Hot Knife

Few words are both broad and precise enough to pin down punk-rock as an art form. Words like “restless” and “resentful,” so frequently attached to the genre, may capture some artists more than others. Some punk bands are “thoughtful” and “intentional,” even “intellectual,” and some embody the literal opposite; other are “agitated,” or merely “agitating.”

That said, something about punk-rock, however it looks or sounds, seems “lucky”—to have an instrument, to make it through a song, to have friends to make music with, to survive a tour, to even be alive. The term conveys both the sense of desperation that might drive a person toward the sound and the gratitude they feel upon finding it. 

In the many ways Hot Knife epitomizes punk-rock, none seems as obvious as their luck. The Brooklyn band was pieced together of members from other notable bands who all ended up in the right place at the right time.

Their story seems to start when guitarist Ryan Weber (formerly of Spanish Gamble) moved in with drummer Matt Ferraro (formerly of Candy Hearts) in 2015. “He knew I was looking to move and offered me a room out of the blue,” Weber says. “I moved two weeks later. I definitely wanted to start another band, but I didn’t know many people.”

One night at a show, Weber ran into Vic Castello, whom he had known as the bass player from Static Radio NJ. “He said, ‘Hey, we should start a band’ since we were both orphaned from our former bands. I told him I knew a drummer—Matt—and he said he thought he knew someone who could sing, which was Luke.”

Castello had gone to high school with Luke Taylor, but it had been a while since they had been in a band together. Still, Weber found Taylor’s voice refreshing. “Being in our 30s, it’s hard to find someone that isn’t a recycled voice from another band,” he says. “Our first practice was like a blind date. I brought my drummer and Vic brought his singer. We wrote ‘My Old Friend,’ and the deal was sealed.”

Though luck brought the band together, their compatibility as songwriters and musicians have propelled them. After two releases on Black Numbers, including the six-song EP My Fangs, Hot Knife took their time writing and recording Dread, a record that shows a band bending what’s expected of a simple pop-punk band. “We’re definitely a ‘quality over quantity’ band,” Taylor says. “Our songs are short and there isn’t a lot of them, but we are really proud of all of them. We took more time with this one—more time on sounds, layers, vocals—and created something that we are really happy with.”

Recorded by Jesse Cannon at his Found Soundation Studios over 6 days, Dread feels like a pop-punk album for and by adults. Take the EP’s opener “Rude,” with its simple drumbeat exploding and bristling guitars, which could be any catchy anthem—until the song stops and swerves into a dark and tense doo-wop. Both “Space Weapons,” with its brambly bassline, and the slanted melody in “Rippin Buds, Rippin Buds,” may be the most obtuse, angular pop-punk songs one will ever hear; “First Street,” which finds Taylor’s brittle tenor softer among the glinting guitars, may be the calmest, smoothest.

Other songs, like “Top 10 Habits of Highly Successful People” bottle the kind of bratty melody pop-punk fans love, but its lyrics are decidedly adult. “The title is a reference to clickbait articles that seem designed to make people feel inadequate, or less deserving, or somehow inferior to ‘Highly Successful People,’” Taylor explains. “And the song is about how that is utter nonsense. It’s a lie.”

As an album, Dread takes a stab at navigating adulthood in an ever-evolving world.“We called the record Dread because it’s largely a record about anxiety,” Taylor says. “Macro-level anxieties about what is happening in the world, but then also personal anxieties—what is my role in that context? How did I get here? How do I cope with this?” In this way, it’s not only an album that captures these anxieties, but a means of understanding them. Because of that, the members of Hot Knife consider themselves lucky—to still be writing and recording and releasing music, sure, but to have this means of making sense of society unravelling around them. 

“Serendipity” is definitely not a punk-rock word, but the sense that there’s a reason behind a series of events, a gathering of like-minded people, a strand of notes assembled into a melody—beyond mere coincidence—drives the movement. Call it luck or whatever you want, but it’s part of the magic that makes bands like Hot Knife something worth discovering.

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