Rock 'n' Roll Inn

"We wanna rock people's faces off, dude. We wanna be FIERCE!"

Some 70-odd miles up the phone line in Orlando, roommates and My Hotel Year bandmates Ryan Fleming and Travis Adams crack each other up. They do that a lot; ironic big-rock hyperbole is often involved. But Fleming's pronunciation of "dude" is a bit too natural, the duo's laughter a tad too forced, to pull it off with that practiced, distanced indie-scene attitude. It's like talking with that friend who's constantly bringing up the girl he claims to despise. Obviously, the guy's in love. But to their credit, and most joking aside (I can't say all, because Fleming and Adams never really let up), the two guitarists are perfectly willing to admit that for them, it does boil down to pretty much that — they really do wanna rock people's faces off.

"We just want to be a rock band," asserts Adams, in a rare moment of candor, when asked if he'd be comfortable in the marketing niche known as "emo." "Those are some of my favorite bands, but I don't want to have to have (an association) to it. I want to take it to kids that haven't heard that type of music."

The funny thing is, My Hotel Year creates some of the most truly emotional tuneage currently within earshot. Their style, an immediately resonant amalgam of visceral expression, hook savvy and inventive riffing, is certainly more singular than the bulk of what defines posthardcore, and comes off as more personal than traditional rock 'n' roll. Like contemporaries as diverse as Hot Water Music, Quicksand or Ben Folds Five, the quartet simultaneously transcends and redefines the concept of genre by simply doing their thing. And if you think the previous statement comes off as a bit grandiose, you haven't heard MHY's almost unbelievably mature debut, The Composition of Ending and Phrasing.

"Unfortunately, that was before my time," deadpans Fleming. "I love the old stuff. I hate playing it, but I'm just kidding. It's not so much that I hate the old songs, as the old members."

Founder Adams hisses in response. Most of the interview progresses in this fashion; Fleming takes pains to salt the wound.

"I just change some things up, make it a little spicier, a little — sassy," Adams interjects.

"Yeah, sassier," Fleming agrees with an audible smirk. "I definitely personalize it, as far as my parts, I think."

Primary vocalist Adams started the band in Atlanta, right around the time the millennial odometer was getting ready to turn over. After months of revolving-door rhythm sections, he hooked up with bassist/vocalist James Woodrich. There was, however, a catch:

"He's from Lakeland, and he couldn't move," Adams recalls. "And I had no life, so I moved down here."

Composition was recorded before Fleming and drummer Jeff Irizarry settled in; shortly after, the lineup was solidified, and My Hotel Year found itself gigging steadily, embraced by Orlando's eclectic underground scene. Despite, or perhaps as a reaction to, its justified reputation as a spawning ground for prefab pop, Athens-lite rock and (most recently) cookie-cutter nu-metal, O-Town harbors a lively community of rockabilly, punk and indie bands. MHY quickly became a highlight on the strength of their ravaging live set, which pummels and grabs by substituting large quantities of fun and personality in place of the usual pretense. The band's compelling, cathartic style won over several prominent locals, one of whom, former Kit Kat Club and Barbarella's promoter Scott Graham, received an out-of-the-blue phone call last fall.

"That was almost an accident, to be honest with you," Fleming remembers. "We had played a couple of shows for him, and this guy from California just called up some promoters locally, asking who some cool local bands were. Scott named us among several others, and this guy went about contacting all of those bands. He didn't say who he was or anything, it was just kind of "Hey, I'm new in town, who's cool?' He contacted us, and we were like "yeah, this guy's full of shit,' but we sent him a CD without any letter or anything.

"We just dropped it into an envelope, thinking we'd never hear back from him, ever. He wrote us saying he loved it, so we wrote him back, like, "thanks.' Just totally playing it down, because we know how full of crap all of that can be."

Apparently, Michael Preston was not full of crap. He turned out to be an A&R rep for Beyond Records. Preston actively pursued the band. MHY signed with the label last winter, an unknown act beyond their adopted hometown and a small cadre of those indie fans who seem to cruise the Internet like sharks, afraid to quit searching lest they sink to the bottom and die. My Hotel Year's inking somehow slipped by Billboard, Spin and other publications. And to this day, a week or so after the major-label reissue of the originally self-released Composition, some local fans confide that they've heard the band is being looked over.

"We got the contracts in January," Adams confides, "and we didn't tell anybody."

"People are still coming up to us and telling us that they heard we got signed," marvels Fleming. "And we're still kind of standoffish about it, because we've all been in bands that have had the rumors about being looked at. We've all made mistakes, running off at the mouth and essentially jinxing things, I think. But we didn't say a word about this, even after we signed the papers."

The re-release of My Hotel Year's excellent debut, which sold respectably on its own, was largely a show of faith on Beyond's part. That's fine with the band — they're as anxious as the label to move on. Nevertheless, MHY and their stable agree with Beyond that Composition's strengths are indicative of even better material to come.

"Right now, this is just a re-release," Adams says. "We're just gonna test the waters real quick, get our name out a little more. And then the marketing's really gonna start, with the next record."

"This record has already been out for over a year," adds Fleming. "I think we've been pretty lucky, as far as giving suggestions and helping point them in a direction that they're not really familiar with, carrying a band like us. And they've taken everything and run with it. It's been very cooperative."

Unlike so many bands naive enough to believe that signing a recording contract equals instant fame and fortune, My Hotel Year has managed to make the transition from local veteran to national rookie with its DIY mentality intact. The foursome continues to manage and book itself, and view The Deal as no more or less than an opportunity to be heard. As much as the guys love to rock, they're not looking to become rock stars.

"We're pretty confident, without sounding cocky or arrogant, that we can do what we want to do," states Fleming, "and that's support ourselves through our music. That's what we hope to achieve."

"I don't think we're too concerned about it," elaborates Adams. "We were here before the label, and we're gonna be here after the label. We're a rock band, not some product. That's not our deal. We play rock 'n' roll."

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