Members of GYMSHORTS, Roz and the Rice Cakes, and the SHIT and Dr. Jones and Shiners lived in a house together in Providence, became friends, and started a band.
INTERVIEW WITH ROZ RAZSKIN (GUITARIST/KEYBOARDIST/VOCALIST)
(Interview conducted and written by Connor Sullivan)
Q: Can you explain your band’s co-opting of the Atlanta-based hip-hop group Hot Boys’s name?
A: HOTT BOYZ is me, Kate Jones, and Sarah Greenwell. We’d all been in different bands throughout town and casually knew each other from playing shows and through mutual friends. A few summers ago, Kate and Sarah moved into a house I was living in and Kate and I started playing some music together (Sarah joined soon after). Kate and I had set up a show but didn’t have a name. And a friend suggested, “How about HOTT BOYZ?” and it stuck. Generally, I think unpacking ideas around the gender binary is really interesting and I feel like the name explores that. I’m just so curious about binaries in general — why there are so many labels and why there are so many extremes. And we’re just the complete opposite of the original Hot Boys, so I thought that was sort of funny. There were times when we debated changing the name if the band were to continue in a big way.
Q: How did you meet Kate and Sarah?
A: Kate is in a band called The Sugar Honey Iced Tea and Sarah is in a band called GYMSHORTS. I actually met both of them year ago, but it wasn’t until we moved in together that we became really close. You know when you meet a person and you’re just like, “Oh, this is a really great person, maybe we’ll be good friends one day.” It’s so wild we ended up later living together by chance and then formed this band.
Q: Do you three just “click” on a sonic level?
A: Yes. I think there’s something to be said about playing music with people you like. People you care about and people that are invested in a thing. It’s a cliche that music is like this universal communicator, but it really is. You can learn a lot about a person just by hearing them play. Hearing them sing, you might hear a different part of their voice than just their speaking voice. Sometimes people just communicate in a different way.
Q: Are you the primary vocalist?
A: No. It’s actually a unique project in that we’re all lead vocalists. But someone kind of goes to the forefront depending on the song. It’s more like someone sort of steps out and the other two play backing vocalists, which creates a nice balance. Kate and Sarah both have an incredible sense of melody. Occasionally when we would record, Kate or Sarah would just do something so beautiful, hard to describe in words. It’d give me goosebumps for sure. I’d think to myself, “Wow, I wouldn’t have thought of that idea,” if I hadn’t been playing with them.
Q: Were there any direct influences for this vocal approach?
A: This project really was based on what worked in the moment. There was never, “Hey, let’s do a thing like this other band.” That’s never a place I personally come from as a musician and listing all my influences would take a long time.
Q: Speaking of other bands, is it true that in November 2015 you played a show with indie darling Frankie Cosmos?
A: Yes. I met Greta aka Frankie Cosmos in New York years back when my other project played with Porches and she was playing bass. We ended up playing together a few years later, and then HOTT BOYZ got asked onto that show.
Q: Do you think you’re similar to those acts (Frankie Cosmos, Porches, &c) musically?
A: I hesitate to say HOTT BOYZ is similar musically, but there’s definitely a similar DIY aesthetic. There’s a certain type of person that’s going to be down to tour at certain venues and spaces that DIY people tour. Which makes sense why you meet the same people in similar spaces. Like you’ll be really good friends with this one person you played a show with ten years ago. There’s definitely a connection shared between DIY musicians. Maybe that comes out aesthetically in some ways. What I struggle with is that there’s this mentality that there’s a lot of young women making music right now and it all sort of sounds the same. What we’re saying and doing as HOTT BOYZ is specifically from us. I guess people get the misconception that we’re similar musically to Frankie Cosmos because of the DIY aspect. We might fit well on a bill together, but we’re not the same.
Q: Any Providence bands you’re big on?
A: So many. I spend a lot of time listening to local bands, Providence is filled with great bands at the moment. I would definitely say GYMSHORTS, Volcano Kings, Goon Planet, and 14 Foot 1, but I have a lot of faves.
Q: Did you grow up in this scene?
A: I did. I started meeting other artists when I was a jazz piano player in different ensembles during high school. Over the years, I’ve found myself in projects that intersected with the DIY community here, and that was life changing for me. There’s nothing quite like meeting people that are interested in curating shows and making them feel really special. Every city and every community around the world has a DIY community that has a different way of doing things. Some places are very adamant about supporting communities that are marginalized and others are unfortunately less supportive. Sometimes it feels like whole idea behind DIY (or really “DIT,” do-it-together) is for it to be “off the beaten path” or to be “subversive,” but honestly what does that even mean, really. What is it to be subversive anymore? To me, it feels like a radical act in some ways. I think supporting people is radical and if shows do that, they are doing it right, whether it be in a DIY space or venue.
Q: Are house shows or venue shows more nurturing to that sound?
A: It really depends on the space. There are some venues here that I think are really great at supporting local bands. And then there are others that have the goal of making money which also makes sense in our world. We all know you have to make money to live and we all know that capitalism rules so much of what we do in this country. But playing a venue that wants to put in the effort to make sure that bands are paid properly and respected to me is super important.
Q: Through HOTT BOYZ, how do you redress the gender binary?
A: I can only really speak from my perspective here. Sometimes my lyrics intentionally challenge societal norms. I suppose it’s also apart of my identity that comes through in everything I say or make. I’m trying not to force feed an ideology to people, but I also think I’m very clear about my beliefs. I hope that comes through clearly in my songs.
Q: You think it’s more subtle for you?
A: Definitely. But I can also imagine people saying, “Oooh, Roz, subtle? I don’t know about that!” I think that’s my attempt though — to subtly immerse my beliefs with my music.
Q: HOTT BOYZ currently has nothing released online. Are there any plans to change that soon?
A: We do have some recordings; perhaps we will release those soon.
Q: What other projects are occupying the band members’ time?
A: My band Roz and the Rice Cakes is putting out a record in the fall and we’re going to be doing a tour. Sarah’s band is working on a new album. Kate just put out an EP. Her solo project is called Dr. Jones. If you want to hear a HOTT BOYZ cut, just go on the bandcamp page for Dr. Jones. There you’ll find a track called “Gold & In Style.” It’s a song that she wrote and that recording is a HOTT BOYZ recording. So that’s probably the best way to listen to our music at the moment.
Q: How does your other project Roz and the Rice Cakes compare to HOTT BOYZ?
A: To me, the instrumentation and vision of both projects are very different. I suppose you’d need to take a listen to both and determine that yourself though.