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Hot Snakes at The Ritz

In Music
SERPENTINE: Hot Snakes are back, and their playing their first ever San Jose show.

SERPENTINE: Hot Snakes are back, and their playing their first ever San Jose show.

Hot Snakes a tendency to show up in dire times. In the early 2000s, the San Diego all stars released a trio of dark, vaguely threatening punk albums that followed closely on the heels of Y2K, 9/11 and the Iraq War. Then, in 2005 they disbanded. Now, as we slip through the reality-show mirror, they’ve returned with Jericho Sirens, their first album in 14 years, and first released by Sub Pop. It is aggressive, pummeling, and entirely welcome—both for listeners and for the band.

“It’s a good time to be playing rock and roll music right now,” says guitarist John Reis, though he’s quick to add that it has nothing to do with politics. “I’m not talking about the world at large, I’m just talking about me personally. There is a lot of end-of-the-world talk in general, but things are always fucked up. There’s always something bad going on.”

If ever there was an apt description of Hot Snakes, “there’s always something bad going on” is it. Their sound is simultaneously tense and explosive, like a bomb timer countdown stuck between 1 and 0. Reis describes the sound of their first record (2000’s Automatic Midnight) as “sinister.”

“I kind of gravitate towards things that I equate with drama, turbulence, and tension. Things that feel almost cinematic in a very small time frame,” he says. “Kind of a mini chase that’s happening.”

The first single off Jericho Sirens, “Six Wave Hold-Down” is a perfect example of this style of songwriting. When the band kicks in after a short guitar intro, the song coils in on itself, quickly building tension with each repetition of its main riff. In his signature unearthly howl, singer Rick Froberg paints a picture in second-person of a surfer (you) being held down underwater as wave after wave crashes overhead.

“Take the next one, or the next one, or the next one, or the next one,” he sings, before the songs explodes into its chorus of “Six wave hold-down, thirty-six heads high.”

Many of the band’s songs explore similarly destructive spaces, juicing the tension out of scenarios that in real life would be frightening, but in music are pure thrill.

“I think that people come and see our band, they like to feel controlled by the guitar music and be told what to do. Be dominated by it,” Reis says. “The band is firing on all cylinders right now. Decapitating people, and strangulating those in the first row. It’s always fun to punish people with your guitar.”

Though phrased in particularly Hot Snakes-ian terminology, Reis sees this idea of punishing people with the guitar as part of the DNA of punk rock, going back to one of its founding players: Johnny Ramone.

“It seemed like he was punishing his guitar,” Reis says. “You might look at it now and it seems relatively tame maybe, but at the time, in context, no one had played guitar like that before. No one had that style. He made that style. That didn’t exist before he did that. As a kid seeing that, it blew my mind.”

Through Jericho Sirens and the band’s back catalog, a new generation now has the opportunity to have their minds blown in a similar way. Though they are far from the Ramones, Reis & Co. pack their songs with the same energy, along with a healthy dosage of menace.

With no shortage of bad news, the present moment is at least as dire as the last time Hot Snakes were around, and their music is just as vital as it was then. And with all the members taking a break from their other projects to focus on this band, the snakes hold the floor for the foreseeable future.

“I think about impending doom for sure,” says Reis. “But not mine.”

Hot Snakes
Mon, 7:30pm $22
The Ritz


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