From Cloud 9 to Covid: Talking growth, new ground and hidden blessings with Hot Juice
Hot Juice – formed in Jersey, and now based in Brighton— surfaced with their debut single, ‘Caution’ in 2018, and followed up with a litany of other tracks before exploding onto the Jersey music scene with the release of their debut album, This is What You Want, the following year.
The eight-track album quickly snagged the attention of BBC Radio, who played the entire album live. Hot Juice were offered further support by the BBC, who chose to feature them as a BBC Introducing Track of the Week.
Hot Juice’s genesis was electric; the stuff of rock ‘n’ roll dreams. With mainstream media coverage, the closing of a major Jersey-based festival and a battle of the bands win, it’s to no surprise the band were riding on a high. As frontman and guitarist Shay puts it, Hot Juice hit ‘everything [they] set out to achieve,’ on the back of their first album.
2020: enter covid. With the world in a panicked, confused daze, like everything else, the music industry ground to a halt – no gigs, no official recording.
Yet that didn’t stop Hot Juice. Instead, Shay wrote the Covid Tapes EP to critical acclaim, earning the band sterling reviews from Powerplay Magazine (8/10) and a second BBC Introducing Track of the Week with ‘I Don’t Mind.’
The rock trio are tenacious. In turning the events of the pandemic – which had a devastating impact on many artists – into fresh, dynamic content, Hot Juice’s resilience and original take on the 70’s rock and roll sound has earned them a well-deserved spot in the subterranean rock community.
Blending rebellious 70s sonics with a dose of heavy-metal and country-inspired quirks, Hot Juice paint the atmosphere of the late-twentieth century music scene with new colours. We caught up with Shay to talk about the birth of Hot Juice, the impact of the pandemic and a changing line-up, and the feeling of thriving on a new city buzz.
Hi guys, thanks for taking the time to talk with us at IAMUR. Can we start with some introductions – maybe a bit about the roles you each have in the band, how you guys met etc?
Hello, Thank you for having us! So I’m Shay, the frontman and guitarist, we have Harvey on the Drums, James joined on the guitar also and we had Brandon come in on the bass. Hot Juice all came together as Harvey was looking for a step in frontman for a cover gig with Tay (previous bassist), which fell through, then I talked them both into joining new band Hot Juice (thank god they agreed!)
You’re originally from Jersey, and moved to Brighton earlier this year – what prompted the move, and why Brighton in particular?
Being from Jersey is great and I loved playing there for years but we felt it was time for a change, between 2017-2021 I felt like everything we set out to achieve we did there we had a great time playing across all the venues there, we closed the ‘Made in Jersey’ stage at Weekender Festival 2019, as well as releasing an album and being given a BBC Introducing Hot Juice Hot Juice album takeover, we ran our own night ‘Hot Juice Presents’ at a Jersey Venue, won battle of the bands and we just felt like we wanted to grow and have a bigger platform to play.
Having played some UK gigs in the past Brighton felt different to other cities, there seems to be something exciting in the whole atmosphere, everyone and everything felt like it was art influenced and exciting and inspiring to be here.
How did those shows in the Channel Islands compare to your experiences after moving over the water (Brighton Kop for example), and what impact has the move had on your creativity/ direction as a band?
It’s been great. Playing gigs in the Channel Islands was such good fun and we loved all the gigs, but we’d played a few Brighton and other UK gigs in the past all of which were fun, but the whole feel of Brighton was what enticed me, it’s exciting in a different place, its new people, new venues and just a city buzz.
Apart from that the gigging front as been quiet for the band, could we expect a small tour or some warm up gigs in the near future?
100% going to be gigging! We’ve been tightening up, working on new material at the moment, getting ready for autumn/winter, we hope to play as many gigs as possible to get back into the swing of things for a 2023 tour and album.
Your most recent single ‘Just a Little Bit’ was released at the start of this month. However, it first appeared in September 2018, and in your debut album September 2019. What is it about this track that made you want to revisit and rework it? And, how would you say your approach to songwriting has developed since your first release in 2018?
