This feature was originally posted on Highlight Magazine in May 2019.
Self-releasing their debut EP, Are You Feeling Alive?, this past week, UK-based emo powerpop outfit Hot Milk is on the verge of becoming the next big thing in music. With a tour slot secured alongside Foo Fighters and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes this summer, 2019 is just the beginning for the band from Manchester. Speaking with Jim Shaw (vocals/guitar) and Han Mee (vocals/guitar) earlier this month, the two of them opened up about the band’s history and how Are You Feeling Alive? came to be.
“There were four things that aligned the night Hot Milk was formed – rain, wine, Han and Jim.”
Hot Milk came to be following a bout of other musical projects ending for Jim and Han, the two of them deciding to use that period of change to channel their creativity into a different outlet.
“We were kind of hating where we were in life and both of our bands had kind of ended so we found ourselves in our living room on a cold January night with an acoustic guitar and, thus, “Take Your Jacket” was written and Hot Milk was born.”
Released as their second single off of the EP, “Take Your Jacket,” a powerhouse pop track about the aftermath of a breakup, has flooded radio stations around the UK, earning plays on BBC Radio 1’s Rock Show with Daniel P. Carter and Future Sounds with Annie Mac. The creation of the song ultimately set the tone for the project that would later be titled Hot Milk, Jim and Han quickly realising they had something worth pursuing.
“We just kept writing and writing and we got to a point where we thought either we do this properly or we don’t. We decided to take a leap of faith and just fucking do it. We had nothing to lose because we didn’t like where we were at anyway.”
Fast forward to this year and things look a lot different for Hot Milk. With Tom Paton (bass) and Harry Deller (drums) added into the mix to complete the band’s lineup, Hot Milk has already shared stages with acts like Enter Shikari, Deaf Havana and Papa Roach, all before their debut EP was even released.
Are You Feeling Alive?, a four-track EP that features well-written and unbelievably catchy powerpop tracks that float through your head all day long, is a strong debut from the Manchester quartet, showing their versatility as both songwriters and musicians.
Working with touring audio engineer Phil Gornell (Bring Me The Horizon, All Time Low) on the EP, the recording process for Hot Milk took only a few weeks, but quickly became a juggling act of schedules, as Han shared.
“The EP literally took around a few weeks to record, but there was about a year in between us writing these first four songs and actually recording which we did with Phil Gornell. We actually had to fit it around his touring too which meant recording some vocals in a shitty hotel in Birmingham [laughs].”
While brief in length, Hot Milk has managed to pack Are You Feeling Alive? with tracks listeners can both dance and sing along to and relate to in some way. Though masked with catchy pop breakdowns and powerful vocals, the EP’s title track has a much deeper meaning that might not be noticed at first glance, the subjects discussed ultimately leading to it being the EP’s title, as Jim shared.
“For us, this whole EP is almost like a diary entry. Each song signifies a step by step process about a realisation of our lives at the time it was written. We touch upon mental health, feeling both distant and present from reality, unkind people in positions of power and self-betterment. “Are You Feeling Alive?” is a modern frustration about being on the wrong path and realising your full potential. It’s a question of really looking at yourself and the path you’re taking and asking, ‘am I really happy?’”
“Wide Awake,” the EP’s opening track that Hot Milk debuted a music video for this week, is another song packed with meaning. Though very upbeat in terms of sound, it came from a completely different place of inspiration for Han.
“This song came from a bit of an angry place for me. This whole song revolves around realisation. I was in an environment where everyone was blindly following a hierarchy that I did not agree with. It felt like I was the only one questioning the norm as I felt like it was morally wrong, I didn’t want to be part of the herd mentality. For me, this is our protest song.”
Along with selecting four tracks that would collectively represent the sound and substance found in their work, self-releasing this EP was one of the most important factors for Hot Milk.
“We always wanted to self-release our first record as it’s a lot more intimate and personal. We also have a strong sense of how we want to grow our band. At this stage, we didn’t want labels getting involved and pushing their ethos on our music.”
With Are You Feeling Alive? finally out for the world to hear and enjoy, it is clear that things are only looking up for Hot Milk, taking their uniquely fresh sound and passion for this project and running as far as they can with it. Up next for the band is touring, Hot Milk already having a slew of dates planned for this spring and summer including Brighton’s The Great Escape Festival this week, Slam Dunk later this month and Download Festival in June. For the newly formed band, their live set is something they have been working to perfect over the past few months.
“We practice a lot, we want to make sure the set is tight and we don’t have to worry about a thing as soon as we step on that stage. We essentially want to feel the music and just have the best time. We all love a party so we want to make our set is a place where people know they can come and get lost in the music [and also]where they know they can come and be themselves, unapologetically.”
While fans are catching the band this spring and summer on the road around the UK and Europe, they can anticipate that new material from Hot Milk is not far from the horizon despite the fact that Are You Feeling Alive? has only been out for a week. As both Han and Jim revealed, Are You Feeling Alive? is a strong and well-thought out release from Hot Milk, but barely scratches the surface of what they have in store for everyone, the band excited to reveal their next chapter of work sometime soon.
“We know exactly what we are releasing for the next twelve months and beyond and what we are writing now is what you’ll hear in the months to come. It’s like having a big secret up our sleeves.”