whole fucking day and have lots of ideas on how to continue”.

Jimmy: I met up with Karl just right after he returned back home and he was blabbering about his ideas for the song and I thought” What the fuck? It’s gonna get even better”.

So, even if the lyrics are negative it’s our best moment and memory of recording the album because of that day.

I know you’ve said that Hot Breath work out equally well at the Way Out West Festival as at Muskelrock Festival which means that you’re don’t want to be another niche band.
Jimmy: Yeah, we’re quite different from our former bands where it was very clear what type of music we played and for what audience. Hot Breath is a band for everyone, not just for a niche scene.

Anton: We don’t have any rules or taboos on what we can do and not, it’s all fine to pick up ideas from whatever you want and introduce them when we rehearse. Maybe we didn’t work outside the box that much on the album but there’s not a problem to bring up really crazy ideas and work on them together. Just take our second single “Who’s the One” as an example; Jennifer got this idea to remove the drums completely from the chorus and I was like “Why? That’s weird, isn’t it?”, and she said “I listened to ‘Mama Mia’ by ABBA yesterday and there are no drums in the chorus and I just thought it sounded great, why not try it?”. It’s us and ABBA (laugh).

I like when you do something unusual and try it out instead of limit yourself just because you think no one wants to listen to it. If someone says “The front row at Muskelrock will hate it”, then you should do it (laugh).

Jimmy: I don’t like to be the band that only can play a certain type of festivals. We have our core listeners, people we know from when we played in other bands, and they will always turn up, but we also want to reach out to a new audience as well.

In other bands I rarely suggested that we tried something out that we never had tried before. In Hot Breath you know that if you have an idea it will be processed together whatever it may be. It may not come out as you thought but there will always be something left of the original idea.

It’s time to do something different when you have played in niche bands for a very long time. I listen to so many different types of music and have waited for the opportunity to use those influences in a band.

I do understand that it must be frustrating that you can’t tour at the moment, but maybe you’ve continued working on new music and will have a few more songs to play when we’re back to normal?
Anton: That’s our plan although we haven’t really started on it yet.

Jimmy: Let’s not say too much yet because if you do it always ends up the opposite way and nothing happens (laugh). But if we would be a bit strategic it would be the best thing to do. Four or five new songs would be perfect for an EP release when it’s back to normal again, just to remind people that we exist and released an album a few months ago.

Anton: But if we don’t do it we’ll be back to that horrible situation when you’re back from a tour being super tired and just have to start working on the next album to get back out on tour again. We would be much better off if we did it now.

Jimmy: Or we’ll wait for the next pandemic lockdown and write a new album then (laugh).

I know that Hot Breath is a band best experienced live. How do deal with the uncertainty of live shows?
Jimmy: We’re most definitely a live band and it has been in our minds when we recorded the album. For me it’s important to think about how you can play our songs live already when we write them.

Anton: Yeah, that’s how I always think about music, “How will this song work out on stage?” or “When we play this live we can change this and that”. It will be a better live show if we have thought it through already from the start.

Jimmy: When you pay to see a live show, you pay for something extra, a different guitar solo, longer choruses, or something different from the album.

It’s hard at the moment to plan for shows but we’re on standby and ready to go when the live scene is back again.

Anton: We have a booking agency in Germany and can leave almost immediately when it restarts again, I think that’s to our advantage. We’re a small band and can hook up with whatever band needs a support act. I’m turning 30 soon and have to get out and play before I’m too old (laugh).

Lars, the drummer in Metallica, was 19 years old when he did his first tour with the band and hasn’t done anything else in life since then. I just need to get out on tour soon again!  

Jimmy:  Remember Lemmy, he was 30 years old when he started Motörhead (laugh). But we need to come out and play soon again. There’s huge frustration that needs to find its way out.

Photographer: Richard Bloom
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About The Author

Music researcher with an unhealthy passion for music and music festivals. Former studio owner, semi-functional drummer and with a fairly good collection of old analogue synthesizers from the 70's. Indie rock, post rock, electronic/industrial and drum & bass (kind of a mix, yeah?) are usual stuff in my playlists but everything that sounds good will fit in.