The Hot Seats were formed eight years ago (2002) in Richmond, VA as a good-time band between new friends, many of whom were exploring a genre unknown to them on equally novel instruments. It started with weekly gig, rapidly followed by trips out of town, festival appearances, longer tours, new music, new influences, competition-winning performances (both individually and as an ensemble) three critically acclaimed trips to the UK, and five albums.
With each year and step forward, the band has honed a focus on the traditions from which it draws, and a tongue-in-cheek irony more comparable to Jonathan Swift than to South Park. The band, while retaining the irreverence and fun loving character of its inception, does not resemble much the ragtag ensemble of the summer of 2002. For these reasons, they are the Hot Seats, a name that connotes the frenetic frenzy this band can whip up, and one they feel represents their musical intentions, as well as their desire to share this music with a larger audience.
These intentions are to keep the role of traditional musician as entertainer and commentator alive and kicking. Homer and Jethro, The Skillet Likkers, George Formby, Harry Reser, Woodie Guthrie, Gus Cannon, Phil Ochs, Tommy Jarrell, Arthur Smith, Uncle Dave Macon, Frank Zappa – these are pools from which The Hot Seats draw. Their original music is simultaneously hard to classify and instantly identifiable, combining the virtuosic soloing and tightness of bluegrass, the band-driven rhythm of old time, the jerky bounce of ragtime, and the swagger of good old rock and roll. Add some eastern melodies, a few modernist ideals, and an uncanny feel for comic timing, and you begin to approach this sound.
While striving to push tradition forward, the band takes great pride in their ability to play within a tradition style as well as without. Ultimately, the Hot Seats are most concerned with making the music that they want to hear and playing in the manner that is most entertaining to themselves; the fact that audiences and critics alike have embraced it is almost a wonderful coincidence.
The band’s first release under the new name, Retreat To Camp Candy Temptation Island highlights the band’s flexibility, moving between bluegrass, ragtime, oldtime, jugband, and Klezmer with ease, injecting humor and sharp witted commentary along the way. Featuring a mixture of original songs and tunes (including the part song, part theatrics “Sleepover Party”, a live favorite for years) and traditionals pulled from the depths of the public domain, Retreat to Camp Candy Island is evidence of the band’s dedication to treat stringband music as a modern form, open to current themes and sensibilities, as well as a tradition that is deserving of preservation.