On Friday, March 23, Hot Mulligan stood before a crowd at D.C.’s Union Stage and made an announcement. “We’re going to play ‘All You Wanted’ by Michelle Branch!” they proclaimed. What followed was not a cover of the classic 2001 hit, but a catchy, original pop punk song that began with the lyric “Drop back, fall into a kiddy pool.” It turns out that they hadn’t said “‘All You Wanted’ by Michelle Branch,” but “All You Wanted by Michelle Branch,” the name of the earnest second track on their Pilot LP. This anecdote pretty much sums up what’s great about the Michigan band—the marriage of quirky humor with energetic, fast-paced songs that really are heart-wrenching at their core.
That night, we were lucky enough to catch up with Hot Mulligan’s Tades Sanville and Chris Freeman backstage. We used some of their song titles as a springboard for our conversation; then we moved into wilder territory and discussed everything from county fairs to Tinky Winky the Teletubby. Joe Taylor of Knuckle Puck, who was also in the room, even jumped in a few times. Read all about it below.
TYF: So, “Dary.” Is Dary a person? A concept?
Tades Sanville: “Dary” is the end of a meme. (Laughs)
TYF: The end of a meme?
Sanville: Yeah. We have a song on Split called “Legen,” and on Opportunities we have “Wait For It,” and then we have “Dary.” “Legen—wait for it—dary.” How I Met Your Mother reference.
TYF: Ohh! Got it.
Chris Freeman: Me and my girlfriend watch How I Met Your Mother a lot. Before we dated, that was something that we bonded over together. So all the songs happen to be about her, which kind of seems weird, because they’re like, “I’m really sad that we’re not together,” and now we’ve been together for two years. (Laughs)
Freeman: (Laughs) You wanna hear that one? So that song’s about getting pretty high and drunk and realizing that you’re kind of fucking up everything, and maybe things won’t be okay or whatever. We’ve got this friend named Tyler. He plays in a band called Kayak Jones. I was pretty baked one day, and he said something pretty meaningful to me on Twitter, and I just replied to him with the blue car emoji three times. (Laughs) That was it. So we just named the song “I Replied To Tyler With Three Blue Cars.”
TYF: That’s so wonderful. So do you guys have a list of potential song titles, or do you write a song, think, “Okay, what should I name this?”, and then start going off?
Sanville: We have a few right now. We have a couple.
Freeman: We were watching some cool shit the other day. It was a local broadcast when we were in Maine, and it was the worst stand-up of our lives. And they said some funny stuff, so we saved things for our future song titles. The first one is “The Black Toad Saves Seth Dussault.” This next one is my favorite. If we ever release it, it’s gonna be my favorite song ever. It’s called, “Green Squirrel In Pretty Bad Shape.” (Laughs) Those are just things someone said on TV and we thought it was funny.
Sanville: All of our songs come out of situational bullshit. We stick to it pretty hard just because it’s authentic to who we are and our experience. Why not, right?
TYF: Yeah. It’s so much fun to introduce songs like, “Here’s ‘All You Wanted by Michelle Branch’!” Speaking of covers, if you were to do an actual cover of a song, which song would you cover?
Freeman: I would like to do a Get Up Kids cover. Probably, like, “Holiday.” That’d be a fun song for us. I think that’d be cool.
Sanville: And of course, there’s the patron saint of Hot Mulligan… I would love to do a cover of “Cute without the E.”
Freeman: Oh, that’d be sick! That’d be so tight.
Sanville: It would be so much fun. They were doing what we wanted to do before we were doing it, so it would be perfect to try to make a full circle version. But more screamy and less talented.
TYF: County fairs. Love ’em or hate ’em?
Sanville: Fucking love ’em.
Freeman: Fucking love ’em! Same here!
Sanville: Dude. In the Alpha Peninsula of Michigan, the Escanaba State Fair is the event of the year. Dude, one time, they had Three Days Grace.
Freeman: They had Smash Mouth. They had Smash Mouth!
TYF: At the fair?
Freeman: Yeah! And it wasn’t Three Days Grace, it was Three Doors Down. It was fun. They have these huge dad rock bands play.
TYF: Three Doors Down and Smash Mouth. That’s hilarious.
Freeman: Yeah! The same year they had Smash Mouth, they had Finger Eleven, and that’s when “Paralyzer” was a hit on the radio. It was probably the worst show from the whole tour, but it was fun as fuck for us.
