HMLTD’s genre-defying, over-the-top debut album is out now; playing SXSW
London's HMLTD initially formed in 2015 under the name Happy Meal Ltd. (which had to change due to legal reasons), and they quickly became one of the buzziest new bands around, but then their career was nearly derailed due to accusations that their glam look was appropriating queer culture, which was followed by issues with their major label Sony. They eventually parted ways with Sony, further explained their side of the queer culture appropriation story, and then finally released their first full-length album, West of Eden, this month, four years after their debut single.
It might've been a rocky ride to get to this point, but the band persevered and West of Eden makes good on the promise of those early singles. Throughout its 15 songs, it sounds like a million different things -- Franz Ferdinand's dance-punk, the shiny mid 2000s goth rock revival of bands like The Bravery, the festival-ready synthpop of Cut Copy, the bedroom goth of underrated early 2010s band Diamond Rings, circus music, Spaghetti Western guitar, and tons more. One person tweeted "HMLTD is just Tropical Fuck Storm for people who grew up listening to Panic! at the Disco" and that is an incredibly niche take yet also kind of the perfect description. Like fellow Brits The 1975, HMLTD's appeal is that they're way too much, and they're definitely not perfect but the ambition and over-the-top-ness is endearing enough to make up for the moments that fall flat or scan as cheesy. Love it or hate it, West of Eden is at least one of the year's most memorable albums and it might even be one of the best. If you haven't heard it yet, listen below.
For some more background on HMLTD, there's a great interview/feature on NME, and here's an excerpt of frontman Henry Spychalski talking about all the controversy:
Sony strongly discouraged us from talking about anything remotely theoretical. They were keen to push us in whatever direction sold. In the early days they really trusted us with everything. We had resources but we were doing whatever we wanted. Then they told us: ‘We know how to make you the biggest band in the world.’ I regret believing them.
I think they wanted to present us as queer. We knew we weren’t queer in the traditional sense, but Sony wanted us to be the lowest common denominator. And when that article came out, they did a volte-face. A Sony rep came into our studio with six Pretty Green parkas and said, “I think you need to appeal to people in the north of England.’
What does that even mean?
I think it means we were going over people’s heads in the north because apparently they’re incapable of understanding these things and we needed to get parkas and wear mod cuts. Which was just wrong on so many levels. That was the moment when we realised we really needed to split with Sony.
HMLTD currently have three European shows coming up this week, and they'll come to the US to play SXSW in Austin this March. If you'll be down there, you might not wanna miss 'em... going by recent videos, their live show looks pretty wild.
All upcoming dates are listed, with some music videos, a live video, and a stream of the album, below.
HMLTD -- 2020 Tour Dates
THU 27 FEBRUARY Paradiso Amsterdam, Netherlands
FRI 28 FEBRUARY Urban Spree Berlin, Germany
SAT 29 FEBRUARY SlotHamburg, Germany
FRI 13 MARCH – SUN 22 MARCH SXSW 2020 Austin, TX, US