At the Hotel is the long-awaited fourth studio effort from Seattle rock powerhouse Left Hand Smoke. Produced by Stevie Adamek, former member of legendary Seattle new-wave outfit The Allies, At the Hotel features ten powerful new tracks that capture Left Hand Smoke at a pivotal point in their career: after early critical success and ensuing relentless roadwork with their high-energy, rootsy, traveling salvation show, the band felt it time to show the world another side of LHS.
Since the release of Nonsense Parade in 2003, LHS has continued to cut its teeth on the road, honing their now-renowned stage act into what they term the “Ultimate Rock Show.” During this time, they shared the stage with similar high-energy acts like Maroon 5, Gavin DeGraw, The North Mississippi All-Stars, members of Pearl Jam, and many more. Their unyielding pursuit of the Ultimate Rock Show eventually earned the band the 2005 Seattle Weekly Award for the Best Pop/Rock Band in Seattle. As the live act grew into the show the band always wanted to have, they felt it was now time to create the album they’d been trying to make all along: a widely accessible record with undeniable hooks, infectious grooves, and anthemic choruses.
Although Left Hand Smoke has become known for its original blend of rootsy rock music, the band has always had strong pop tendencies. Looking for a producer that would understand the change in direction the group was seeking on the new record, they turned to long-time Northwest producer Stevie Adamek. Known for his musicality and songwriting know-how, the multi-instrumentalist Adamek immediately recognized the band’s ability to command and galvanize an audience. Given the right treatment, he knew that energy could be transferred to record. During much of the following year, band leader and vocalist Ben Mish and guitarist Ronan O’Mahony holed up in their Seattle band-house and crafted the songs that would become At the Hotel with a 4-track, an old 3-piece drum kit, an out-of-tune piano, an electric guitar and a 10-watt amp. Mish and O’Mahony dug deep into their vault of pop and rock sensibilities and crafted a compact, finely-tuned album that demonstrates the evolution and maturity of this formidable rock band.
“We approached this record with the mindset that if the song worked in a stripped down setting, with one guitar and a piano, then it could work in any format,” says Mish. “That was how all of the songs written for the At the Hotel sessions came together. Unlike in the past, where we all got in a room and rocked out until we had a song, this effort was more methodical. Once we got into making the record, we wanted to use the studio as an instrument for new sounds, new arrangements, and new ideas that didn’t necessarily grow out of working the songs on the road.”
In May of 2005, the band entered the studio with 20 songs and the idea that it was time to create the album they had always wanted to make. Incorporating the elements LHS perfected on the road--the infectious power of a hip-hop groove, the driving force of cranked guitars, and the galvanizing effect of a soaring chorus--they got to work with Adamek. Some months later, At the Hotel emerged, paving the way toward a new musical direction.
As one can expect from any LHS release, At the Hotel features brilliant lyrical play and whimsical storytelling from Mish, evident in songs like “Too Late, Too Late,” and the bombastic “Rock n’Roll Salvation”. Meanwhile, older brother Will Mish’s guitar work continues to be the beacon of hope for the rebirth of the classic guitar hero. But what’s new here is a more mature, concise approach, one brimming with catchy melodies and well-crafted hooks. Like all great bands that continuously push into new territory and evolve their sound, LHS has shown on record that they can embrace their past, while celebrating what will surely be a bright future.
LHS: Ben Mish, Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Lyrics; Will Mish, Lead Guitar; Ronan O’Mahony, Acoustic/Electric Guitar, Vocals; Eric Bryson, Bass; Andrew Cloutier, Drums.