Hotline TNT On How Fortnite, NBA League Pass, & Talk Radio Influenced Their Amazing New Album
The incredible record is only part of the story. The remarkable band is merely the center of an extensive web.
If you’ve heard the advance singles from Cartwheel, the new album from Brooklyn’s Hotline TNT, you probably already have some sense that it’s an immaculate achievement from one of the best bands in underground music. Project mastermind and sole permanent member Will Anderson converges sludgy shoegaze, perky power-pop, and pristine alternative rock into songs that play like grunge-era college radio in a blown-out dream state. It’s gorgeous, immersive, marvelously catchy music that feels like the work of an expert craftsman but also seems to spill intuitively into the world, as if overflowing from some bottomless well of inspiration. From the breathtaking widescreen intro “Protocol” to the runaway-train urgency of “Out Of Town” to the hefty arena-scale bombast of “BMX,” Cartwheel is a cohesive world to be explored, one where even stylistic digressions like the drum ‘n’ bass break that erupts in “Spot Me” feel like natural outgrowths of the Hotline TNT ecosystem.
But the 21st century renaissance band does not merely concern itself with cranking out records. It’s a multimedia enterprise, a cross-platform persona, the centerpiece of a community that exists both online and off. As Hotline TNT rose to new levels of prominence throughout the last few years, Anderson fashioned himself as more than just a musician. He’s been a talk show host, a zine writer, a savvy social media presence, and a Mario Kart streamer. His interests — be they politics, sports, comedy, or artful mainstream pop — are not just happening in the background of Hotline TNT. Thanks to the way he carries himself in the world, it all feels like an extension of the band.
Below, Anderson discusses 10 entities that loomed large in his life during the making of Cartwheel.
WILL ANDERSON: I’ve always been into video games, for sure, but I would stop short of calling myself a capital-g Gamer. I was a kid in the ’90s, my parents would let us rent a Super Nintendo and we played Donkey Kong Country. That was kind of the extent of it growing up. I still to this day will play those games, the classic Super Nintendo and N64 games. And that was it for a long time.
Then COVID happened, and everyone that I knew started playing more video games, like Among Us. And I got pretty active in a Discord. I was the admin of a Discord. Mostly it was just to talk to people and keep in touch. It was great for that, but then we also had two or three nights a week where like 16 of us would play Mario Kart on Twitch together and chat the whole time, and also play music the whole time. It was really a beautiful moment in the pandemic for me as far as staying in touch with my friends.
At some point, my friend John who played drums on the first Hotline 7″, he got me to try Fortnite. And I’d heard the name before. I’ve heard of Fortnite, obviously. Massive enterprise. And I wrote it off. I was like, “This looks stupid. It’s for super sweaty tryhard gamers who spend all day on the same game. I don’t think it’s for me.” And he’s like, “Dude, just try it. I’ll be there with you. We’ll try it together.” And I was like, “Alright, fine.” It’s free. And within two games, it’s like, “This is all I want to play now.” It literally killed our Discord because everyone just played Fortnite for the rest of the pandemic.
But it really is an interesting game, I think. It’s kind of a perfect video game in my opinion because every game is different. It can be as social as you want it to be. You’re playing usually with three friends because there’s four of you at a time. It really is a way to hang out with people who live far away from you. You’re playing a game together and there’s all sorts of really goofy pop culture emotes and dances and whatnot. It’s a very cool video game, and it’s meant a lot to me, and I’ve played it a lot over the last couple of years. So I guess that’s why I included it in this list, just reflecting on long-distance communication, which is a big theme in the band and in my life. Fortnite played a big role in that.
ANDERSON: I’m pretty sure the first time I was aware of him, which was kind of around the same time, was when he did a stream with AOC, which was I think a lot of people’s introduction to him. I was following AOC, and I was playing video games, and it’s like, “Oh, AOC’s playing Among Us with this guy Hasan Piker.”
The way he interacts with the internet is very indicative of the way a lot of us use the internet. He’s very vulnerable and very unashamed of the way he moves throughout the world. I look up to him in that way. He’s a very astute observer, and the way he reacts to the news is very similar to a lot of people I know.