Sanville: State fairs were like a safe haven to go and wander around and be weird. There were carnies there, so… You can’t be weirder than a carnie.
Freeman: True! It’s like, when you brought your girlfriend, you’d be like, “Let’s go! We’re gonna have the summer of our lives. Let’s go there!” And then you’d go, and you’d break up a week later, ’cause it’s high school, and that’s how those things work. (Laugh)
Sanville: State fairs… For hick kids such as us, it’s the ultimate event of the year. There’s no denying that they’re great.
TYF: Super glad to hear that, ’cause I’ve always been a major fan of fairs. And how did you guys get the name Hot Mulligan?
Freeman: So I had an art teacher in high school. Her name was Mrs. Mulligan. This is a regrettable story; it’s pretty immature or whatever. But she had a daughter who would substitute sometimes. Her name was Miss Mulligan at the time. And my teacher drove by one day, and I said, “Hey! That’s Mrs. Mulligan.” And our current bassist at the time was like, “Is she hot?” And I said, “No, but her daughter’s kinda hot.” And then Tades said, “What’s her name?” And I said, “Hot.” And he said, “Hot Mulligan? That’s her name?” And I said, “Hot Mulligan? That’s our band name!” And we just went from there. It’s probably the worst part about our band, but we roll with it, ’cause why not?
Sanville: I mean, we tried to change it early on. For a while, we were thinking, “What if we were Dude Hospital?” And then we were like, “Oh, that’s so much worse.”
Freeman: Oh, yeah! “Dude Hospital” came from our same bassist at the time. He asked us to pull over on a 90-degree turn. He was like, “Pull over! I gotta throw up!” We stopped the car, and he went out the door, and he was just throwing up for no reason. He wasn’t drinking or anything. We don’t really know what happened. And we were like, “Dude. Hospital?” We were gonna take him to the hospital. So that was almost our name.
TYF: So, does “Hot Mulligan” know that you named your band after her, or…
Freeman: Oh yeah. She buys all of our merch.
Sanville: We’ve spoken to her about it. She’s into it.
Freeman: She’s like, “Oh my gosh! It’s an honor.”
(Joe Taylor of Knuckle Puck walks over and is shocked to hear that the band has revealed the inspiration behind their name.)
Freeman: It’s probably worse than “Knuckle Puck.”
Taylor: I don’t know about that. I don’t know about that.
TYF: What would you say is the best movie soundtrack?
Freeman: Dude, American Pie for me. That’s got all the pop punk bangers from the early 2000s.
Sanville: All right. I’m gonna go in the opposite direction and say Short Term 12. It’s a movie about a kind of foster home. The soundtrack is super minimalist, with super basic percussion and stuff. And I downloaded it. I thought it was beautiful. I had to keep it with me for a long time. If you ever get a chance, definitely check it out. It’s wonderful.
Freeman: I actually have to change my answer to the movie Boyhood. Oh, shit. It’s like a four-hour movie, but it captures all of the best parts of growing up and going through the emo phase and going into college and stuff. All the songs that the kid listened to that they played for the soundtrack in that movie, I was like, “Damn, I really feel this.” I was like, “Man, that movie’s so tight.”
Sanville: I remember a quote in that movie when the kid is walking into the room where his mom is sitting, and he says, “Yeah, my roommate listens to Bright Eyes.” I was like, “Shit, this vibes with me.”
TYF: If you guys were to make a movie with Hot Mulligan’s new album as the score, what would the plot be?
Sanville: It would be so fucking depressing.
Freeman: But also pretty humorous.
Sanville: Our instrumentation… I always get a kick out of Laura Stevenson and the Cans because they make pretty upbeat music, but Laura, if you don’t know about her, was a synth player for Bomb the Music Industry!, and she did harmonies and stuff with Jeff Rosenstock. And their music, especially hers… It always just sounds so happy and upbeat, but her lyrics are crushing. It just sucks. Like, I feel sorry. I don’t want her to feel the way she does. Our movie would be like a kid who is super funny, and his life is absolute garbage the entire time.
Freeman: I would like to think that it would be pretty similar to Boyhood…
(Sanville bursts out laughing)
Freeman: Especially the tracklist. Because the first two tracks, they’re mostly break-up songs, but they’re not “I hate you” breakup songs,” they’re “trying to find yourself after losing what felt like a part of yourself” songs. But then it dives into finding yourself and religion and stuff like that and then it goes on to talk about your family… When you hit the 21-year-old mark… You’re not really sure what you’re doing at 21, and you’re freshly able to drink, so you’re like, “Why not just do that instead of figuring things out?” The album—we never meant for it to go in an order, but it kind of does, in terms of growing up and coming of age as an early 20s adult.
