"I feel like we have both been craving that family vibe and Hot Milk gives us that."
Hot Milk have just released their new EP 'I JUST WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I'M DEAD' via Music For Nations.
The EP may be the band's second release in as many years, but the scope of who and what they want Hot Milk to be in that time has shifted immensely. With this collection of songs, Han and Jim dive into the more intense thoughts that occur in your brain with mortality, anxiety and internal turmoil playing a huge part. Present through an additive pop-rock lens, it's a vital and visceral release from a band that is very still only scratching the surface of what's to come. But it hasn't been easy.
To find out about the making of these tracks and how they relate to where they are in life now, we sat down with the duo and had a good old natter...
It feels like with this EP, you have got closer to how you want Hot Milk to be perceived by those listening. Would you say that is true?
Han: "Yeah, and that is hard work in the first place. To be perceived full stop is pretty fucking horrible, you know?"
Jim: "It’s a journey more than anything. Everybody is growing as people, and as society changes, we change as well. We start to like different stuff, so we want to do different stuff. I also don’t feel as though this EP fully encompasses where we are right now either."
Han: "I don’t think we have fully hit our stride yet. I feel like we are still getting to the point where we are doing our best work. I feel this EP is the best stuff we have written so far, but at the same time, I still think we are about to write something that is insane. Though making something where it is just as important in terms of how something looks and is presented, that’s still very new to me. That’s different to how it used to be a couple of years ago. I feel like I have had to tap into another side of myself to make that so within this release."
Jim: "We’ve found ourselves looking at different art overall, not just within music. We’ve been looking at paintings, at film, at all of these things. As people who are just art lovers, you find that as you grow, up you start pulling energy from resources within all different mediums."
Han: "It’s about absorbing everything you like and making it what you do. I think that’s a really beautiful thing, and now we have the freedom to be and do what we want in a way we haven’t before."
Jim: "Yeah, I feel like our fans have now allowed us to be in a position where they say, ‘Just do you’."
Would you say a lot of that has come from where the last 18 months have put you? Some of the songs you released last year, ‘California’s Burning’ and ‘Glass Spiders’ specifically, felt very reactionary to what was happening around you, compared to where you were on the first EP. How do you think that attitude has helped you to shift to where you are now?
Han: "I think the first thing to say on that is how the first EP was written before we were even actually a band. We weren’t thinking about anything else. We were writing songs because we wanted to. We never even thought we would play them live or anything, but they were released simply because they existed."
Jim: "I don’t think that we were as meticulous as we are now, where it doesn’t leave the room unless we are 100% happy with it. That was us testing the waters in terms of us asking, ‘What are we?’"
Han: "I feel like throughout the time those songs were out, we have both gone through such a journey of self-discovery. I’m not the same person as I was when those songs were just an anonymous SoundCloud link being sent around. Thank God I’m not either because I don’t think I was very strong back then. I feel like I have always know who I want to be, and I’m getting closer to that person, but I had to make a massive change even to start getting close. Jim did as well. If we want to be those people, we must ensure that we are trying to do it.
"With this last year, I feel like we have centred on what we want to be, and that’s a big band. We want to play songs that we truly love that everybody in front of us can sing along to and feel like it hits them in the heart. We want people to jump and dance and cry to these songs, and those are the things that we are thinking about more so now than before."
Jim: "And the thing as well is that we are still only testing the waters with these new songs. We’ve only played ‘Glass Spiders’ live recently. And it’s only now what we see that validation from people that they think these songs are good and that they like them. It wasn't easy having those intentions in mind but not having the kickback of the main event, playing them live, being there."
Han: "We’ve had to write this new EP without any actual feedback. It was weird. We went, “I guess we should write an EP, but we don’t know where we want the EP to sit’."
Would you say that not having someone there telling you how far to go has made your songwriting even more vulnerable this time around? Because there are some stark admissions within these songs…
Han: "There is that, but I have always been an over-sharer. I’ve never been scared of telling people who I am or how I’m feeling. It can be a bad trait sometimes, though. I feel like Jim has had a harder time talking about his feelings in this way, though."
Jim: "Yeah, it’s not that I don’t know how to express them. It’s just sometimes I can be a bit devoid of feeling, which is frustrating in itself. As a pair, we are the polar opposites in the sense of that emotion. Hannah will always let you know what her mood is."
Han: "I can’t hide those feelings, and that’s me, and I’m okay with being like that. And when it comes to writing songs, I will never hold back because that’s not what I do in real life."
Jim: "And then I am better in terms of expressing those things through the actual musicality and soundscape of the band. But there are those blatantly obvious lyrics, though, too. Like I sent Han ‘I Think I Hate Myself’ and that came from me being in a shit place."
But then, of course, when you’re able to finally get those feelings out and see people respond to them, that’s when you’re reminded about why you do it. As the community around you sees themselves within those words…
Han: "Connection is what we have always been striving for. That’s part of the reason that we started the band. I’ve always wanted to feel that much more connection. If I don’t get that same energy that I give back, I often feel so empty. That’s just the way that I am, and I think that’s the reason why we knew we had to write songs that connected with people in that way. I need that to survive."
Jim: "That’s why the last couple of years have been so difficult. Just because touring is our literal lifeblood. It’s not just about the band in that scenario, either. It’s the crew. It’s the people we see coming to multiple shows. It’s the new faces. It’s all of it."
Han: "I feel like we have both been craving that family vibe and Hot Milk gives us that."
What has this period within the band felt like? Because you’re writing songs that are a reflection of you, and it feels like it has been pretty tough…
Jim: "I feel like we are able to start writing again. We sat down a couple of months ago to try and get something together, and we just couldn’t. It wasn’t working. At some points, we even felt like we weren’t even in a band. Having a home studio is excellent and helpful, but being in that room at times has been so tiring. Without the experiences that you usually get, there has been nothing to inspire us. We want to write about something real; we don’t want to be making something that’s filler."
Han: "The truth is that everything that was happening was just brutal."
Jim: "Everyday life seemed to catch up with us and make everything else feel so stressful. It all of a sudden became a do-or-die situation."
Han: "But I think that once we’re able actually to start travelling again and feel like rock stars again, that’s when you get your confidence back."
Jim: "That’s the thing. We lost confidence in ourselves."
Han: "And every time we write a song that we like, I still think to myself, ‘Fluke’. I feel like I’m winging it most of the time. But the thing is that these songs that we are writing are still very much for us. Sometimes, it gets in your head that you need to write a song that everybody is going to like, but when it comes down to it, do we want it? These songs, in particular, are there for me because I was dealing with something specific. I don’t see a therapist. I don’t have a journal. I don’t do any of the things that I should do to help my brain. I just write songs. This is our survival technique."
At this time, how does it feel to have Hot Milk be such a prominent and essential part of your lives?
Han: "I feel like without Hot Milk me and Jim might not be as close as we are, and that’s why it’s so important. It’s our connection. And to be able to nurture that all the time and keep it going helps me stay focused."
Jim: "Our minds are constantly moving, so it’s good to think about all of the things that involve the band. This is our baby. We made it. So we’re going to look after it."
Han: "I also think that we need to be so hands-on because of what inspires us. That punk-rock ethos of doing it yourself and building it. I want the way things were to bleed into the way that we do something now. It’s so important to embody the past within the future. Rock and roll is all about freedom and expression, and we wouldn’t be where we are without it."
Jim: "It’s that unforgiving nature of, 'Take it or leave it'. That’s what we want to always be.”