The Hotelier’s Christian Holden traces an arc from heavy to hopeful

Kylie Shaffer

The Hotelier perform at the Sinclair on Friday.

By Terence Cawley Globe Correspondent 

The Hotelier don’t do half-hearted. This is a band that, with every heart-wrenching anthem and sweat-drenched live show, seeks to provide an outlet for the joy, pain, and general turmoil of existence.

For their efforts, the Worcester band (formed while singer-bassist Christian Holden, guitarist Chris Hoffman, and drummer Sam Frederick attended high school in Dudley) have been crowned leaders of the “emo revival,” though they’re also indebted to punk’s DIY ethic and indie rock’s ambitious, cerebral spirit. While their 2014 breakthrough “Home, Like NoPlace Is There” grappled with heavy themes like toxic relationships and suicide, 2016’s “Goodness” comes from a much stabler (though no less passionate) place, softening the band’s post-hardcore edge with jangle and melodic sweetness.


Ahead of Friday’s show at the Sinclair, Holden spoke to the Globe about the Hotelier’s past, present, and future, and why the band isn’t talking politics as much lately.

Q. What was the local music scene like when the band started?

A. It was all based in the Milford area, what we were calling the Blackstone Valley area. The shows were in Worcester and Upton and all these different VFW halls. There was a really strong scene of bands, really passionate musicians, and they were all making really solid stuff. Luckily, I had met both Chris and Sam, who were playing in bands in that whole world, and [that allowed] us to play shows with lots of bands. That set the bar for me for what you should be striving to achieve artistically.

Q. How has the more hopeful tone of “Goodness” affected the live experience?

A. When “Home” was out, the main feeling that people had when they were interacting with us as a live band was catharsis. When “Goodness” comes out, the shift goes from catharsis to enlightenment, or a more relaxing tone: If I try to humble somebody or ground somebody in themselves, how do I do that? That’s been a process of trial and error through even the simplest things like song order, song inclusion, and how we frame the live set. There’s a lot that goes into how we’re invoking particular feelings.


Q. The cover of “Goodness” features a group of naked elderly people standing in a Charlton field. How was the response to that? Do you feel like you succeeded in getting your message across?

A. When you make album art like that, you know what the superficial response to it’s going to be. I wanted to represent symbolic nudity and nakedness and not have it be sexualized, or sort of invoke an idea of wisdom. I think the photo does what I wanted it to do to an extent, and the response is what it is. I sort of expected everything that could have been a response before I released it, and that’s fine to me.

Q. You identify as an anarchist, and have often used your platform to assist and advocate for progressive causes. How has the current political climate impacted your band’s approach to activism?

A. When we started, I felt like there was a severe lack of conversation around the things that I was interested in talking about publicly. That was part of the reason why there was a lot of conversation from our band about our politics. As we get to the point we’re at now, and even the mainstream is dominated with ideas I would be espousing, I don’t feel a necessity to do it anymore. We’re a business, and despite being a business made up of individuals that have intentions and desires to do good, in a way we are selling ourselves through our politics. That’s something I’ve always struggled with.

Q. There’s been a public reckoning recently with the misogyny of emo culture, spurred by the sexual misconduct allegations against Brand New’s Jesse Lacey and Pinegrove’s Evan Stephens Hall. What do you think needs to be done to make the scene more inclusive?

A. Jesse Lacey’s was a scene in which everybody was getting big really young, and it was all men, and nobody knew how to deal with becoming famous, especially if they were potentially already [jerks]. The problems that Jesse Lacey might have are different than what happens now, but not too much different. In our world of bands, people feel underappreciated their entire life, specifically because they tie their self-worth to the value of their music to the public. Then you have “we’re gonna blow you up, we’re gonna make you the biggest thing” when musicians talk to suits; it’s just such an ego trip. Everybody that came up with the Hotelier in 2014 — I can’t really name a band that didn’t have a member that had a severe mental illness either developed or sparked by this whole thing. I think that is something people need to be talking about, because musicians both have this problem of being so susceptible to mental illness and also being in a position of power in which the harm they may invariably do becomes exponentially bigger. The solution is simply — maybe not simply — but having a more healthy interaction with power.


Q. Where is the Hotelier in the process of making your next album?

A. We’re pretty early in it. It’s a matter of getting me to buckle down with everybody else and work in a way that used to be easy but the distractions of life have made harder. I want it to be good, and I’m taking it slow for that reason. Philosophically, I want it to be able to sit in the times and be related to what’s going on right now.


At the Sinclair, Cambridge, Dec. 22 at 8 p.m. Tickets: $15,

Interview was edited and condensed Terence Cawley can be reached at
Follow him on Twitter @terence_cawley