By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
But the granddaddy of all punk tours, of course, is the Warped Tour.
"It was pretty insane. It was a lot of fun, but a whole lot of work for a half-hour set every day. You've got to be there at six or seven in the morning most days. Eight hours -- or ten hours or twelve hours -- in the hot sun. It gets a little taxing. It was a good time, though; we made a lot of friends."
In the '90s, relentless touring nearly ended Hot Water Music; while the band actually did call it quits, the members decided a few months later that a simple -- and temporary -- respite from the road and each other was all that was required to recharge their batteries.
"There was just...a lot, a lot, a lot. Too much touring, and we just put too many expectations on ourselves," says Black. "Basically, what we needed to do was take a break, and we didn't know how to do that at that point in time. So we ended up breaking up for a few months and realizing that all we needed to do was take some time off -- no rehearsing, no touring, just spending time off at home not doing band stuff. Now that we know that, we're trying to adjust our schedule by doing [fewer] long tours. When we say, 'We're taking this month off,' we're not even playing a show, we're not practicing -- nothing. It's off, period. We can keep the band going that way."
Mandating rest for themselves is one way the band has been able to stave off burnout, and signing with Epitaph has also helped. Putting the nuts and bolts of record promotion in the hands of competent experts leaves Hot Water free to create and play music. Black is quick to add, however, that he doesn't believe signing has really altered the band in any fundamental way.
"It's easier for us. As far as we know, the record's out everywhere," he says. "The bins are never going to be empty. Other than that, nothing's really changed. We're still doing everything the way we've always done it. It's kind of nice that we don't have to worry about, like, keeping on the label to make sure they're doing what they need to be doing. We kind of know they're going to do it. It makes things easier for us as far as that goes. It gets done."
Black has no fears that signing a deal with Epitaph, arguably the biggest punk label of them all, will send the band careening down the road of the one-hit-wonder sellouts that are so prevalent these days. For one thing, Epitaph has a certain stockpile of punk credibility that is not shared by the giant labels cranking out Blink-182 clones left and right. For another, Hot Water Music is no Johnny-come-lately manufactured money machine.
"A lot of the people getting the attention right now -- they're almost like punk-rock boy bands," says Black. "It's really bleeding over everywhere. Since we've been out on the road in the States, you can see it's really taking off. You can totally see when...we change the cadence on some of our stuff, the look on the kids' faces is like, 'What the hell is this?' There's a whole lot weirder stuff out there, too, kid, you know? It's not all regurgitated Green Day songs."
Black is quick to remind Green Day bashers that at least that group wasn't drawn up in a corporate boardroom.
"I think they just signed and lucked out," he says. "The first band that breaks, it's kind of luck. From there on out it's formula stuff, and they can try to do as well with matching bands' sounds, but they won't.
"Especially in [Green Day's] case, they didn't change at all. They didn't get a new image or anything -- they just kind of lucked out. It had some bad effects for a lot of people, but...it happened with them, it's happening with Blink 182 right now, and I'm sure it'll happen with somebody else around the corner, where it's like, 'Fuck, that band's got a hit -- now we're all screwed.'"
The media attention currently being paid to acts with something of a punk style, if not much substance -- call them punk-lite -- is in some ways good for all punk musicians, in that it draws attention to the whole genre. In other ways, however, the increased ticket sales may not be worth it, according to Black.
"I think [punk] is in kind of a weird place right now with a lot of...kind of Blink 182-esque bands blowing up with their one hit. There's a lot of younger people checking out shows, but at the same time, they don't really know what to expect. So if they come expecting one thing and getting another, they're maybe not super-accepting of some stuff.
"I'm kind of waiting for that to die off," he adds, laughing, "so things can go back to normal."