Interview by Matt Davis
Photos by Bre Cura
Hotbed is a four-piece rock outfit based in Philadelphia, PA. Drawing on influences ranging from classical music to reggae, they’ve created an infectious brand of indie rock. They’re a group of friends first and foremost who happen to also make really cool music together. New to the Philly music scene, Hotbed is already proving themselves to be one of the best up-and-coming bands in the city. We were lucky enough to catch up with them before a show at Johnny Brenda’s on October 24th.
Who is Hotbed and how did you form?
Jimmy Mckenney – “We formed when we were at the University of Delaware, but we’re also life long friends. We go way back. We just started jamming, and then started playing in Dewey Beach and up on campus. It became really makeshift. We didn’t have a mic, we were playing with the shittiest gear, and next thing you know, boom! We were like ‘damn, this is really fun.’”
Jon Diehl – “Some of us new each other in high school, but we really didn’t get together until early 2017. Kevin went to school at UD for piano, and we all went there for non music majors. We started playing at this small cafe, and you wouldn’t really think you’d see a rock show there. But we turned it into that. We really had some amazing support from the beginning with great friends who would spread the word about us. We ended up playing the better place in town called the Deer Park Tavern, and it wasn’t really the cool spot to go to, but we kind of turned it into that.”
It sounds like close friendships have played a big part in building the band. What’s that dynamic like?
Kevin Kruelle – “It’s cool because we all knew each other, but had different friend groups. So any time we played we would all invite our personal friends, and they would tell their friends, and there would end up being like 100 people at some of our first shows and it sold out the bar.”
Jimmy – “We’re more than a band. We all live together, we all left Delaware and moved to Philly without jobs together. It sounds corny, but we’re like family. It’s more than getting together with the band and practicing. It kind of our life, and that’s a cool thing. And sometimes I guess it seeps into the music, and I think that’s good, or maybe not. We try not to let the ‘who’s not doing their dishes’ affect the songs.”
Jake Wipf – “The one thing you can take away from it all is this; always be nice and always be friendly. You go through life and you always want to be friendly and put your best foot forward, and you never know when that’s going to come back around. I think we can all say that about each other, we’re nice people, and people like us, but most importantly we show that love back around. And I think our music is showing that at the end of the day.”
Jon – “It’s cool to be able to travel somewhere, have the anxiety of like ‘wow, we’re playing New York City, we’ve never played here before’, and then have fans from UD there that are coming to see us, it’s really cool”
Why did you guys move from Delaware to Philly?
Jake – “Moving from our hometown, it was a big step. We really moved her for the music. We all have jobs, like we need to make a living, but hopefully one day this is what we’ll be doing. We have common ground with that, and that how we keep pushing each other.”
Kevin – “In Delaware, we pretty much did everything we wanted to do, and we looked at each other and asked ‘what’s next?’”
Jon – “There’s a bit of mystique about Philly and the music scene here. We want to be part of that scene and part of the revitalization of indie rock. There’s so many independent bands here, and we felt that it was time for a change. You can’t stay in Delaware and promote live music like you can in Philly, because you can only get so far with it. It was kind of just a leap of faith.”
How has the band grown since moving to Philly”
Jimmy – “Definitely our sound has changed, which is what we’re always trying to work on and improve. We’re never trying to stay the same. It’s enjoyable when you find something new and run with that. At the end of the day, we’re just like damn, this fun. We can do this, we can do that, were making this sound, Kevin’s getting new keys, we’re getting new pedals. It’s kinda just expanding and letting your mind grow.”
Kevin – “It’s not just about moving to Philly. It’s also about living in the same house together and always being together. Whenever we’re just chilling at the house, on any given day, we’re coming up with new ideas.”
You kind of touched on it, but where does inspiration for Hotbed’s music come from?
Jimmy – “I think it’s just indirectly things from our lives. We never really sit down and say ‘let’s try and do something like this.’ The songwriting process is just extremely organic. Someone will come down to the basement with a riff, and that’s all they got. But we’re able to, together, write a bridge, write a chorus, and it just comes together naturally.”
Jake – “I know for me, I’ve definitely had some hardships in my life, and I know everyone’s been through some stuff. From a young age that’s been driving me, to show and express my emotions through music. After high school, it was really tough not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, and I kind of that picked up a guitar for fun and got it out through that. A lot of music we make is just driven by the emotional, day-to-day things we go through.”