August Hotel Takes the Stage and the Audience
K.P. Peters | April 2017
On April 26, 2017, August Hotel performed spectacularly at Subterranean. The ever-growing indie pop band concurred the stage with their hit, “12am,” and more. Lead singer Joe Padilla and guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lammers made a habit of leaving the stage behind and performing in the crowd or just about anywhere they could get. Their cover of “Green Light” left my voice sore from singing along and my feet sore from dancing too much. All of their original songs were structured with amazing vocals, fun synth lines, and a beat that everyone couldn’t help but dance to. Though drummer Dean Sinclair couldn’t make it, keyboardist/vocalist Craig Schwartz Jr., bassist/vocalist Cale Singleton, Joe Padilla and Ryan Lammers sat with me for a humorous talk about the band’s journey and what’s next for them.
Wikipedia calls you guys rock, iTunes alternative, and the Chicago Tribune indie pop. How would you describe your music?
CS: I would say indie pop or synth pop. We threw around dance rock for a while.
J: Floral indie, haha.
R: It’s hard to pin it down, I guess.
CS: Yeah, because some of our songs have that stereotypical synth pop kind of feel, some of our songs just rock really hard, and others just have a really chilled out groove. So yeah, it’s really hard to pin it down.
Ryan and Dean, who’s not here, started this band to win a battle of the bands contest. Now, you are on the radio and have over 70,000 plays on Spotify. What does that success feel like?
R: It’s kind of weird. Like, we started in a church basement. I feel like we’ve come a long way, but it hasn’t come far enough to feel super wild. Our first show was me, Dean, and this other guy who hasn’t been in the band for a while. We just got together in a church basement and came up with covers right before we went on stage. It’s cool, but we are still growing.
What is your favorite show you have ever played?
J: I really enjoyed this one, but best and favorite show based on performance would probably be at the Space in Evanston in August 2016. This was the first show with Cale back in the band. I had joined a few months before that, and Cale had just returned to the band, so that was the first show I had ever played with Cale.
R: That was our first headliner of Space, too. I would say our second show at Space in January of this year. I really liked the earlier one, but I would say we were still figuring everything out. I liked being able to feel like we were more solid.
CS: I’m with that, but I also think Hillsdale. It’s always a jam.
R: Every time we play Hillsdale, it’s just wild. Shout out to Hillsdale.
CS: Mine is in exact tie with the second Space show that we headlined. My god, we meet Ember Oceans, our new band best friends. That has just been a beautiful thing. I think the one that tops it, just because it was so unique and so out there, was our Sofar show. It was acoustic, at Bucketfeet. The doors opened, and within 15 minutes, the whole place was packed. Everyone who performed was amazing. We finished it out, and everyone reacted so well to everything. It was just beautiful.
What is your favorite song to perform live?
CSJ: Mine can change from show to show.
CS: I like “Michigan Again.” That’s probably my favorite.
R: I always have a lot of fun with “Valentine.”
J: The one that I love to play the most but also hate to play the most live is “Can I Be in Love with You” because it absolutely shreds my vocal chords. I get wild on that one.
Can you tell me an embarrassing fact or story about the band member to your right?
CS: This is the only one that needs to be said, haha.
R: It was our first ever photo shoot, and Craig shows up in shorts and flip-flops. We are all in black skinny jeans and boots.
CS: Like, we went out of our way to look good, and Craig walks up and we’re like, “what the fuck?”
R: So, we started calling him Craig Shorts after that. The next practice we had, he showed up in black jeans.
CS: It was relentless after that. You called him that at a show once.
J: More than once! Then, I started changing it to Craig Pants because he actually wore pants to a photo shoot. We were so relieved. All the pictures from that photo shoot have a distinct flavor because they are all cropped from the knee up.
CSJ: There was the time Cale almost knocked over my keyboard.
CS: Oh yeah. That was our first show at Space, my first performance back. I remember the moment so vividly: I jumped during “Crystalized,” right when it stops. I jumped back a little bit and hit Craig’s keyboard. I whipped around and saw it falling forward-- he caught it right before it hit the ground. And I said into the mic, “Craig, I promise not to kill your keyboard in our next song.”
J: I was a camp counselor over the summer. This kid said she was from Cary, Illinois. I said, “The only person I know from Cary is my band mate, Ryan Lammers.” She goes, “Oh, I know Ryan.”
CS: With murder in her eyes.
J: Her older sister is actually the person that “Valentine” is written about.
So what can you tell the Vibe about your upcoming EP?
R: We finished mixing it yesterday; it’s getting mastered tomorrow. It’s got four songs on it.
CS: It’s got a cover. It’s got credits.
R: It’ll be out eventually.
J: There is a 56-string ensemble on one of the songs.
R: It’s a techno country orchestral mix. Craig has a rap verse on one of the songs.
CS: In all seriousness, I’d like to point out that Ryan finished mixing it yesterday. Ryan has been working his ass off. He’s been burning three candles, all at both ends.
R: I just don’t sleep ever.
Do you have any advice for other college students who want to be as successful as you have been?
R: Work, just do it. None of us even go to the same school and we do it.
J: Dean doesn’t even live in the same state and we do it.
CS: I would recommend you leave enough time to do music, schoolwork, volunteer in your community, and practice self-care.
R: Work hard, but take a day off every now and then.
CS: Speaking of self-care, I quit the band for about a year. I just wasn’t in a good place mentally. A few weeks before, we played a show where I just snapped on stage. So I left for a little while and was just not good. But you guys put out “12AM,” and I just thought I had to go back. My love for it came rushing back. I came back to do a musical, and Ryan called me and said, “if you want to come back and play bass for us, we would love to have you.” I remember having this conversation with him, and then I hung up the phone and just started bawling. It was the best thing I could have possibly heard in that moment. If you want to be in a band, be with people you love, and take care of yourself.