Sometimes the best solution is a fresh start. Fort Worth post-punk purveyors The Burning Hotels have always had a lot going for them: an established regional fan base, numerous awards, opening slots with bands like The Toadies and Ladytron, a magazine cover and even an appearance in a feature film (2009’s teen-rock flick “Bandslam”) as themselves. Even so, the guys felt a void; despite all the success, decided to do something new.
The band had built up its audience with a sex-punk style à la Gang of Four and Bloc Party, but that no longer meshed with what it wanted to play. Reinvention can be risky, but so is going forward in something that you don’t really care about. It’s easy to forget that bands are comprised of people, and people change.
“We have been playing music together for an extended amount of time, and over the years, our views and interests changed,” said Chance Morgan, who splits vocal and guitar duties with co-songwriter Matt Mooty. “We were young, and post-punk was the first thing I think we could latch onto that was up-and-coming. It had a certain cool factor. I love the songs that we wrote, but I think if you’re not moving forward, then you’re moving backwards.”
Mere months removed from releasing its lauded debut full-length, “Novels,” the group was commissioned to write a song to accompany a music video not yet filmed. The unusual
proposition proved to be the domino that led to a complete rebuild. The result — the brooding, New Wave dance track “Allison” — lacked the signature dueling, angular guitar riffs that marked nearly all of their earlier efforts and would go on to signify a whole new direction for the band.
“We used it as an exercise to see how far we could go outside of what we normally do, but still remain true to our writing style,” Morgan said. “The experiment became a rebirth of creativity for both me and Matt, and it’s pushed us further than I think we would have gone otherwise.”
The single’s artistic success led them to changing lanes, trying to keep true to the essence of the band, while altering everything else.
“I think we have always had an attraction to dance music, but I also think we felt like we had to stay on the same path we were previously on,” Morgan said. “Then we thought, ‘Just do want you want to do.’ We started writing with a clean slate. It probably didn’t help that I was listening to ‘How Will I Know’ by Whitney Houston on repeat.”
The shift in style led to other major changes, namely the departure of drummer Wyatt Adams, but being buddies with the guys of The Pretty Black Chains — the Oklahoma City act that went through a similar lineup shake-up and plays with The Burning Hotels on Friday during Warpaint Clothing Co.’s free first-anniversary party — has helped the guys know what they are getting into.
Don’t weep if you loved the old Burning Hotels; they’re the same act, just with a new dress.
“The songs are still, at the core, pop songs with minimal arrangements that are simple, but direct,” Morgan said. “I think we have played out our old songs. We like the feeling of a fresh start.”