Tracing their first steps in music back in Lansing, Michigan.
Born from a shared love of emo revival and a penchant for intensely honest songwriting, Hot Mulligan have been serving up exuberant pop-punk with a distinct earnestness since 2014.
Formed in Lansing, Michigan by vocalist Tades Sanville and guitarist Chris Freeman, the college friends have formed the backbone of the band as they’ve ascended from basements to beloved scene exports – joined by drummer Brandon Blakeley and guitarist Ryan Malicsi.
With two full-length albums under their belt and forthcoming third album, ‘Why Would I Watch’, just around the corner, the four-piece have come a long way since struggling to shift tickets to local shows nine years ago – but much of Hot Mulligan’s story still centres on the places they call home.
From Michigan’s rural Upper Peninsula where they grew up, to finding their local scene in Lansing, and playing shows with their musical heroes all over the state, Tades and Chris talk us through the places and venues across Michigan that made Hot Mulligan.
The Delft Theatre (or The Dirty D) – Escanaba, MI
Chris – “Tades and I met at a show at what used to be an old theatre in Escanaba, Michigan. Escanaba has a population of less than 15,000 people, and I was in a cover band doing reggae-influenced ska-punk type stuff, whilst Tades was in a punk band doing original songs. We were the only bands of teenagers within 100 miles or more of each other, so by the luck of the draw we ended up meeting at that show. We clicked immediately, and we started writing songs together. That show was funny though, it was just my band, Tades’ band, our parents, and that one homie who would come in your dad’s Jeep who you paid to get in. No one bought a ticket.”
Macs Bar – Lansing, MI
Chris – “We grew up in rural Michigan in a place called the Upper Peninsula and didn’t go to shows because there was no scene there. Now, there’s a little more happening and there’s a college town about an hour and a half away, but when we were growing up there weren’t any like-minded music fans or a scene of any kind. When I went to college, Tades moved to the same town with me, and we started going to Macs Bar because it was only a few blocks away from where we were living. It was a really small club; I think it was around 200-capacity.”
What kind of shows were happening there at that time?
Tades – “Honestly, I just went to whatever was going on there, we had some local band friends, so it was just a place to hang out.”
Chris – “We were really into the emo revival scene at the time, and still are, so I remember seeing You Blew It! with Pentimento and Free Throw. We also saw The Hotelier there with Oso Oso, and then obviously we saw all of our local friends’ bands like Backpacks, The Cardboard Swords, and Forest Green.”
Chris’ car – everywhere, MI
Chris – “Where we grew up there was nowhere to go to listen to music, so whenever we wanted to listen to things, we would sit in the car with mix CD’s because we hardly had any phone data to stream music. We had to find a band we liked on YouTube, put it on a mix CD or order it from Run For Cover Records or whoever, and we’d just drive around in circles listening to it.”
Tades – “Yeah, the service was a nightmare. You’d go up the highway a little too far and lose all your service so you couldn’t listen to anything, then you’d have to wait until you got closer to the next town to have enough service to stream music again.”
That driving experience must have come in handy when it came to playing shows though…
Chris – “Oh yeah, because we didn’t go to punk shows until we were playing them. Where we were from, you just didn’t have that opportunity. When we started getting calls asking if we wanted to drive a few hours to Milwaukee to play in an old café that was now just an empty room with two PA speakers in, with maybe seven people in the room, it was like, ‘Yeah! Let’s do it, that sounds great!’”
Chris’ parents’ house – Upper Peninsula, MI / Chris’ dorm room – Lansing, MI
Tades – “When we first started the band, we would write songs in Chris’ parents living room and basement. We still write songs in their basement now actually.”
Chris – “Yeah, and then after that, it became my dorm room. I’m sure all of my floor mates were stoked to hear us screaming through the thinnest of doors and strumming on a guitar barely in key with one another.”
Was the band properly active by the time you were studying at Michigan State, then?
Chris – “Yeah, Tades and I started writing songs together before I was going into my junior year of high school, so we had a handful of shows under our belt by time we went there. I picked that school because it was in a bigger city than the other school that I got accepted into. We wanted to both go there and work our way into the Michigan scene, which was incredible at the time. We just really wanted to play those shows, and we figured we had a shot.”
The Racket – Marquette, MI
Tades – “Chris had been to shows as a kid, but the first show that I ever went to was the first Hot Mulligan show in Milwaukee, in April 2015. Then in May of 2015, we played our first Michigan show in Marquette.”
Chris – “Yeah, there was never actually a Hot Mulligan show in the town that I grew up in which is funny. Our first Marquette show was sort of a release show for ‘Honest & Cunning’, which was our second EP. Charmer headlined, and it was their first show before they had recorded any music. Two other bands called Secret Grief and Grounded played too.”
Tades – “I can’t remember too much about it, but I know that we played our songs! I feel like Chris had a crash course in watching live performances on YouTube and stuff, which I didn’t do very much. I got up on stage, tried to do whatever felt right, and then looked like a total dumbass. That actually continued on throughout the rest of my career until today.”
Bled Fest – Howell, MI
Chris – “I knew about Bled Fest because I’d watched it on YouTube a couple of years prior to us playing it for the first time in 2015. When we applied to play the festival, we had only played two or three shows, but I lied my ass off in the email saying that we’d built a following in the Upper Peninsula and a bunch of people were going to drive down and see us. For some reason they put us on the line-up, and we went and played it. We were the second band to play on the very smallest stage so we were on really early in the day, but I couldn’t believe just being there as an attendee.”
Tades – “I didn’t know about it until we were playing it, and then there we were on the bill. All kinds of awesome bands were coming through there like The Wonder Years, Tigers Jaw, Spraynard, Koji, Modern Baseball… every important band in the scene came through Bled Fest, and it was huge. It’s such a shame it’s not happening anymore.”
Masonic Temple – Bay City, MI
Tades – “There’s a masonic temple in Michigan where they’ve been putting on a festival called Excellency for the past few years. It was very DIY, but now it’s getting a little more traction. It started out with a bunch of Michigan bands, and it’s been growing slowly into this really awesome thing. It’s not big yet, but I suspect that if it keeps growing steadily like it is, it could turn into something really cool for Michigan. It’s like our last response to the fall of Bled Fest and an attempt to keep this scene alive.”
The Crofoot Complex – Pontiac, MI
Chris – “Prior to the first Hot Mulligan show, I’d only been to two shows, and they were here. I saw Man Overboard and The Wonder Years on separate occasions, and my dad had to drive me and my friends for six hours to get there.“
“A couple of months ago we headlined the biggest room there for the first time for our Christmas show, Ho-Ho-Hot Mulligan. The Crofoot Complex has The Pike Room, which is 250-capacity, and then The Crofoot Ballroom, which is over 1000-capacity. When we did our Ho-Ho-Hot Mulligan show back in 2019, we headlined The Pike Room, and we barely sold it out. A few years later, we got to come back and play The Crofoot Ballroom. That was insane.”
Hot Mulligan’s ‘Why Would I Watch’ is out on May 12.