A mutual friend of the Band introduced us to Lee Contagion Davis from the Garden Studio and after meeting and getting on with Lee he invited us in to record. We decided that with our 2018 version being a very DIY recording losing a lot of the potential in the track and the developments of playing it over the years. We could hear things missing, that we didn’t necessarily hear when originally recording it especially with Lee’s recording knowledge.
I definitely think my approach to writing songs has developed over the years, we tried some new stuff with Just a Little Bit, which i think comes across well, but I’m hoping it will also show in the new material being worked on at the moment!
Since the track was first recorded, you’ve gained another member, James. How has becoming a quartet with an additional guitarist changed the way the band writes music?
It was weird because before we had James we wrote songs with 2 guitar parts, but playing live with me being the only guitarist didn’t have the same impact. Since James came in it gave us the ability to add a whole new dynamic – Second Wave for example, with the extra power and ability to go completely against the vocals, even for solos now with the backing they really give off a lot more attitude, he was a very welcomed addition.
It’s a subject that seems almost forgotten now, but the pandemic had a profound impact on… well, everyone! In November 2021, you released ‘Covid Tapes’. Tracks such as ‘Second Wave’ seem to suggest a touch of frustration (I assume towards the government?), is it fair to say you’d been particularly affected as a band? Can you talk a little about this period – what impact it had on you and how this collection of songs came about?
Covid was absolutely mental, it felt like it came out of nowhere and more so felt like it really took the wind out of our sails at the time, we’d had a really jam packed and what felt like real growth in 2019 and on the back of it we booked a 2020 southern UK tour, were booked for various festivals across the other Channel Islands and all of a sudden with the UK and Jersey Government seeming to not be doing stuff in line it meant that we couldn’t get across or even re-schedule, so we felt a bit stuck and unable to gig. However out of the negatives that we felt the silver lining ironically came when I caught Covid in 2020 and during the isolation period I wrote the majority of Covid Tapes and recorded demos for them all to work with for Harvey on (we were a 2 piece at the time), and we managed to record the whole thing and turn it around really quickly. I tried to work it through as the covid period from my prospective and Second Wave was definitely the frustration all coming out at how we felt hard done by (but so did everyone!).
We also tried to look at other aspects, like Good Times being about when the restrictions started to ease and people partied and came together again and even Mind Games being about how people had too much time to overthink relationships and trust. We were lucky enough to play an ArtHouse Jersey Live streamed gig at our favourite venue, Chambers, in Jersey and they provided a great production team which made us feel like a band again.
Covid Tapes saw you getting another Track Of The Week from BBC Introduction (the first being ‘This Is What You Want’, back in 2019. What does that kind of praise and recognition do for your confidence, and what are your aspirations for the future?
It was great to get another track of the week, they really did put faith in us after they given us a BBC Intro Hot Juice Album take over for ‘This is What You Want’ and had given us a slot on thier BBC intro live stage in Jersey .
Their faith gave us confidence and has made us want to write as much as possible and get out playing them again, to push further and further before and to reach our full potential.
What would you say have been the most challenging aspects for you over the past three years/ have there been any stand-out moments that have stopped you in your tracks?
I think it has to be Covid, from going from cloud 9 in 2019, to having all gigs and our South UK tour stamped out – then having to adapt from constantly playing and releasing music to all being online and trying to up our game on the social media side. We’ve also had a lot of change of members throughout the journey, but if anything i think it’s actually been a blessing in the way of seeing different styles of playing and how different musicians work, even if it felt stressful at the time.
And in terms of positives – out of everything you’ve done/ experienced so far… what has been the absolute highlight for you all?
I feel like we’ve had a really great journey – the absolute highlight has to be headlining the Saturday night ‘Made in Jersey’ stage at Weekender 2019, for us to be up there together in front of the biggest crowd we played to at the the time, and singing along to certain lyrics! After all the work we’d put in, it just made me want it 100 times more.
What can we expect from the band next? Are you planning any more shows/ is there any new material already in the works?
We’re now working on new material, a lot of it inspired by the move! But we want to get out and play it asap to see how Brighton Crowds take to it. We want to come back with a bang, more energetic shows and massive tracks! Looking at an Album 2023, but lots of gigs in the lead up.
Listen to Hot Juice on Spotify now:
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