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Punk legends Hot Water Music announce new record

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Posted: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 11:36 pm

The local punk rock scene is a rich one that has been well documented in the past.

The Gainesville area has churned out numerous notable bands, such as Less Than Jake and Against Me! - bands that have transcended their success to current times even when record sales are at an all-time low.

But perhaps no homegrown band is more important to Gainesville's hallowed punk scene than Hot Water Music. The now-legendary punk rockers formed in 1993, releasing seven critically acclaimed full-length albums and several EPs before breaking up on good terms in 2005.

Now, Gainesville punk fans are eagerly anticipating the return of one of the founding fathers of the local scene, as Hot Water Music recently announced plans to record a new full-length record - their first since 2004.

The band, which consists of vocalist/guitarist Chuck Ragan, guitarist Chris Wollard, bassist Jason Black and drummer George Rebelo, originally came out of its hiatus in 2008. The group made a triumphant return with a secret show at Gainesville's own Common Grounds that year, and since then the band has played scattered shows and festivals.

But before releasing its new full-length record in the spring of 2012, Hot Water Music will self-release a two-song EP to support an upcoming European tour in August.

"Hopefully everyone likes it," Black said. "We're really happy with the songs. We haven't written in a long time so these were the first two that came out after exchanging ideas."

Black said the songs came together so quickly because Ragan and Wollard already had ideas brewing from their respective side projects. Ragan has had an extensive solo career since Hot Water Music disbanded while Wollard has worked with a variety of artists.

All four members of Hot Water Music have taken on other musical endeavors since the group broke up six years ago - something that, Black said, made coming back for a full record and tour difficult to plan.

"It took a long time to figure out and schedule it, but we've planned it so there's enough time to do it properly," Black said. "We scheduled it to be out in the spring, so by the time it comes out, [we'll all be free.] We wouldn't have announced all this if we weren't planning on supporting the record and giving it a big push."

With Hot Water Music coming back to pull out all the stops on a new album, many wondered which record label the group would choose to release it. Having released music with Gainesville-based No Idea Records and indie giant Epitaph Records in the past, those two labels seemed to have the inside track on putting out the new album.

But staying true to their form of surprising fans, the group chose Oregon-based Rise Records to release the album. The label, which has made a name for itself by putting out numerous metalcore releases over the past few years, is seemingly in the process of changing its identity.

Craig Ericson, founder and owner of Rise, said adding Hot Water Music to the label's roster is "a dream come true."

"Hot Water Music is my favorite band, period," Ericson said in an email interview. "I've been following them since 1997. Once I knew HWM was shopping for a label, I went full-steam ahead."

Ericson ended up making perhaps the biggest scoop of his label's history, as countless Hot Water Music fans and the scene at large were shocked at the band's choice.

"At this point, I expect [that reaction] for everything we announce," Black said. "When we signed to Epitaph, people freaked out. When we toured with Sick Of It All, people freaked out. At this point we expect that reaction from almost any decision we make."

Black said the opportunity and mystery of something new also played a part in deciding what label to release a new record on.

"As a band, since we started this, we've always been interested in working with as many different people as possible," he said. "If we release the record on Epitaph or No Idea, we pretty much have an exact idea of what would happen. We really have no idea what will happen with Rise."

A host of questions still surround the situation, but one thing Ericson and the band agree on is what seems like a calmness approaching the release. When asked if he felt any additional pressure releasing a record from a band as respected as Hot Water Music, Ericson didn't flinch.

"I'm sure there will be expectations, but at the end of the day, I'll be able to sleep at night knowing we worked our hardest promoting the band and the release," Ericson said. "What it sells is not the most important aspect - far from it, in fact."

Black stressed the band's confidence in Rise and said they trusted the label because "[Ericson] really wanted to do the record more than anyone else." He added that by now, fans should expect the unexpected and have faith in the band's choices.

As much as the release is being anticipated by diehard fans who have waited years for this announcement, a lot of time remains between now and spring of next year. In that time, Hot Water Music will tour Europe in August, headline The Fest 10 in October and finally head into the studio in winter.

The most exciting aspect of the band's announcement to release a new record might be the excitement of the band itself.

"I think having so long away from writing makes it fresh and exciting for us," Black said. "It's not like, the touring cycle is over, let's go write. Everyone really wants to do it.

"The more we talk about it, the more shows we play and the more songs we write, the more it seems like everyone is all fired up about it."

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