The Hot House Four
Words by Lisa-Marie Rose, photographs by Tony Bruce.
Can you introduce yourselves to our readers?
Willy Briggs, Lisa Briggs, Lola Gaskin-Briggs and Dan Morley and we live in the ‘Deep Southwest’ down in sunny Devon.
You are an amazingly well put-together and slick band, is it true that some of the band have only been playing instruments for a couple of years?
Although Willy has been playing music for 20 years, Lisa and Lola only started learning their instruments 3 years ago. Dan played a bit of guitar before but, like the rest of us, had never touched the double bass! We all lived in the same house when we started the band. We’d drink a few bottles of red wine and start jamming. We picked up a half sized double bass and all started messing about with it. After a few months, we started going to some Open Mic nights to see what people would make of our strange old music and us. We were quite nervous and wanted to be inconspicuous but four people, dressed in vintage clothing dragging a double bass behind them seemed to cause a bit of a stir in quiet, rural Devon villages! It turned out that most pubs we went to, wanted to book us but we only had four songs so we rehearsed like crazy to get a set together. It became a bit of an obsession during the first year and it was all we could think about. Consequently, we progressed quickly and never looked back.
Lisa, Lola and Willy are closely related, what are the best things about working with family?
There are so many different aspects to being in a band; the actual performance is just one part of it. The nights spent rehearsing, weekends in the recording studio, hours on the road, hotel stopovers and endless laughs along the way, all make up the experience of being in a band. To be able to share all that with your family is just amazing and makes the bond stronger between you. Of course, being family, we might squabble openly a bit more than some bands but it’s over and forgotten about quickly.
Your style is authentic 30s-40s roots, what is it about this era that inspires you so much?
There were such great songwriters back then, writing songs with clever and witty lyrics. The music was so melodic, happy and rhythmic and there seemed to be a pool of quality musicians and singers. Everything was so cool; the clothes, the cars, the dancing, even the way buildings were designed; it’s all so pleasing to the eye – particularly in the US during that period.
Your album is crammed full of original material, often blending modern topics with a vintage sound. How important is it to write original material?
It’s important to write original material to keep the music fresh. It’s a great sense of achievement creating something from scratch, sometimes it can be a tune that’s constantly going around your head or something you’ve overheard or just an observation. We try to keep our songs mostly light-hearted with an injection of humour but we’ve got a couple of darker tunes also. Of course, we love to play all the great old tunes too because it’s also important to preserve these songs and give people an opportunity to hear them performed live. Quite a lot of the covers are pretty obscure so not many people really know which songs are original and which are not. Our sets are usually 50% original material, although our album Hot House Jump is all originals and which we’re very proud of.
What’s your favourite song to perform live and why?
It has to be Mama Don’t Allow. We play all the instruments we know how to play in one song. Harmonica, accordion, lap steel, kazoo, fiddle, mandolin and bass. We change bass player 3 times during the song, which took a bit of working out! It’s a good way to end the set and we always get a kick out of performing it, especially when it runs smoothly!
What 5 records would you recommend to VL readers who love your sound?
Too many to mention but here’s a few…
Okeh Western Swing – double LP
Hard Life Blues (The Whippoorwills)
The Best of Pee Wee King
African Ripples (Fats Waller)
Anything by Cab Calloway, Slim and Slam, Louis Jordan.
Who are your favourite current artists to see live?
Hot Club of Cowtown
Rob Heron and the Teapad Orchestra
The Lucky Stars
The Hot Rhythm Ramblers
Your visual style is very striking, what are your favourite pieces of vintage clothing?
Willy – 1940s pinstripe trousers and sometimes his cravat makes an appearance!
Lisa – 1940s green cocktail dress.
Lola – 1950s original cowboy boots.
Dan – 1950s original double sided tie.
What were your highlights of 2016 and what are you looking forward to most in 2017?
The Hillbilly Hoedown and the Atomic festivals were definitely two of our highlights of the year along with the Pee Wee King tribute show we took part in at the Rhythm Riot. We’re looking forward to playing at the Atomic festival again and performing the Pee Wee King show again.
How can readers get hold of your album and keep up with your latest shows?
Our website is www.thehothousefour.com which has a regularly updated gig list. We are also on Facebook and Twitter. Our album can be purchased at any gig or by dropping us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.