It’s like talk radio for 2023, and I love talk radio. I don’t always have them on video, but I like to listen to him watching the news. There’s literally no bullshit with Hasan. He’s going to give you a complete off-the-cuff reaction to what he thinks. His views are very similar to mine. But I think the fact that he exists in the Twitch video game community is pretty important because that community’s pretty toxic and rightwing in a lot of ways, so I think he’s a really important voice to have out there. He definitely has been an influence in the way that I interact with my — I don’t do it as much anymore, but I had a Twitch show for a while too. I stream occasionally. It’s part of the band, too. We have Twitch events with the band, YouTube streams, stuff like that.
You gotta do a crossover event with Hasan Piker.
ANDERSON: Hey, I’m ready anytime.
This is interesting to me because everything sounds like PinkPantheress now, but I wouldn’t include Hotline TNT in that.
ANDERSON: I don’t think so either, but I’m just a massive fan. Everyone that I know who’s played in the band, either they already were or they got converted when they joined the band. We just listen to her records all the time. It’s kind of similar to Hasan, in a weird way. She’s very 2023. I love the way that she puts her music out online, as far as, I’m gonna get a snippet on TikTok, and now I have a 10-second clip in my head of this PinkPantheress song that I need to her to put out on this album that comes out next month or I’m going to freak out ’cause it’s just so good. So yeah, I’m just a huge fan. I wouldn’t say the sound necessarily influences Hotline’s sound. Same as Hasan, it’s just the way she interacts with the internet and the world is inspirational to me.
Loveline (And Other Talk Radio Shows Like Coast To Coast AM & The Jim Rome Show)
ANDERSON: I’ve tried to put it into words, but there’s an art to it that I think those three shows, for example, all have mastered. I think Jim Rome even says this on his show. He’s like, “It’s my job to make you late for your appointment.” Like if you’re in the car driving somewhere, I want to make you late. I want to keep talking about this thing that’s so interesting that you sit in your car for a few minutes after you park, keep you hooked in. Even stuff like This American Life, there’s some good high quality NPR shows I’ll keep on.
I’m a musician. Obviously I’m listening to music all the time, seeing bands every night. That’s great. But there’s something really comforting to me about listening to people talk on the radio. Especially Loveline and Coast To Coast and Jim Rome, a big element of those shows is listeners who call in and talk to the program. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years listening to strangers talk about their problems. I had a talk show too on Twitch and Instagram for a while, which was pretty fun. It all interacts with the band in weird ways and bleeds over. We had a lot of Hotline fans calling my radio show to talk about Hotline. I got the fanzine. It’s all kind of one big media conglomerate.
It seems like that’s the way to do it now, right? It feels like a lot of more successful bands have that extended universe, so to speak, rather than just being a band who has their music online and that’s it.
ANDERSON: Yeah! I mean, I like bands that I can talk to and I can be a fan of and interact in different ways other than buying their LP. To me that’s kind of boring. Not to knock bands who do it that way because I definitely still buy records from bands I don’t know anything about. But I don’t know, I think it’s really fun to make a fanzine and have a direct line from my thoughts to the people that want to hear them. And the radio show is another way to do that.
What’s the most memorable call you got on your talk show?
ANDERSON: We’ve had some dark ones — in, like, a good way. We did a Halloween scary stories episode, which is always really entertaining. People would bring up childhood memories of the neighbor who did some really dark stuff. I don’t even want to repeat it, but it was definitely memorable. Everyone who was watching the show was in the chat talking about, “Whoa this is really heavy.” Not in a triggering way, but just getting back to what I was talking about, it’s very entertaining radio. We’re engaged. We’re all listening live. It’s a way to connect.
Jenny Odell – How To Do Nothing
This is especially interesting coming from someone who is a musician, a streamer, a “creator,” to use the parlance. Do you think the principles she’s getting at are extra important for creative people?
ANDERSON: Yeah. I just finished talking about all the stuff I’m doing and putting out into the world. That book, definitely, I tried to take the lesson as much as possible. Because there’s so much value in just stopping and not feeling the pressure to constantly be putting things out into the world or consuming or asking for other people to consume. Her new book is called Saving Time, which I’m not finished with yet. But yeah, the way that our society is pressuring us to assign a value to how we’re spending our time. I found it very helpful to remember that there is just as much value in doing, in “wasting your time,” as some people would say. I don’t think she sees it that way. Nor do I. It’s hard to explain in one little blurb, in an interview like this.
