Thursday, May 21, 2015

EXCLUSIVE PREMIER: August Hotel - What About Now?


Known for their high-energy indie pop melodies, August Hotel is gaining a reputation, rightfully, for providing some of the best music Chicago has to offer at the moment. Their appearances at Evanston SPACE and the Dawn Theatre are undoubtably impressive, considering that the group's roots began back in 2011 in a church basement, according to their website.

I sat down with Ryan Lammers, the lead guitarist and vocalist of August Hotel, to talk to him about the band's first music video, What About Now, which is premiering exclusively here on Quaintrelle. A sophomore at Northwestern University, Lammers' thoughtful answers only echo the sort of talent that the band exudes on, and off, the stage.

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EK: Tell me a little bit about August Hotel's dynamic…what's the history behind the band?
RL: Dean and I met back in middle school when we were both auditioning for a talent contest. The judges suggested that we a jam a bit after all of the auditions were over, so we did, our parents exchanged numbers, Dean won the contest, and, not too long after, I introduced him to two of my friends from school who played bass and guitar and we started our first band. That band lasted until the middle of high school. Dean and I went to different high schools, so he met John at school and I met Cale, and it all just sort of fell into place after that. So I guess it was basically the friends who started a band together sort of thing. As far as our songwriting goes, it's pretty collaborative. I tend to write the lyrics and a basic outline of the music, and then I'll take it to the guys and we'll flesh it out, everyone pitching in ideas and playing around with it. Sometimes things can change pretty drastically from the little outline to the final product, which is pretty cool, I guess. And the same goes for anyone else comes in with a song, or even just a little riff. We've built songs off of just a little riff someone has started playing at practice before.

EK: Do you have a favorite concert venue, or moment from a concert, that stands out to you?
RL: My favorite venue at the moment is probably Schubas. It's tiny and just has a really intimate, cozy, but also electric vibe to it. I saw Catfish and the Bottlemen play there twice this past year - first in October with the music room about half full, and second in February with the place sold out - and just that whole experience is up there among my favorite concert moments. Those guys are going places, I mean, they're already huge overseas, and you could just feel that in that little room there. Also, Dean got on my shoulders at Lollapalooza in 2013 while The Cure played "Just Like Heaven" and it was pretty adorable and also one of my top concert moments. That's one of our mutual favorite songs. And live with Chicago surrounding us all lit up - oh it was amazing.

EK: This is your first music video. Tell me a little bit about the process and inspiration behind it. RL: So the video started off as a class project for Anderson, our director/cinematographer, for which she had to shoot on 16mm film and also use some sort of special effect just like in camera with the film, I think. Double exposure was her initial suggestion and we were super into it. We've used that urban, Chicago, lights aesthetic a lot, so we felt like it really fit, and I'm really glad we did it. I think the result is ridiculously cool. Shooting the video only took a few days - three I think. We shot us in the studio over the course of a couple hours on two consecutive days. Then Anderson and I went into Chicago after that to shoot the rest. So basically the technique is that you shoot the main thing first against a blown out background, so you end up with essentially silhouettes, and then you go shoot other stuff to fill in the silhouettes. Because the background has been completely blown out, you wont get any image on those parts when you expose the film a second time. The editing has been what's taken the most time, mostly just because we're all college students with insane schedules. But here we are, finally, and it feels really good to be getting this thing out there. We're all really proud of it.

EK: Who would you say is your style icon? RL: For me personally? Matt Healy from The 1975. Or just that whole band in general. They're a huge influence. But really Matty. I love the black and white with the occasional floral or something. Skinny jeans, loose or long top, a little androgynous at times, but yet still masculine. That band just has an incredibly strong and cohesive aesthetic, from their fashion to their imagery to their music. I love it.

EK: Are you working on any songs right now? What are they about?
RL: I am! One is one I started last summer that's finally just now getting finished and it's sort of a thematic sequel to "What About Now?" There's another that's probably about half done that's a bit more lyrically introspective. I feel like being 20 and halfway through college is an interesting place to be - not quite a kid, but also still not feeling quite like an adult - so it ruminates on that a bit while also thinking about things like relationships and all of that jazz.

EK: You've been to, like, 100 concerts... which has been your favorite, and why?
RL: Oh no. That's so hard. Can I do a top three? The first time I saw The 1975 was a pretty big moment for me. Stromae was absolutely incredible. Mind blowing performer. Damien Rice put on one of the most powerful and moving shows I've ever seen. It was just him and his guitar for two hours and it was absolutely captivating. He had the audience so drawn in you could hear a pin drop (if there wasn't music, of course) the entirety of the show. It honestly changed the way I think about songwriting and performance.

EK: What are three obscure facts about you that most people don't know?
RL: I'm half Dutch and have dual citizenship there and here, I started performing in second grade by doing a skit impersonating Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter (complete with costume, Australian accent, and giant stuffed crocodile I would wrestle), and I wanted to be a paleontologist for most of my childhood.

EK: Do you have a motto that you live by? 
RL: A motto? I don't know.. I've never really about that before. Make a difference, maybe? I feel like that sentiment drives a lot of what I do and I think it can be applied to a lot of different things. Do the things that matter to you, help other people, make art, make it all count. For some odd reason, I've also always liked Vonnegut's "so it goes," even though I feel like that's sort of the opposite of what I just said. Go change the world, but don't get too stressed out about it. Maybe that's what that contradiction means.

Much love,


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