9 Questions with Eric Shea of Hot Lunch

Hot Lunch - Scion Rock Fest 2014

Next week Scion AV will release a new five-song, self-titled EP from Hot Lunch. Coming out of the Bay Area, this crew knocks out skate-friendly tunes that incorporate elements of punk, psych rock and 1970s metal. For a preview, check out the tracks “Slappy Sunday” and “China Banks.” It’s major stuff, dude.

To get a preview of what to expect from the EP and what’s going on in Hot Lunch’s world, we sent some question to lead-singer Eric Shea. This is what he sent back…

What were the studio sessions like for this EP? How did it differ from your work on other Hot Lunch releases?
For our previous EP, House Of Whispers, we ended up writing some of the songs in the studio, while the tape was rolling. That was a bit stressful—scribbling down lyrics, going into the vocal booth to track them, coming out of the booth to re-write them… This time we had everything mapped out and ready to go. Working with engineer and producer Donny Newenhouse was a great match for this project because he’s a stickler for detail and appreciated that we came into the sessions with a playbook.

What were you able to accomplish in these songs that you haven’t done or been able to do in the past?
It was the first project that we specifically wrote songs for. We agreed to record five tracks for Scion A/V knowing that we’d have to hunker down and write four songs as soon as possible (“Expectations” is a Resonars cover). In this way we learned that we could be creative on a deadline. It entailed a lot of work—practicing twice as much, and tossing out a lot of good ideas to try and create even better ideas.

Does writing songs come easy to you or is it a struggle?
Both. Sometimes it feels like we’re a lightning rod for our music. When that happens, a song just seems to fall out of the sky and travel though our hands and mouths and there it is. Other times we really have to work hard to get what’s in our heads out into the open. The frequency of our songwriting is immeasurable, but this project taught us that we can confidently set creative goals and meet them.

I’ve noticed an anti-San Francisco sentiment in some of your recent songs—”Uprooted” on the Riley Hawk: Northwest Blow Out EP and “Living the Nightmare” on this one. Where do those feelings come from? How have you seen the city change since you started living there? What do you think needs to get done to turn things around out there?
I’m sorry if some of my lyrics come off as anti-San Francisco. I love San Francisco. Jason Jesse once said, “I love skateboarding so much, I want it to die.” That’s kind of how I feel about the City in its present state. I love it so much that I want a lot of this growth to perish. Every time a beloved music venue closes, a part of me dies. If I come off as hateful, it’s solely because I resent the transplants who knowingly move next to a music venue and then try to shut it down because they’ve suddenly decided that it’s too loud where they live.

What is happening in the Bay Area right now that is exciting to you?
Recently, a San Francisco Supervisor named London Breed has proposed legislation that would help prevent local music venues from closing. She’s working to improve relationships between nightclubs and neighbors, as well as working with those particular developers who are knowingly building new residential rises close to music venues. The music community really needs to actively support her and these efforts. Simultaneously, Oakland is in the midst of a creative renaissance. I feel very fortunate to work and live in Oakland.

Musically, I feel that the most exciting thing in the Bay Area right now is Planes Of Satori. They refer to their music as “psychedelic afro kraut” and that’s easily the best description. It’s like they had to travel into the future on a rescue mission to reinvent a musical genre that sounds like it was born in the past, but somehow got lost in the folds of the space-time continuum.

Is now a good time for bands or musicians to move to the Bay Area?
If they can afford it, sure. Long gone are the days when you could scrape by living here on just a working musician’s random wage. But at the same time, I can’t remember when so many awesome bands have existed in the San Francisco Bay Area. There’s an abundance of top-shelf rock & roll right now and it’s making for better shows, more interesting recordings and a much stronger community.

What’s the most recent album you discovered or rediscovered that blew your mind?
My wife just turned me on to a band called the USA Is A Monster. They sound like the Incredible String Band meets Karp. Also, the guys in Hot Lunch and I are huge fans of Queen Crescent. There are a lot of bands right now that don’t bring anything to the table but predictable riffs and period-correct bellbottoms. The women in Queen Crescent are making hard rock interesting and fun again. Speaking of fun, our friends Banquet are another one of my favorite bands right now. Beyond the sonic prerequisites for timeless hard rock, they write killer tunes with memorable melodies. A they always put on an amazing show. I also saw Whitey Morgan and the 78s play in Austin for SXSW and they blew my mind. Normally when a band tries too hard to recreate the past, it makes me think that I’m watching something akin to a bunch of weekend Civil War recreationists. Even though Whitey Morgan and his band play music that’s unapologetically informed by the outlaw country movement of the 1970s and 1980s, there is no doubt in my mind that they’re the real deal. They’re lifers—guys who actually grew up on this kind of music and not just another bunch of retro, lifestyle ding-dongs who paid way too much money on eBay for back issues of Easyriders magazine.

Can you describe your ideal concert?
I don’t ask for much when I go out to see a show. Rockstars don’t impress me. I like bands that sound better than they look. I want to walk away from a show with songs in my head. I want to come home from a show and pick up my guitar because I’m so inspired by what I just witnessed.

Do you know more skaters who are good musicians or musicians who are good skaters? Who is the best in both categories?
I think it’s about equal. Leo Romero and his band Travesura are pushing the margins of Americana in interesting ways. Tommy Guerrero is a local treasure in both departments. Mario Rubalcaba attacks the kit like he attacks the coping. Skateboarding has yielded some great guitar players as well—Steve Alba, Ray Barbee… And have you ever seen Adrian Demain play guitar? He’s incredible. Josh from the Shrine can rule a pool’s shallow end like a Thin Lizzy solo. Jeff Ament has done more for skateboarding than most people. And sorry Ellen O’Neal, but nobody does daffys better than J Mascis.

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