It’s a whole book!
ANDERSON: Yeah, it’s an entire book. It definitely helped me appreciate just being still and not feeling so attached to perceived successes or failures with the band — whether the record does well or people are at the show. You know, does that mean that I’m a failure? It’s a whole meta thing.
@eric_rahill To everyone who has ever dealt with depression.. this is for you #GetCrocd #Fyp ♬ original sound – Eric Rahill
I see he’s emceeing your release show tomorrow night. Do you subscribe to the Patreon?
ANDERSON: Actually, I don’t think I’m on his Joy Tactics Patreon. I like the podcast, but that’s not my favorite part of his output. I think I originally saw him on Twitter a couple years ago, maybe it was TikTok. Something about his brand of humor, his characters had me in stitches every time he was on my phone screen. Every time he would put out a video, I’d DM everyone in the band and that I know. We all just kind of fell in love with him and thought he was hilarious. The character of this extremely confident, over-the-top, delusional kind of tech bro guy, the way he does it, a lot of people try, but very few succeed in the way that Eric does.
My former drummer Nick is a tattoo artist, and when Nick followed Eric on Instagram, Eric followed him back. Me and Nick were just like, “Whoa, fuck.” And then the next day Eric got a tattoo from Nick, and they just started chatting. I was like, “Dude, I gotta get in there. I gotta be friends with him too.” Me and Nick went to see him do standup and literally didn’t stop laughing the entire set. Every word he said we were like rolling on the floor laughing. And eventually I convinced him to direct a music video for us, which he did. And now he’s emceeing our release show.
It seems like every generation has their indie music and comedy intersect. I think about Yo La Tengo or whatever. Do you feel like there’s a whole scene of comedians that you enjoy, or are you just an Eric fan?
ANDERSON: There’s definitely a scene, and Eric is part of that scene. I think if this had been five or 10 years ago, I probably would have tried to make the connection happen with the Kyle Mooney crew. We’re both in New York at the same time. I think Eric and Jack [Bensinger] are kind of rising up in that world at the same time we’re rising up. Definitely the Yo La Tengo/David Cross thing, I’m totally aware of it, and I remember thinking that was so cool. And yeah, I wanted it to happen with Hotline. I want to exist in the comedy world too. The John Wilson/Nathan Fielder world was intersecting with ours a little bit. It’s definitely intentional. Comedy is a big part of the band.
Do you feel like it seeps into the music itself?
ANDERSON: I’m trying to think if there’s any funny lyrics on the album. I don’t think there is. But besides the actual songs, I definitely try to have an element of comedy in every other part of the band, like the music videos, the artwork, the T-shirts, the persona on Instagram — all of that stuff, I’m very influenced by the comedy world, specifically in New York.
ANDERSON: I got into them in, like, March. The new Hotline was basically done at that point, so I wouldn’t be able to say they influenced the sound of the album or anything like that. But I met them soon after. We had a lot of mutual friends. People were trying to put them on for me. They came up [from Atlanta] and played a couple shows, which I went to. The record is awesome and it turned out great, but I think seeing them live really changed the way I felt about music this year. It made me feel very hopeful about new bands.
Bands like Sword II don’t come along very often. I think they’re just extremely special. There’s four people in the band, and every single member is so unique. They all sing. They all play their instruments in a weird, special way. They’re just awesome. I can’t really put it all into words, but the music hits so much harder after seeing them. We toured with them on the West Coast over the summer and got to know them on a personal level, too. Now the songs just mean so much to me. I remember, our drummer Mike [Ralston], after the tour, we were just gushing about them for weeks, and Mike was just like, “Ooh, I think I might have to start a new band now,” after seeing Sword II. It’s like that level of inspiration. They make us want to play music.
They Are Gutting A Body Of Water
ANDERSON: Doug [Dulgarian] from TAGABOW seems to be a leader of this supposed new American shoegaze movement. He’ll tell you just as soon as I do that he didn’t start it. We’re all influenced by people, and before TAGABOW it was Blue Smiley, and before Blue Smiley it was whoever else. I first heard TAGABOW a couple years ago. We played a show in Philly with them and Wednesday at a loading dock in Philly.
