Your quintessential, all-American post-hardcore band, Hot Snakes is the herpetological dream-child of San Diego rockers Rick Froberg and John “The Swami” Reis, both formerly of Pitchfork and Drive Like Jehu. A tightly-fit group with a free-wheelin’ spirit and punk-fed sound, Hot Snakes tore a gaping hole in grunge’s plaid-flannel mosquito-netting. Obsessed fans and startled peers couldn’t get enough of the brooding self-immolation heard on early works, Automatic Midnight (2000) and Suicide Invoice (2002), the nonchalant melodrama of 2005’s Peel Session EP and ensuing insanity of their band’s sole live recording, Thunder Down Under (2006). Throughout, Hot Snakes never shied away from exercising their musical might, standing pat in the centre of a celluloid cyclone. Then, just like that, Froberg and company suddenly called it quits: after half-a-decade of laying it all on the line, Hot Snakes had reached a dead end.
Then, after a prolong period that saw the outfit’s various members join the ranks of acts including The Night Marchers, Beehive and the Barracudas, Earthless, Rocket From the Crypt, Obits, and The Sultans, guitarist/vocalist John Reis, bassist Gar Wood and percussionist tag-team Jason Kourkounis and Mario Rubalcaba put to things all right between them and emerged with a fresh (and perhaps even thicker) skin, ready to perform again. For lead vocalist/guitarist Rick Froberg, who fills his days in New York labouring as a visual artist and illustrator, the chance to reunite and tour with Hot Snakes once more is just another walk in Central Park.
BeatRoute: Looking back at 2005, what do you now think were the major contributing factors that lead to the dissolution of both Hot Snakes?
Rick Froberg: Snoring was a real problem.
BR: What interesting projects, musical or otherwise, have you pursued during your auditing hiatus from Hot Snakes?
RF: I just found other things to do. I don’t think the breakup of the Hot Snakes had much effect creatively apart from making everybody available to do other things. Hot Snakes doesn’t write songs at the moment, we just play. That is our sole purpose.
BR: In 2011, Hot Snakes reunited. How did that come about?
RF: We were asked by Les Savvy Fav to play at ATP in the U.K. We were offered decent money and everybody seemed to think it would be fun. We figured that since we were going to the trouble, we might as well play a few others.
BR: Were there any aspects of the band that you were determined to preserve?
RF: They’re preserved anyway. It’s all the same people and everybody knows the deal. It’s pretty much the same thing it was in 2005 and prior.
BR: Likewise, what changes did you want to see emerge in the reincarnation of Hot Snakes?
RF: The snoring has to stop.
BR: How has the fan response been to your “comeback”?
RF: Good! I haven’t heard many criticisms, and the shows have been packed. Maybe you have to break up to be appreciated. It’s worth a try.
BR: How has the scene developed (or deteriorated) during your absence from touring and recording as Hot Snakes?
RF: As far as we’re concerned, it hasn’t. There is our eerie new popularity, but that’s about it. We’re older. Many of our friends are still out there slugging away on a shoestring. We’ve played a few festivals and we’ve had a cursory look or two at some of the new bands out there. They seem to have some sort of scene, but it doesn’t really include us and why should it? Their thing is for them, not us. Makes you feel a little lonely…we’re just going to try and finish the run and have a good time doing so.
BR: When I first interviewed you in June of 2009, we talked about your other group, Obits, being a post-Helvetica band. If you had to characterize Hot Snakes circa 2012, how would you describe your situation in the ‘post-hardcore’ zeitgeist?
RF: Comic Sans.
BR: Any regrets or sage advice for the newbies?
RF: No regrets. Get back in 20 years when I’m eating dog food and ask again.
Hot Snakes play Dickens on June 21.
by Christine Leonard
Photo: Chris WooAB, Alberta