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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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July 2010 - January 2013
Hotel of the Laughing Tree's Fast Start
Friday, October 29, 2010

Coming together late in 2008, Hotel of the Laughing Tree saw immediate success when they took home the 2009 MTVu Woodie award for Best Music on Campus. Since then it’s been an interesting ride for the sextet from Long Island. The band’s AJ Estrada, Brandon Peterson and Neil Scalesse sat down with me to discuss what they, along with their bandmates Mike Nixdorf, Anthony Arma, and Mike Solomon, have experienced during that ride, including the long wait to release their full length debut, a lip lock with a former MTV personality, and reading one website’s unflattering thoughts about their band’s name.

Adam Bernard: You are from Long Island and you formed quite recently. What part of the Island are you from and how did come together after the dissolution of Rendezvous with the Kidnappers?
Brandon: Me and AJ were in Rendezvous with the Kidnappers. I joined that band late in the game and then there was a whole situation. We decided to leave and form this band. Neil was in an old band with me so I asked him if he wanted to play. We added a couple more members two years later, and here we are.

AB: Other than music, what do you all have in common?
AJ: We watch a lot of Lost.

AB: What are you gonna do now that the show’s over?
AJ: I have no idea. {laughs}
Neil: We haven’t thought about that yet.

AB: I know you’re having an exciting week, so tell me about your big news.
AJ: Big news? What happened? Oh yeah.
Everyone: {laughs}
AJ: We signed to an independent label, Brookvale Records.
Neil: It was a crazy process.

AB: Without getting into details that would get you thrown in jail, what was that process like?

AJ: There were a lot of legal issues we had to work out because everybody's going back to school now, so it’s hard to figure out exactly what we’re doing.

AB: So you’re also all in school?

Neil: Three of us are. Two are in upstate New York and one goes to Delaware.

AB: How will that work out?
AJ: They usually come home at least once a month, but they’re trying to increase it now that we’re signed. They’re trying to take it a little more seriously.
Brandon: Basically, everyone has to come home every week. We’ll see what happens.

AB: Do you have an album ready to go, or are you now going to start work on a new project?
Brandon: We finished recording our album, Terror and Everything After, in January. That’s a long time ago. We were gonna self-release it, and then this happened like the day we were about to send it out. We went through this whole process and now it’s going through Red Distribution, which is part of Sony, and they’re (Brookvale’s) gonna release it January 18th. For now we’re just gonna ride that out and halfway through next year start demoing out some new stuff. Maybe later next year start recording.

AB: Terror and Everything After will be a year in the works by the time it comes out. Have you been making any changes to it?
Brandon: We haven’t made any changes. It’s pretty rough, but I think it’ll be worth it in the end.

AB: How will the album be different from your EP, Old Dominion?
Neil: I think it’s more mature, and when we did the EP it was just me, Brendan and AJ. It was just us throwing out ideas. Now we have six people. Five people recorded the new album. It has a lot of everyone’s flavor. It’s a more mature record, and it’s 13 songs.

AB: What flavors do the new members bring?
AJ: I used to play keyboard and guitar and sax and a bunch of crap at the same time. We got a full time keys and piano member, Mike Solomon. He helps out a lot live. He didn’t record the new album with us, but he’s been a great addition for the future.

AB: It sounds like your live shows are going to get bigger and bigger with so many new members.
Neil: We have such a theatrical sound, so we try to really bring it live. Mike plays all the different percussion instruments and he plays the glock. He’s just like a ball of energy.

AB: How would you describe the Hotel of the Laughing Tree vibe?
Brandon: We kind of appeal to any kind of audience - indie, progressive, rock. It can be poppy, but it also kind be really dark. Lyrically, every song tells an individual story. On this CD it’s actually kind of like a full theme.

AB: In your first year as a band you took home the MTVu Woodie award for Best Music on Campus. What was that award all about?
Neil: A whole bunch of college kids get to vote on the band who gets the award. All these bands enter, then they narrow it down to 25, then five, then the top two get to go to the awards. We were with this other band, Oh The Story!, and just took it home because we got enough votes.

AB: And you have people in your band that are actually on campus, so it makes sense that you’d take home that award.
Neil: At the time I was in school, too.
Brandon: I think college is a really important part of the band because we meet so many different people in so many different areas of the country, and as long as you can spread the word there it just keeps spreading. It’s a great way to get started.

AB: So even if someone just wants to be in a band they should consider going for a Liberal Arts degree just for the development of the fan base?
AJ: Yeah, that’s what Neil did.
Neil: I’m going back this semester just two days a week for that degree.

AB: What was the experience like of winning an award so quickly? Was it just fun, or was it daunting like “we’re an award winning band now, we need to come out with something new?”
AJ: Nah, I don’t think we really thought like that. We didn’t realize it was really happening. We were on stage like man, what’s going on right now? Why are we here?
Neil: There are 4,600 hundred people (in the crowd) and we’re just five people on stage looking out like, weird.
AJ: Alexa Chung presented the award. I was so excited at that point I just kissed her. I don’t know why, it just happened.

AB: Hilarious! You know, being that you’re a band with “tree” in your name it makes sense that the Woodie would be your first award.
AJ: Never thought about that.

AB: Speaking of the name of your group, does it have any connection with the Shel Silverstein book The Giving Tree?
AJ: No, but that’s a great book. Hotel of the Laughing Tree came from a short story I wrote a long time ago and I just took the name. There was a website that actually called it the worst band name they ever heard, or something like that. They had a whole blog on us, and then they couldn’t decide if they liked us or hated us. It was really weird.

AB: Well, at least they’re getting your name out there. Let’s close this interview with something fun. What songs, or artists, that are out right now, are you almost embarrassed to be addicted to?
Neil: Katy Perry.
Brandon: Natasha Bedingfield. AJ’s not embarrassed of anything.

AB: Is he like “I’m wearing a Ke$ha shirt right now!”
Brandon: Oh man, he is, how’d you know?
AJ: My shirt’s actually bedazzled right now.

SMP: Is there anything else you’d like to add about yourselves or your music?
Brandon: Support independent music. Terror and Everything After comes out January 18th, 2011.

Story originally ran on SubstreamMusicPress.com.


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