The Hot Takes came together in Oakland, just before the pandemic shut everything down. “The four of us started the band in late 2019,” said Jared Savas, the band’s lead vocalist and main songwriter. “I wanted to draw on the new wave sounds I liked, with a combination of dance beats and socially conscious lyrics. I found the other players through ads on Craigslist and Facebook. We’re all close friends now, but I didn’t know any of them before starting the band.”
The original quartet—Savas on rhythm guitar, drummer Chad Roxxit, lead guitar player Kyle Smith and bass player and harmony vocalist Dan Wade—are long- time Bay Area vets, with impressive resumés. They’d worked up a punchy set of tunes and were ready to start playing live. “We had gigs booked that we had to cancel, so we started thinking about making a record,” Savas said. “It was challenging. We went into the studio working in isolation, recording one person at a time. We couldn’t go into the control room, so the engineer, Jonah Strauss, would play back the results on the speakers. It was a disjointed process.
The resulting five track EP—The Hot Takes—captures the energy of a live show. “Hallelujah Superstar” is a funky, mid-tempo rocker with a strong backbeat, icy electric guitars and a cryptic lyric, exploring the conflict of growing up in a media saturated society. Savas sings with tones that echo the feelings of hope and desperation young folks feel, as they try to dance away their fears. The laid-back reggae pulse of “Out of the Shadows” rides the complex cadence of Roxxit’s work on the drum kit and subtle synthesizer effects. The arrangement morphs into a straightforward rock tune, as Savas invites us to leave the darkness behind and run into the light.
As the lockdown began to lift, the band started thinking about the sparkle the synth flourishes they added in the recording studio brought to the songs. “We were content with being a four piece, but had been talking for some time about adding a female synth player with vocal abilities to enhance our sound. I wasn’t sure we’d find someone—let alone someone who was a good fit—but we found Gillian (Eichenberger). She’s amazing. We met her online, and she fit into the band seamlessly, from a musical and personality perspective. She’s an incredibly versatile singer. She teaches voice and performs in, and directs, musicals. Her experience and perspective has brought a whole new dimension to the band.
“We usually wear pink and black when we perform, or black with pink accents. My guitar is black with a pink pickguard, Dan’s bass is black with a pink strap, and Chad has rigged up pink lights to highlight the stage. We incorporate it as much as we can. We consider ourselves as having new wave inclinations. The black and pink hints at that. Some of our future music will lean even more into that new wavey dance vibe, which is another reason why it’s great to have Gillian’s synth in the band. A lot of ’80s new wave relied on synths to help provide that danceable, energetic punk feel. We might not lean all the way into that, as it’s important to be versatile and not pigeonhole ourselves, but it’s still a fundamental part of our sound.”
The band released the EP on their Bandcamp page in April 2021. As of now, they don’t plan to release a physical product or look for a label deal. “We might consider signing with a label under the right circumstances, but it’s not a priority for us. The most important thing is for people to be able to hear the music as easily and inexpensively as possible, and hopefully it impacts them positively. We’d like to do physical LPs, maybe for future releases, but it’s a matter of cost.
“It’s our live show that sets us apart as a band. We’re very high energy, with lights and costumes to make it visually interesting. It’s not mechanical, but it’s well thought out, with plenty of vitality and passion. We feel like we can most fully bring the songs to life when we interact with the audience. We also have five new songs that aren’t on the EP. They’ve elevated our live performances and made us more dynamic onstage.”
The Hot Takes will play on July 31 at the Brick & Mortar, 1710 Mission St., San Francisco; Aug. 11 at the Golden Bull Bar, 412 14th St., Oakland; Aug. 27 at Ivy Room, 860 San Pablo Ave., Albany; and Sept. 23 at The Ritz, 400 S. 1st St., San Jose. Their Bandcamp page is thehottakes.bandcamp.com.