A vision of smudged eyeliner, shag haircuts and ripped fishnets, HotWax are spread across a worn-down sofa in the upstairs enclosure of The Lexington, looking exactly like a trio of rock stars. Bassist Lola Sam is wearing a red t-shirt with ‘Fuck Off’ emblazoned in block capitals; guitarist and vocalist Tallulah Sim-Savage’s pointy, chunky rings could double as a weapon. Joined by drummer Alfie Sayers, this gang may have the swagger, but they play the part, too: their music moves with such a vigorous physicality that they are, undoubtedly, the most exciting – and wickedly confident – new young band in the UK.
When they take to the stage at this north London venue a few hours after our interview, the technical proficiency with which the teenage trio play is blinding. Blitzing through tracks from their debut EP ‘A Thousand Times’ (due May 19), Sim-Savage sings of infatuation and existential woes with both a stark lucidity, and a sneer that gives her words urgency. With his teeth clenched, and adrenaline pushing him to lean over his kit, Sayers commands a wall of melody like it’s his lifeblood. Their bitterly euphoric choruses and precise, dexterous solos could thrill even the most jaded of guitar music fans.
Unfurling their origin story in conversation with NME, HotWax are like live wires off stage too, exuding a frenzied blend of mild anxiety and excitement as they talk over each other. When we broach their upcoming slot at The Strokes’ All Point East show in London this August, all three members rush to speak in wide-eyed bursts. “We almost feel guilty for being on the lineup poster,” says Sayers, laughing. “But equally, we want to relish the challenge: we’re currently unknown, and need to prove ourselves.”
Sayers has been drumming before he learned his times tables, having been taught by a childminder at a young age. Sim-Savage and Sam, meanwhile, are childhood friends who have always had a firm grasp on their narrative. Before they met Sayers at music college in Brighton, they grew up in tandem, plotting local gigs, analysing YouTube videos of their heroes Karen O and Starcrawler’s Arrow de Wilde, and immersing themselves in Hastings’ tight-knit creative scene. “We literally had each other, and no one else,” affirms Sim-Savage.
Their bond would soon strengthen in the face of adversity; the pair were bullied in high school and had food thrown at them during lunch breaks, but continued to focus on pursuing their dreams as soon as they finished their studies. Today, they radiate an inseparable, sisterly dynamic, often directing their answers to each other rather than NME. “Many people leave school with nothing, but we knew we had something really special with our band,” Sim-Savage says. “We just needed to work out how we were going to get out there.”
The fact that HotWax have never really had a plan – only a lot of vim and dedication – has been written into their own folklore. At college, they bonded over a shared resentment for the hyper-critical nature of their classmates, many of whom had learned their instruments via a more traditional musical education. “You can’t be taught something that you know you want to do in your own way,” says Sayers. “There’s no way we could have followed their critiques and what they had to say about what we’re doing.”
Fed up with the “narrow-minded environment” of her bass guitar course, Sam eventually quit her degree and encouraged her bandmates to start channeling their frustrations and nonconformist spirit into their songs. “I don’t have anything else in my life besides music,” she says with a trace of pride, flicking her orange-red hair behind her. “So, when we started the band, we made a commitment to each other. It’s amazing that we are willing to give up our lives so that we can work together.”
It’s clear, then, that HotWax have taken their friendship and set it to music. The resulting ‘A Thousand Times’ EP feels perfectly attuned to the conflicting uncertainties of young adulthood, all skittish, fierce, Wolf Alice-style guitar breakdowns and growled vocals that are immediate without being repetitive. The entire EP was written before they landed a deal with Marathon Artists [Pond, Lava La Rue], and there’s a delicious, no-pressure energy to it; before they began songwriting sessions, they’d already fostered an informal network of local promoters and industry heads off the back of their incendiary live show.
Yet HotWax’s ascent has been so fast and steep, that whenever Sim-Savage tries to describe it, she circles back to the same mantra: this is a band built solely on self-belief, and they’ve had to learn how to unlock the uber-confident, extroverted performers deep within them in order to survive. “I used to be so shy, but now, when I see someone in the crowd that looks like they aren’t interested, I’ll make sure that I look right into their eyes. I want them to listen”, she says, allowing a smirk to slowly curl across her face. “And for them to feel uncomfortable.”
HotWax’s debut EP ‘A Thousand Times’ will be released on May 19