Growing up in Washington, D.C., during the salad days of straight-edge harDCore, Nathan Larson wasn’t interested in mixing punk with politics. “I’m embarrassed to say it now,” the Manhattan-based singer-guitarist admits, “but I’d do shit like show up with a McDonald’s hamburger just to piss people off.” Larson played in Shudder to Think, perhaps the least typical D.C. punk band ever: Fronted by bald-domed opera fan Craig Wedren, Shudder made supertechnical math-core that harbored a secret desire to be glam-rock (before glam-rock was back). They were also one of the first Dischord acts to sign to a major label, an act that once scandalized DIY purists.
Over the years since Shudder’s late-’90s demise, Larson formed the short-lived Mind Science of the Mind (with Mary Timony of Helium), put out an underrated white-soul solo album, and began a lucrative sideline as an indie-film soundtrack composer. (He also married Cardigans frontwoman Nina Persson, whose 2001 solo disc he worked on; the couple split their time between New York and Sweden.) And following the 2000 election, Larson sprouted the political consciousness he once disavowed. “That’s when I started getting politically active in the more traditional ways, giving money to causes,” Larson says. “But I didn’t connect with anything musical until the summer of 2005, when the germ of Hot One came up.”
Hot One is Larson’s new outfit with guitarist Jordan Kern, bassist Emm Gryner (with whom Larson had collaborated with on her singer-songwriter material), and drummer Kevin March (a latter-day Shudder member and manager at the local branch of the School of Rock). On their excellent self-titled debut, the foursome play super-tuneful glam-rock that harbors a not-so-secret desire to overthrow “the loathsome G.W. Bush cabal,” as they claim in a recent MySpace manifesto. Song titles include “Sexy Soldier,” “Do the Coup d’État,” and “Fuckin’ “; riffs come in sizes L, XL, and XXL.
The band finished recording the album back in February, but just made their live debut a few weeks back; they’re having kids from area Schools of Rock open each show, which Larson says rounds out his idea of talking about politics in a way that’s “kind of ridiculous, but with a seriousness about it. It’s awesome: You’ve got these 12-year-old kids playing ‘Tom Sawyer’ by Rush. You can’t be cynical when you’ve got kids playing with you.”
Hot One plays Southpaw Saturday night, spsounds.com.