What a lineup.
ANDERSON: It was a crazy lineup, and none of us were anything yet. Wednesday was starting to bubble up. Hotline was not really bubbling up yet. I didn’t know who these bands were. And Doug and Emily [Lofing] were playing with their backs to the crowd, facing the guitar amps, and I was like, “Alright whatever. I’m not going to take this seriously. This is an old trick.” And literally every month since then I’ve liked them more and more to the point where now I think they’re an incredible band and they’re a special band. I’ve told this to Doug. Every time I listen to their record, it means more to me.
It really has been a slow build. They obviously have tons of fans. I feel like I’m kind of late to the party in terms of believing they’re as amazing as people are treating them, because they just are. They’re in charge of the new American shoegaze movement. And they’re the best in breed. They’re the best band going in that genre. And I’m saying that because I think Hotline is outside of the genre, so I can say that. I think they make a lot of smart decisions on their recordings, and when they play live they just sound huge, and I don’t want the show to end.
NBA League Pass
I notice you have a Southern California area code. Who’s your team?
ANDERSON: The only reason I have an LA number is because I got this phone when I was still living in Canada, but I needed an American cell phone. I was on tour, and we were in LA, so I just bought the cell phone there. So to that point, I sincerely hope the Lakers never win another game for the rest of recorded history, which probably won’t be that long.
I’m a Minnesota Timberwolves fan. And since I live in New York, League Pass gives me every single Timberwolves game, which is great. There’s no blackouts. But I can watch any two teams any night of the year. Any regular season, preseason, I love it all. That’s definitely the background noise of Camp TNT if you’re ever over here.
Have you always been a huge basketball fan or is that something that emerged later?
ANDERSON: I grew up like an hour east of the Twin Cities and I was raised on more so the Minnesota Vikings. So I was into football more when I was a kid. But definitely it was a basketball family as far as we’d play a lot in the backyard. And Kevin Garnett was playing, so he was my favorite player. Went to a bunch of games, and then I got to high school and kind of dipped out on sports and was more into playing music and stuff like that. And picked it up again at the end of high school, beginning of college. And then it’s kind of grown from there.
Marvin Pontiac – “Small Car”
ANDERSON: Jacob, our publicist, when he saw this list, he was like, “Hell yeah, I love that Marvin Pontiac record.” But I only know that one song. That song kind of became a theme song for the band. Augie [Beetschen], our bass player, put it on our Spotify playlist for our walkup music when we were on tour with Snail Mail last year. So every time where the door opened to the Snail Mail show, because we were the first band, the Spotify playlist would just play that Marvin Pontiac song, which was John Lurie, right? It just really set the tone for the night, and set the vibe and a very cool moody energy over every venue we were in. We were like, “Alright. ‘Small Car’ is on. I love this song. I’m ready to play. This is gonna be awesome. We’re gonna shred tonight.” And it’s still the first song on the playlist whenever I give it to the sound person. It just casts a cool shadow over the space when that song comes on. It’s very vibey. I almost feel like I’m in a cool clubhouse when I hear that song. It’s got kind of a tension to it, like anticipation. It just sets the tone for what’s about to happen.
ANDERSON: We just did a Euro tour a few months ago. Two of us met up with Wednesday because they were also there at the same time and they were playing Primavera Sound, and the headliner was Rosalía. I was aware of her but didn’t really know her. I think I’d heard some of her songs on TikTok or randomly, but I wasn’t tapped in. And before Rosalía played, Caroline Polachek played, and she blew me away. I was like, “That was insane. That was such a good show.” I also wasn’t super tapped into her new album, but by the end of the show I was like, “Alright, Caroline’s got a new fan right here.”
And then Rosalía came out after that and like completely destroyed Caroline Polachek. Just blew her out of the water, wiped the floor with her. That’s not saying anything against Caroline because she was great too. But Rosalía was just like — I’m not kidding that I cried during the set. It was very moving. And it was the first time I’d heard her music in a real way. So then I got hooked on her and listened to her record for the whole Euro tour. I just love huge giant pop stars and spectacles no matter what. She puts on an amazing show.
Cartwheel is out 11/3 on Third Man.