The love between the music scenes of Orlando and Gainesville has always been strong, mostly due to the proximity of the two cities and their overlapping residents. For Hot Water Music, who formed in Gainesville, the energy their shows are greeted with in Orlando has at times even bested the energy shown by their own hometown during the almost 20 years they've been a band. Which is why when the band decided to officially reunite in 2008, they chose Orlando, and not Gainesville, as the city to do it in.
"Orlando's been probably the most stable scene, to me," says Chris Wollard, Hot Water Music's singer-guitarist. "There will always be people who will come to your show there. … Our first reunion show back was Orlando. We didn't even do Gainesville. We were like, 'Let's do Orlando. We know that will be good.'"
Now the band returns again to Orlando, touring on their eighth studio album, which comes about eight years after their last full-length release. The album, Exister, presents a ripened Hot Water Music, featuring not only the urgent and catchy punk songs they're known for, but also several excellent, more straightforward rock songs.
And that's not all that's changed for Exister. The band approached some other things differently, beginning with the way songs were written. Where songs on the previous seven studio albums were usually written during band jam sessions, many songs for the current album were written by band members individually. That's because band members have a lot more distance between them: Chuck Ragan now lives in northern California, and Jason Black is in Seattle.
The recording itself was unusual as well. For the first time, Hot Water Music worked with producers Bill Stevenson (of the punk bands the Descendents and All) and Jason Livermore at their studio, the Blasting Room, in Ft. Collins, Colo. The band also recorded most of Exister live in the studio – something they hadn't done often.
These important shifts in the formula seemed to suit Hot Water Music well.
"It was the only album where we didn't argue," Wollard says. "When we got done with the record, there was a moment, and we were all still smiling. Holy cow, we just finished that entire record, and everybody's been smiling the whole time."
That smiling attitude is actually what first drew Wollard to Gainesville's scene, where he was struck by how supportive the community was of its own local bands, which seemed to outdo even the support shown national touring acts. Now, with Hot Water Music having gained a larger following over the years, he doesn't plan to leave behind any part of the catalog that might be important to original fans.
"This tour we're headliners, so we can kind of play however long we want to," Wollard says. "I wouldn't expect any two-hour sets. There's only so long that you can keep screaming. But probably, we'll be doing five or six songs off of the new album and a lot of just different old stuff. We're pulling stuff off of every one of the albums."
HOT WATER MUSIC
with La Dispute, the Menzingers
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17
46 N. Orange Ave.