New wavers’ in-studio chemistry ignites the Hot Place
Members of the Swimming Pool Q’s, Unminded, and even Television contribute to the Hot Place’s debut LP, a process that forged a proper band.
- Gregg Boutilier
- (Clockwise) Mike Lynn, Robert Schmid, Jeff Calder, and Lisa King are the live version of the Hot Place.
When it came time for veteran Atlanta musician and songwriter Lisa King (Unminded, Threshold) to take a batch of solo songs into Southern Tracks Recording, she rounded up some old friends, including local New Wave staple Jeff Calder (Swimming Pool Q’s). The process of bringing her ideas to life using vintage instruments in a modern recording studio found King’s recording project, the Hot Place, gelling into a proper band. The unit forged while recording its debut The Language of Birds LP makes its second live appearance at its Sat., Nov. 15 album release party at Little Tree Studios. King and Calder recently opened up about the origins of the band and how they landed a guest appearance on the album by legendary Television guitarist Richard Lloyd.
Just for clarification, did the Hot Place start out as a solo project for Lisa? If so, or if this decision came earlier in the process, how did you decide to collaborate with Jeff?
Lisa: The Hot Place started out as a nebulous collection of songs I had written between the early ‘80s and the present. But when we began working in the studio, it became clear that this was more than just a recording project — it was becoming an actual band. I wanted to bring together a group of professional musicians and record an album the way the Cure or Echo and the Bunnymen would have in about 1984. Growing up in Atlanta, I was of course familiar with the Swimming Pool Q’s, and I liked the new wave styling of the group, so I knew Jeff would understand the sound I was looking for with my project. During the Q’s Blue Tomorrow years, Jeff worked with the British producer Mike Howlett (who cut “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls), so I was confident that he could help me create an authentic post-punk experience at Southern Tracks Recording, which had the best collection of analog tape machines and vintage gear in the city. I had already worked with Jeff musically, playing keyboards with the SPQ’s during their Royal Academy of Reality era in the early 2000’s, so I knew it would be easy to collaborate with him both musically and as a producer for this project.
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Jeff, how much had you been exposed to Lisa and her music before this project?
Jeff: I knew about Lisa’s work with her band Unminded. Later, when she was playing keyboards with the Glenn Phillips Band and the Swimming Pool Q’s, I became aware of her newer songs, which I thought had a terrific creative vision, though I felt they could benefit from the focus that comes with brushing up in the studio. She had very definite ideas about the attitude she wanted to project, and how she wanted things to sound, in line with her goth and post-punk aesthetics, which I understood pretty well, having survived the original 1980s wave of deep flanging and continuous delay. I contributed a few lyrics and guitar parts, but this was her album. She performed nearly everything except drums, which were played by Robert Schmid (Swimming Pool Q’s, Kevin Dunn). I think I was most effective as an organizer and as an intermediary between Ms. King and the engineers, helping communicate her, at times, arcane ideas and finding common ground with modern rock’s recording methodologies, which easily can become overwhelming.
The material you sent me makes this sound like a recording project that might lead to the occasional show. Are you guys going to play regularly, a few times a year, or is that still up in the air?
Lisa: We debuted at the International Pop Overthrow in September, and I believe we’ll start playing out regularly, including some regional tours. In the studio, we realized it was very comfortable playing together because we had already all played with each other over the past two decades, in different combinations: Our guitarist Mike Lynn and I were in Unminded, and I played with Robert and Jeff in both the Glenn Phillips Band and the Q’s. So we had a lot of live chemistry right off the bat.
The press releases you sent me already read like some of these songs took shape over time. Lisa, are you constantly working on new material? If so, is there a chance some of it might become the Hot Place songs down the line?
Lisa: Right now all of my songwriting focus is on material for the Hot Place. Unlike some of the songs on The Language of Birds, which I had been toting around from the past, we are writing new songs for a second record more as a band. I really look forward to creating collective material with Jeff and Mike, who are both strong songwriters themselves, and I’m inspired by the energy that Robert brings to the drum kit.
What I think would interest a lot of readers is the Richard Lloyd collaboration. How long had you all known Richard? How did he become part of the record? What was it like working with him?
Jeff: I was at Southern Tracks studio in Atlanta when he was recording with my friend Matthew Sweet in the late ’90s. Then, in 2008, Glenn Phillips and I opened for his band in Savannah. I held on to his business card, so, when Lisa insisted that Richard play on “Saturn Moved” — given its cosmic subject matter and Richard being an “alchemical guitarist” — I called him on the spot and asked if he would like to do it. He said he “had a lot of planes on the runway,” but he liked the tune nevertheless and cut a solo for it on his own in Manhattan. At Southern Tracks, we mixed it into the song, just as you hear it. Richard was a pleasure to work with — even by mail. Very professional. A true artist. He has a tart sense of humor and is a brilliant, if unorthodox, guitar instructor.
The Hot Place plays a record release show with Kevin Dunn and DJ Gori on Sat., Nov. 15 at Little Tree Art Studios. Free. 7 p.m. 2834 Franklin St., Avondale Estates, GA 30002.