The Mic catches up with up-and-coming London band HMLTD in the midst of their UK tour.
The Mic: I’m here with Achilleas from HMLTD, and their lighting engineer Louis.
So, HMLTD have been around since 2015, put out an EP and many singles – what comes next?
Achilleas: Well, we’re hoping to possibly present a more coherent form of sonic output – that is, something possibly longer in form, maybe something conceptual.
M: Is that something you feel that you failed to achieve with the EP (2018’s Hate Music Last Time Delete)?
A: The EP was more of an early milestone in which we were trying to sonically present what we were about. But I felt like we didn’t have the time or the focus then to present something of the scale that we’re interested in doing.
M: In a past interview, you said that people’s reactions to your music were either ‘revulsion or delight’. That made me wonder if there’s an aim behind the music; is it just entertainment? Or perhaps politically charged? I wondered if your image itself is political, by virtue of being so counter-cultural?
A: I think all art is political… but we’re certainly not making songs for particular policies. I think when you make any piece of art – although I’m not even sure what art is – but if you make anything of that kind, you are necessarily making a statement about how the world is, and how the world should be, implicitly at least. So, we’re trying to do that without stepping too much into obvious reference points.
M: I suppose a lot of your art feels like it’s made for the outsider, someone who doesn’t see themselves reflected in many bands at the moment. Would you say you were writing for a particular audience when you make your music?
A: The truth is, we used to, but we’ve kind of stopped now. I feel that in our last writing session a few months back, we focused for the first time explicitly on what we were doing, outside of any reference points of how it would be perceived, or how people would react to it. It was just that moment of music being created. I think, personally, that suits us better. And it results in better material as well.
'I think when you make any piece of art [...] you are necessarily making a statement about how the world is, and how the world should be, implicitly at least'.
M: I also wanted to talk about the fact that you’re signed to Sony; I was very surprised when I heard that, as I think a lot of what you do isn’t what I’d expect a major label to sign up for. Is there any tension there?
Louis: Well actually, they’re not signed to Sony anymore, they’re signed to the independent record label Lucky Number Music, who have released albums such as Darwin Deez’ first record, and Dream Wife’s stuff.
A: Louis is correct in his assessment that we are no longer with Sony, and I guess that’s probably an answer to your question. There was a lot of tension there – an overbearing amount of tension – and so we are no longer with them. We’re now with a smaller indie label, and I think they better understand the kind of things we want to do. 2018 was a very tough year because of increasing tensions, creatively and otherwise, with a major label. They’re not particularly susceptible to understanding things beyond the Excel spreadsheet. I don’t think that’s an insult, because I think they’d agree with me on that. But we’re not particularly interested in things that happen within the Excel sheet.
L: I want to say – tough year, but we’ve come to a positive outcome. We’re here now, and it’s great.
We’re now joined by: their guitarist and synth player James; Tiger, who films their sets and designs their staging; and Nico, their bassist.
M: So you’ve been on tour for a few dates already – how has that felt?
A: It’s felt amazing. Last night was a great show, right Nico?
A: Right, let’s get a one-word quote from everyone about last night. Make it funny if you can.
James: It was a lot of fun. A lot of fun. It was just one of the best shows we’ve ever done.
L: God (everyone laughs).
A: And I would say… good.
T: It was one of those shows where all of the band members really got into it and were really enjoying it. You know where everyone just gels and everyone’s really enjoying the show – the audience can tell.
'It’s funny, because the audience hasn’t really got any bigger. [...] But what’s noticeable is, in the later tours, people just know every word and enjoy it so much more. The intensity has gone up'.
M: So a good crowd response then?
A: Yeah, definitely.
M: Were there any festivals over the summer?
A: No, no. We just played two, one in Germany and one in Turkey – that was it.
M: When you announced the tour, fans I knew were ecstatic about your return, is that something you notice?
A: That’s right, that’s right. We’re back and we’re loaded, baby!
N: There’s a feeling that the people that come to the shows now, know the songs a lot more than they used to. The people that come now are really into the band, whereas people used to come and discover.
J: It’s funny, because the audience hasn’t really got any bigger. Ever since our first UK tour, the sizes have always been 50-100. But what’s noticeable is, in the later tours, people just know every word and enjoy it so much more. The intensity has gone up.
M: Are there new songs being played?
A: Yeah, yeah there are. We’re playing two new songs that have never been heard before.
M: And what’s the response been like to those?
A: I think people like it. They’re very different to each other; one’s very poppy and very sad, while the other is very angry. We intentionally chose both to show the two different aspects of our band.
'It’s the best music to do lights for, they have such a big impact. [...] Their music allows me to do that; that’s why I do it'.
M: Something I’ve heard a lot about HMLTD shows is the staging being elaborate, trying to make it an experience. What can I expect from tonight?
J: Well, in London, we can decorate the stage and make it an extravaganza for all the senses. Tiger puts in lots of work, actually.
T: Yeah, in London I’m the set designer.
J: But when you’re on the road it’s hard. You can’t just bring a stage with you. We have brought some banners though, although it’s fairly minimal. But what we may lack in material decoration, we make up for in physical exertion.
A: And lights. Louis does really good lighting.
J: Put it this way: we’re dead broke, we’re in debt. But every time we go on the road, we bring Louis, we pay him… Louis is the last expenditure we would cut.
L: The reason I still tour with them – even though I’m massively underpaid – is because they’re my friends, my family. But also, because it’s the best music to do lights for, they have such a big impact. For instance, I was offered a tour – I won’t say who with – playing much bigger venues, but I would’ve had less impact than I do at smaller venues with HMLTD. Their music allows me to do that; that’s why I do it.
M: I guess that’s something that really comes across. Even those of you who aren’t actually in the band, everyone’s so invested in this whole experience, that is HMLTD.
J: Thing is, in terms of live set, Louis’ practically in the band. He has as much impact as anyone in the band because the lights make up so much of the show.
L: Well, it just adds an intensity that wouldn’t be there otherwise. That kind of fear that you can get from lighting.
T: It’s primal, isn’t it, the strobe?
M: Well, I guess the natural follow on question is: what staging can we expect from the London date at the end of the tour?
J: Well, it’s following on from the video for LOADED with Greco-Roman themes – we’ve got big vases, columns, that kind of vibe.
A: I’ll give you a quote about the set in London: ‘Rome was founded on an act of exploitation. Founded in bronze and smuggled like a trojan horse into the piazzas of a thousand sleepy hamlets’.
M: Let’s finish with this one then – what would you say is the most glamorous thing about the tour so far?
J: Me and Tiger went into a comic shop in Leeds today and bought about 5 really expensive manga comics with our money from the merch. That’s pretty glamorous, isn’t it?
A: I’ve had to read a lot of essays on metaphysics.
M: To relax, or…?
A: No, it’s just a thing I do. Very hard essays. I was reading about quasi-realism and naturalism in worlds, very interesting stuff.
M: Well then, we’ll leave it on Metaphysics. HMLTD, it’s been a pleasure.
A: Thank you!