TYF: Speaking of coming of age, what are the first concerts you went to that made you go, “Wow, I’m really passionate about music. This is something I want to do for the rest of my life”?
Freeman: Well, we had that state fair when we were growing up, so we kind of went to garbage concerts in terms of our music tastes.
TYF: Did you know each other growing up?
Freeman: We met in high school, actually, and then we started the band two days later. But the first concert that I went to that was part of the “scene” was… I saw Mayday Parade and Man Overboard on the Glamour Kills tour in 2014, I think. And Man Overboard had been my favorite band for a year at the time. So I went to that and saw that atmosphere as opposed to dads jamming out to Smash Mouth, Finger Eleven, and I was like, “Damn, this is so cool. I wanna write songs like this where you can just hold out the mic…” Honestly, our goal is to have one line in one song at one show that we don’t have to sing ’cause someone else knows the words.
Sanville: My first show was a show that we played. I hadn’t gone to shows prior to that. And I didn’t know that the music scene was real, ’cause the place that we live is so isolated. And we played this show, and it was a tattoo joint that was attached to a novelty shop or something. And we played that, and afterward, a kid approached me—we had just released Fenton—and was like, “Dude, your music has helped me out a lot.” And I was like, “Dude, if I can do that, maybe I can do that for a lot more people and get these fucking bad feels out of my guts.” You know? It gave me a direction. I knew that there was a thing I could do that could actually mean something.
TYF: Do you have a favorite lyric from the new album?
Sanville: I have a bunch that I’m stoked on. I have one about my dad where it’s like, “There’s good in me ’cause I can feel his influence.” I want him to know that he was a good dad. He’s one of the few members of my family that I extremely value. And for others, [a favorite lyric is often] “Maybe I’m not pretty enough for this”… That feeling of not being pretty enough or nice enough, it’s a universal feeling, and everybody should know that everybody else feels like that.
Freeman: I would say that my favorite lyric is probably from the first track, “Deluxe Capacitor.” It’s “Don’t you turn back on me/I brought your favorite CD/We’ll sing every high note off-key.” It’s about reconnecting with someone that you used to listen to the same songs with all the time. Hanging out with them. I did that just a little over a year ago. Played one of my favorite CDs with one of my old friends. And it felt like old times and stuff. It resonated really hard with me. So when I wrote that, I was like, “Damn, that’s probably the truest line I could’ve written for the record.”
TYF: If you guys had a Hot Mulligan yearbook, and each of you had a superlative, what would your superlatives be?
Freeman: You answer for me, I’ll answer for you.
Sanville: Oh, shit. Okay, I’l answer for you. “Most Likely to Be Drunk at a Wedding.”
Freeman: That’s totally valid! I totally am the most likely to do that! I was voted “Kid at Heart” in high school for the yearbook, and I would say “Kid at Heart” for Tades. The way he reacts to some things sometimes… It’s just like, “Oh, okay! We’re totally not adults, even though we are!”
Sanville: We’re little baby boys. What are you saying?
Freeman: I could say the same thing for Brandon, though. Brandon is the dude that’ s never actually there mentally. Sniff is always sleeping in class. He’s our bassist.
TYF: Have you guys been to D.C. before?
Sanville: Actually, yes, but we were here basically as tourists.
Freeman: Our first tour ever, actually. It was, like, five days long.
Sanville: Me and Chris are the only ones left from that tour. We came here with our old band. We just did the tour shit and we hung out, and we took pictures of the White House, and some crazy dude told us about Nazis in front of the Washington Monument.
Freeman: He spray-painted a swastika on the floor. It was pretty fucked up.
Sanville: He had, like, a good meaning behind it. But he still did that. And it was like, “Huh, I don’t know…”
Freeman: I kinda wanna turn away from that now. But anyways, it was our first tour. Actually, it was nine days long, but it was only five shows. So it was just as many off days as shows. I actually thought it was going to be our only tour ever, so we had two off days in a row, and D.C. was not on our way at all, but we were like, “If we’re ever gonna see Washington, D.C., this is gonna be the only time!” It was the middle of the night. We were hanging out from, like, 2 to 4 am. And it was really cool. So to be back and actually have our first show here… And tonight’s set was sick, so it was really cool for us.
