Hotline TNT Rides The Buzz Of ‘Cartwheel’ Into Mag Bar

Nov 22, 2023 at 2:39 pm
Hotline TNT.
Hotline TNT. Photo by Wes Knoll.

Hotline TNT’s critically acclaimed new album Cartwheel takes everything the band has been doing for the last half decade and refines it, creating a rich and thoughtful mixture of psychedelic shoegaze with monster hooks and lyrics that dig deep. The band’s second full-length album is full of songs about connections and relationships, an honest look at the good, the bad, and the complicated.

Before the band plays at Mag Bar on Thursday, Dec. 7, we caught up with band leader Will Anderson to talk about the new album that was deemed Best New Music by Pitchfork, how he likes to peel back the layers of his relationships in Hotline’s songs, and whether or not he was able to keep up with his beloved Minnesota Timberwolves during a recent European tour.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

LEO: You’re coming off a pretty busy leg of a tour run that ended in London at the Pitchfork Music Festival. How were the shows? How was the festival?

Will Anderson: Oh, it was really good. I would say the Pitchfork Festival was our best set. When I think of Pitchfork Fest, I think of a huge outdoor festival, basically, but this was more like, they took over a bunch of small venues in London. So we were just playing in a bar called The Shacklewell Arms, and it was really full and it had good energy and we played really well. So, that was awesome.

Unfortunately, two hours later, I puked my guts out and did so all night. As well as our drummer Mike. We both got a stomach bug. And we missed our flights home. That’s why I just got home today.

Glad it didn’t happen to you onstage or before the show.

Well, it’s funny. Two days before, our bass player did get sick onstage and had to leave before the last song. So, I finished on the bass, and he wasn’t even well enough to play the next day, so I played bass again the next day. But, then, by Pitchfork Fest, he was back, and we all played together, and then I went down.

Well… at least it didn’t happen at the Pitchfork Fest, since that was sort of the keystone of the run, I suppose.

Yeah, that was the sweet spot. We were all good for that one.

Hotline TNT has been a project for more than five years now, so when you look back at some of the early songs, the tracks from EPs like Cool If I Crash, and compare them to songs from Cartwheel, what do you see? How do you think you’ve changed, shifted, progressed, etc., etc. as a songwriter? Or how has your subject matter shifted? We obviously went through a pandemic. And I’m sure your relationships, interests and priorities have also somewhat moved around too, just like the rest of us.

It’s pretty much just an ongoing diary of whatever I’m feeling at the time, as far as lyrics go. If I’m going through a good period in my love life, I’ll probably write a love song or two. If I’m going through a breakup, I’ll probably write a heartbreak song. It’s a lot of songs about my friends and my family and people in my life. Relationships of all kinds. 

But I don’t really play a lot of songs from that [early] era anymore. “Are U Faded?” is definitely a fan favorite that gets a lot of requests, but I think that we’ve gotten better since then. It’s a fun song to play, but I kind of cringed when I listened to it because I feel like it is more on the juvenile side. But it’s not bad. I think it’s a good song.

You just touched a bit on this, but you seem to write a lot about connections, relationships and the deep nuances that are intertwined. You said the song “I Thought You’d Change” off of Cartwheel is about wanting a friendship to turn into something more, then wanting it to turn back into a friendship. And it switches between two narrators, with some ambiguity about who is saying what. Why is it important for you to sort of peel those layers back like that, and really dig in, analyze and wonder about relationships like that in songs?

I think, more than just songwriting, it’s an exercise in trying to express empathy, and, even when you hurt someone’s feelings, try to do so in a way that minimizes pain or, at least, let them know that you’re trying to feel what they’re feeling and let them know that it’s not coming from a place of malice or something like that. That was my hope, at least. 

When it comes to the songwriting, it wasn’t like I set out to write the song from my and her POV. As I was writing the song, I kind of realized, ‘Is this what I’m feeling or what she’s feeling?’ Maybe it’s back and forth. 

Have you been able to keep up with Fortnite and your Minnesota Timberwolves during the busy run?

No Fortnite. Definitely the Timberwolves. I got the NBA on right now, if you see the blinking on the screen. They’re playing in a few hours. I’m really excited to see how they do this season. I have a few days off here in New York, where I’m hoping to get a few games in of Fortnite. Then I’ll be on the road for three weeks straight.

Hotline TNT plays at Mag Bar (1398 S. 2nd St.) on Thursday, Dec. 7. Sidestep and Baby Chips open. The show starts at 7 p.m. and is $15 in advance and $18 on the day of the show.