August Hotel turns lament to optimism in new city pop homage ‘Summer Will Wait’
August Hotel was poised to make 2020 a big year. Starting off with a sold-out show at Chicago’s Beat Kitchen, a new EP on the verge of a release and new songs they were planning, the fivesome wasn’t prepared for COVID-19 to pull the rug out from under them.
It’s a common enough story, especially on the local scene. But instead of giving in to missing out, the band wrote it into a new single. That song, “Summer Will Wait,” drops Friday, and August Hotel marks it with a release show at Chicago’s Golden Dagger Thursday, Feb. 9.
The song — in part a product of a song-a-week challenge some of the band’s members participated in during lockdowns — is an homage to city pop, a growing genre in Japan in the ’70s and ’80s that introduced elements of pop, jazz and tropical vibes to the cultural conversation around popular music at the time.
“I used that opportunity to experiment and lean more into sounds that I hadn’t really in the past,” said Ryan Lammers, guitar player and one of the primary songwriters for August Hotel. “It also started leading to a broader interest in a slightly different sonic space for the band.”
Lammers, originally from Cary, said the band wanted to replicate that city pop feel, with its songs about enjoying the vibes of summer and love, but with a more personal spin echoing the situation at hand. The rest of the band — Eva Padilla of Downers Grove, drummer Dean Sinclair of McHenry, Cale Singleton of Cary and newest member Landon Hegedus, who moved here from Texas to study jazz at Northwestern University — followed suit.
On its surface, “Summer Will Wait” takes listeners on a journey skimming along sunny, oceanfront days and glimmering neon nights, but in August Hotel’s hallmark fashion, the upbeat indie pop belies deeper truths.
“I wanted to twist it a little bit and make it this happy-sounding song but give it a little bit of melancholy,” Lammers said. “So it’s about how I was feeling in summer 2020. … I was looking at how this summer was supposed to be this great thing, but it wasn’t. And kind of figuring out how to cope with that and coping with the loss in all forms that happened in that time period.”
But Lammers also pointed out the title hints at a bit of optimism.
“Things are really hard, things are tough,” they said. “But if we can stick it out, do our best to get through it, that good summer that you wanted to have will hang on and still be around another time.”
Pre-COVID, August Hotel had a sound that felt familiar and yet was delightfully different from most bands coming up on the Chicago scene, comfortable yet exhilarating. The time to explore new sonic ground, plus the addition of Hegedus to the group, further widened the band’s separation from the pack.
“I think bringing Landon in was a big push in that direction,” Lammers said. “Landon is so talented in so many different respects. And having a saxophonist in the band makes a huge difference. And his musical knowledge is honestly truly impressive. So we just found ourselves kind of pushing things in a different direction.”
“I feel like some of these influences that we’re trying to incorporate, they have similar musical values. I think that the melodicism and the catchy hooks and stuff like that, that’s all very August Hotel, and that’s still at the core of it,” Hegedus said. “We’ve been trying to find musical touchstones that all incorporate those elements.”
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August Hotel with Sydney Richards, Tommy Bravos
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9
Where: Golden Dagger, 2447 N. Halsted St., Chicago, goldendagger.com