TYF: Have you guys had time to explore?
Freeman: No. We did all that last time.
Sanville: Yeah. I might do that again, because last time I was super unenthused.
Freeman: Yeah. We were tired.
Sanville: I don’t know. Maybe next time we’re here, I’d like to wander around and just see everything there is to see.
Freeman: There’s so much history and stuff that we don’t even know about!
Sanville: I know! This tour’s been such a rush that we’re going to these cool places and we don’t get to wander around and do anything.
TYF: Do you have break days?
Freeman: Yeah. We have every Monday off except for one, I think. One Monday we have a show, but we have that Wednesday off instead. But the break days, we definitely treat as break days. We’ve had two so far. The first, we had to pick up the other half of our merch order that we didn’t get before tour started. I also had homework that day, because I’m a college student—I do stuff online. So that whole day was not spent resting. It was actually spent doing more work than we normally do. The second Monday, we had an in-store acoustic session, so it was kind of an off day, but we still had some stuff to do. But it was really fun overall, so we still had an awesome time.
TYF: Finally, since earlier, we talked about being a kid at heart, what were your favorite television shows when you were young?
Sanville: You can hit me on any Hanna-Barbera, but I gotta say, to be certain, 100%, Ed, Edd n Eddy. So tight.
Freeman: Dude, I could never watch Ed, Edd n Eddy! My parents never let me watch it!
Sanville: It was such a good show!
Freeman: I snuck it in for 20 minutes now and then after school.
Sanville: Ed, Edd n Eddy hit every spectrum of, “I do this sometimes”; “Oh, yeah, I do this sometimes.” Watching that show, I was like, “Wow, I must be a real shithead.” (Laughs) I don’t know. Something about it was so real to me that it was like I had to watch it, and if I was missing out, I was really missing out, you know?
Freeman: Dude, I hate to shut you up, but I think I’ve definitely got the better answer for this one. Since we’re talkin’ children’s shows, I’m talkin’ children’s shows. Everyone watched the Teletubbies when they were younger.
TYF: For some reason, I knew you were going to say Teletubbies.
Freeman: Yes! It was the Teletubbies. Let me tell ya, I watched the Teletubbies when I was younger, too young to remember anything about the Teletubbies. But then I stopped watching the Teletubbies, ’cause I was way too old for that shit.
TYF: At how old?
Freeman: I don’t remember how old I was.
Freeman: It was when the PlayStation 2 was out. I played PlayStation 1 as a young’un, and that’s when I was watching the Teletubbies. Then the PlayStation 2 came out. There was a Bounty Hunter game for Star Wars…
Taylor: Dude, the Boba Fett game!
Freeman: The Boba Fett game! And as that game came out, I decided, “It’s time to get back into the Teletubbies.” When I’m far too old to watch theTeletubbies. So I was trying to get all my neighborhood friends back into the Teletubbies. And I got a few of them back into it! And we watched the Teletubbies hard as fuck for a few weeks after that, when we were way too old to be watching it.
TYF: That’s amazing. Which Teletubby would you be?
Freeman: I don’t know what they are, but I wanna be the purple one. Purple rocks hard as fuck.
TYF: Tinky Winky?
Freeman: Dinky Winky! That fits my personality perfectly.
TYF: He has a triangle on his head.
Freeman: Yeah, dude!
Sanville: I think I’d like to be the speaker that pops up and starts screaming at everyone to wake up.
Freeman: I wanna be the sun! It’s like, (in extremely high-pitched voice) “Come on, Teletubbies!”
TYF: I’m pretty sure the sun doesn’t talk.
Sanville: You’re right. It doesn’t. It comes up and cries a little bit…
Sanville: …and then it spends its life burning.
(Freeman continues to make Sun Baby noises)
TYF: Ah, the Teletubbies. What a show. All right; is there anything else you guys would like to say to the readers before we wrap this up?
Freeman: Well, we’re on tour with Knuckle Puck right now, on their second US headliner, for their new record Shapeshifter. We just put out a new record, but what we’re also really stoked for is [that] in April, we’re going out on Boston Manor’s first US headliner, and we’re hitting all of our favorite spots. That tour’s going to be sick. It’s gonna be tight. We’re hitting all of our favorite markets. So if you’re reading, come out to one of those shows!
Sanville: There’s all that business stuff. On a less serious note, I love my dad and I love my girlfriend, and I’m excited to come home, but this is what I have to do to keep my life okay. (Laughs)