WTF is rock 'N' roll? Hot Apostles Are a Shining Example

Hot Apostles
Hot Apostles Leslie Van Stelten

WTF is rock 'N' roll? is the latest album from Denver's Hot Apostles. The record's title is a fitting question for the band's guitarist Tay Hamilton to raise. He has been asking what constitutes rock and roll since he was a kid raised by parents who loved rock and a dad who played guitar in ’70s bands.

“When I was a kid, my dad was a vendor on a car lot,” says Hamilton. “[In around] ’97, he told a co-worker, 'My son got a new guitar.' The guy was really into hip-hop and electronic music at that time, and he asked, 'They still make guitars?' There are young people that don't know much about what rock and roll is. So it's kind of exciting to be a rock-and-roll band at this time.”

What constitutes rock and roll has evolved since its inception in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but one thing that has always characterized the art form is its rebellious attitude.

“There are non-rock musicians and non-rock bands that have written some pretty rock-and-roll songs and put on some pretty rock-and-roll shows,” says Hamilton. “The rebellious nature of the music gives it that. [Musicians are rebellious at heart.] If you're on tour, you're not doing a day job; you're not going to college. You're getting on the road playing shows every night. You may be successful, but probably not. But you're doing what you want to do and going against the grain.”

When Hot Apostles launched in 2012, it wasn't as loud as it is these days. Hamilton and singer Eryn Swissdorf wrote songs on acoustic guitar, which they performed along with some covers. Hamilton had been part of Denver's punk world as a member of the STDs and Forth Yeer Freshman; Swissdorf was the powerhouse singer in the hard-rock band the New Rome.

Both were looking to make music with strong songwriting, melody and passion, and they did for a few year, with various lineups.

In the summer of 2016, they brought on bassist Joaquina “Roqui” Lluma. Hamilton, Swissdorf and Lluma had chemistry together on and off stage, and now Hot Apostles uses two drummers: Seth Cross and Ryan Chrys, better known for his own band, Ryan Chrys and the Rough Cuts.

When it came time to record, Hot Apostles found a kindred spirit in Tim Stroh at Madhouse Recorders in Leadville. His old-school approach to the music, with the use of precise mic placement in a mathematically exacting recording room, captured the band's essence.

Without any obvious nods to rock trends on the new album, it's clear that while Hot Apostles may be inspired by '70s and '80s rock, the band is very much charting its own musical journey.

Hot Apostles, with Ryan Chrys and the Rough Cuts and Jane Doe, Friday, July 7, 8:30 p.m., 3 Kings Tavern, 303-777-7352, $5, 21+.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.